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I have one labia much bigger than the other — I won’t be shamed

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Jill wants to help others with their body image (Picture: Jill Lissner/Brooke Straiton Photography)

When Jill Lissner was just 15 years old, she went to the doctor, asking to have labiaplasty, a procedure which aims to reduce the size of the labia minora.

For those who need a refresher: the labia minora are the inner lips of the vagina (they begin at your clitoris and end under the opening to your vagina).

They come in all shapes and sizes, and there is literally no such thing as a ‘normal’ vagina, or labia, for that matter.

But, just a teenager, Jill was crippled with anxiety over the fact that, as she describes it, one labia was ‘much bigger’ than the other.

Jill, now 24, tells Metro.co.uk: ‘Going through puberty, I noticed that one side grew, and the other didn’t. It just felt different.’

But now, after a long journey to self-acceptance, Jill is no longer ashamed. She embraces her vulva and even runs a popular popular sex education Instagram page.

Jill’s blog explores everything about sex and body image, not just vulvas (Picture: Brooke Straiton Photography)

Jill says she first started noticing that one labia was bigger than the other when she was about 12 years old.

‘I noticed my body changing and there was a big size difference,’ Jill tells Metro.co.uk.

‘I immediately thought: “This is not normal”. I was convinced men were not going to like this on me. I thought: “Are other people going to find this weird?’

‘I just knewautomatically, it was so asymmetrical.’

Thankfully, Jill, was able to speak to her mum about her body issues, as well as her friends and doctor.

‘I’m really lucky to have an open and honest mum who was so receptive to all the things I would say,’ she says.

‘She told me there’s no such thing as normal. She explained that my vulva was going to change too, especially if I decided to have children and give birth – it’s going to be ever-changing.’

But Jill, who lives near Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, US, began thinking about labiaplasty.

‘I told my mum that I wanted surgery,’ she says. ‘I remember being really direct and up-front with her and my doctor – storming in and basically saying “cut it off, no one will want to be with me unless it’s cut off.

‘For me, surgery was the key to being normal and having my vulva look normal. It was really set in my head for a while.

‘But then, the gynaecologist told me about all the things it would entail, in addition to the pain and how long recovery would be.’

It was this information, along with the support from her mum, that helped Jill shift her perspective. Jill was also an athlete, and worried how surgery would affect her training.

Ultimately, at age of 16, she decided not to go ahead with labiaplasty – although does point out that for some people, including those in the trans community vulvaplasty is a good option.

Instead, Jill began practicing ‘radical self-acceptance’. She journalled, where she tried to be kind to herself and reminded herself of her own worth.

Still, despite a growing confidence, she worried about having sex for the first time at 18.

‘My first sexual encounter was with a person I developed like a friendship with first and had a connection to.’

Jill wanted to turn off the lights and be intimate in the dark. ‘I think it’s common for women in general to say, “I don’t want you to see my body at all”, whether it’s stomach, arms, legs, cellulite, all of those things, people want to turn the lights off,’ she adds.

It was when Jill, who is bisexual, got into her first serious relationship, that she asked her partner how they felt about the appearance of her vulva.

‘I asked them: “Does this bother you? Does it make you find me unattractive?”

‘But they didn’t find it gross or weird. They said: “It’s your body, I’m happy to be with you and to experience sex in general with you”.

‘I learned that in the heat of the moment, you’re so focused on your own pleasure and the pleasure of the other person that you don’t care.

Jill chose not to pursue labiaplasty because she is practising radical self-acceptance (Picture: Brooke Straiton Photography)

Jill realised that her different sized labias weren’t something her partners were thinking about during sex.

‘It was an awakening for me. What I look like [during sex is] not so interesting, especially when I have really deep like romantic feelings for this person.

‘I can just be me, celebrate me, and focus on my pleasure during sex, regardless of the way I look.

‘I am still a valuable person and I can express myself sexually regardless of my appearance of my genitals.’

Soon, Jill began to share her story online. She did a poll on her Instagram page in which she found most women believe their labias look different to each other, and that they aren’t completely even.

‘Whenever I share something personal on my Instagram, it’s nerve-racking. I get mostly love but some judgement,’ Jill explains.

‘The reward for me, when being vulnerable, has so far been greater than the risk – I am so thankful for the support I always get.’

After sharing her own story, her DMs and comments flooded with people thanking her for posting and praising her for her refreshing approach.

‘There were several comments saying “this is what I needed as a kid”, or “I wish somebody would have told me that other people experience this”,’ Jill adds.

‘There are billions of labias out there, so what’s normal? Body diversity is something I would tell people to definitely hone in on. There’s no such thing as a body being wrong or incorrect, it’s just different and everyone is going to look different and feel different.’

If you’re feeling insecure about how your genitals look, Jill has some tips for you.

‘I would encourage people to take a mirror and look at their vulva. I’ve got a lot of questions about the colour of vulvas – not only size can be different, but colour can change over time too.

‘So for anyone going through puberty, it’s normal to be like, “I am changing down there and things look different than they did before”.’

Do you have a story to share?

Get in touch by emailing [email protected].


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