After suffering bullying his entire life due to being born without a jaw, Joseph Williams says he’s been rescued by love after surviving decades of feeling “worthless.”
Now, he wants to remind others who might be struggling with challenges that they, too, deserve more out of life.
The 41-year-old Chicago man was born with the rare congenital disorder otofacial syndrome, which is caused by a mutated gene and left him unable to speak or eat with his mouth. Instead, he uses sign language and an eating tube.
“Dating was also hard for me because I had such low self-esteem and felt worthless, but when I started believing in myself and realized I deserved more, I ended up finding my wife,” he said.
Williams, who works as a welder, had long assumed he would live out the rest of his days a single man — until he met his soulmate Vania, 39, back in 2019.
“We were friends at first, but we eventually started dating and fell in love,” he told Caters News Agency. “We got married in 2020. I’m sure people would never have expected me to get married. To be honest, I didn’t think I would either.”
In hopes of helping others, Williams now speaks openly about how people used to run away from him or treat him differently. At times, he said he wanted to hide away and cry — and even thought about suicide — but he pushed through to keep his spirits up.
He said remembering “there is a reason that God made me like this” helped him through the tough times. “He gave me this load because he knew I could carry it.”
“I understand that I am different and that some people will think I am ugly and not accept me, but I am still a person who has a heart, feelings and a brain,” he continued. “I should be treated with respect, just as anyone else should be.”
Instead of staring and pointing, he said he wants people to ask him questions instead.
“People stop what they are doing to stare at me and it gets annoying. I’ve even had one guy stop his car, turn around and drive by just to look at me,” Williams said. “I just wish people would speak to me and ask me questions rather than looking at me like a deer in the headlights.”
While he was growing up, he said everyone wanted to protect him from the world, telling him he “couldn’t do this and that — but I didn’t want my condition to hold me back and I didn’t want to be limited.”
Williams learned to communicate through sign language, gestures, his phone and writing notes, while using a special tube in his stomach to eat.
“I can’t eat, speak or even breathe properly,” he said. “I have a tube in my stomach, which I can place blended food into, but this means that I have never tasted food.”
When he was first born, being without a jaw “came as a shock” to his birth mother. At just a few days old, he was taken to Chicago for multiple maxillofacial surgeries.
“I had a bone and skin graft as they tried to construct a jaw for me, but as I grew my body rejected it and it was unsuccessful,” Williams said. “And I was also put up for adoption, which led to me meeting my adopted family.”
“Growing up was hard and being born like this has caused me many problems, but I have tried not to let it affect me,” he continued.
Today, Williams vows that his physical condition won’t keep him from living his life to the fullest with Vania — and his plans include a passion for playing the drums and sharing music.
“My dream is to become a DJ one day. I can sometimes struggle with communicating but music is a way for me to express myself,” he said. “Being born without a jaw has given me a different outlook on life and it has made me who I am today.”
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts or are experiencing a mental health crisis and live in New York City, you can call 1-888-NYC-WELL for free and confidential crisis counseling. If you live outside the five boroughs, you can dial the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or go to SuicidePreventionLifeline.org.