by Georganne Chapin
“Movements are composed of people — people who are living their lives and who look up and say, ‘This is not fair, this is not right.’ They may have been struggling alone, in isolation for some time. But when they come together, and there’s a movement … that’s when you see change….”
As I was preparing to write the introduction to the Intact America December newsletter, I heard these words, spoken by Attorney General Loretta Lynch in an interview on MSNBC. Lynch was reflecting on progress made in civil rights and human rights in the United States — particularly for LGBTQ people and African Americans — over past decades, and on what yet remains to be done. Her words gave me enormous hope.
As 2016 comes to a close, I reflect upon both the progress that Intact America and the intactivist movement have made, and — inevitably — upon the work still left to do to guarantee boys and the men they will become the right to be free from forced genital surgery, The right to keep the whole, intact bodies they are born with.
Another year gone by means we are one year closer to reaching the tipping point — the point at which a critical number of Americans will have come to believe that the foreskin is natural. And valuable. And that nobody but its natural owner has the right to cut a boy’s or man’s or anybody else’s genitals.
Here is more of what AG Lynch said, when asked about the progress toward human rights.
- “History is bigger than just the electoral wheel…. And human rights are bigger than any Administration.”
- “History encompasses all of the change and the progress we’ve made….”
- “[History] is on the side of marginalized people who speak up for themselves, people who feel isolated and left out who speak up for themselves.”
With regard to the passing of legislation guaranteeing equal rights, Lynch emphasized: “… [The] movements came first. And the movements are composed of people — people who are living their lives and who look up and say, “This is not fair, this is not right.” They may have been struggling alone, in isolation for some time. But when they come together, and there’s a movement … that’s when you see change…”
Big change is in the air.
I am so thankful that people have come together to speak out and create this extraordinary movement. And I feel extraordinarily privileged to be a part of it. I wish all of you a happy holiday season, and offer you the gifts of hope, optimism, and confidence in our ability to change the way America thinks about circumcision.
Together, we will win.
Why are you attaching radical causes and crusades to a natural, normal one, ie, permitting males to keep their normal body parts? This right of males to their own bodies stands on its own. It has nothing to do with political correctness and liberalism. The people who need to hear you the most will be turned off.
If you think that equal rights for African Americans and LGBTQ Americans is “radical,” clearly you’ve been living in some sort of a time warp where Jim Crow keeps blacks in their place as second-class citizens and LGBTQ Americans remain securely closeted and denied the basic civil liberties of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness that are guaranteed to hetero Americans.
Your use of the adjective “normal” to distinguish between the cause of genital autonomy and the human rights crusades to which Ms. Chapin refers in her post likewise implies that, per force, these other human-rights campaigns are “abnormal.”
If that is your philosophy, I have to question the philosophical basis for your presumed support of genital autonomy. All human rights struggles stand on a single ethical and philosophical foundation. That foundation is the principle that every human being is born with fundamental and inalienable rights. These rights have been articulated in the United Nations 1948 Declaration of Human Rights, our own Bill of Rights, and numerous other statements of the rights of human beings. These rights apply to all humans. You don’t get to pick and choose who gets equality.
When the cause of genital autonomy succeeds – and it will – it will be because, as Ms. Chapin eloquently argues, a tipping point will have been reached when a critical mass of Americans rightly applies the principle of universality and consistency to the right of males and intersex infants and children to own and control their own bodies. But the fundamental rights under which involuntary “circumcision” will be shunned and, it is to be hoped, banned, are exactly the same basic human rights to which Ms. Chapin refers above.
Thus, the right of males to own their own bodies most definitely does not, as you assert, stand on its own. Indeed, when this right is finally recognized, it will be recognized precisely because it does not stand on its own.
Thank you, Georganne, for acknowledging the time it takes for people to come together over one issue, to begin to voice their opinions together, and to initiate change. Having worked nearly 40 years on this issue, indeed half my life, I have lived this movement from day 1! It has not been easy but it’s a whole lot easier now that it was when I began in 1979. So much so, it seems, that people like Bettie M. may not remember the time when circumcision was the “norm.” Babies were circumcised behind closed doors and no one understood the excruciating pain they suffered. It was a time when whatever the doctor said was gospel and we trusted them to treat our precious babies with gentle kindness. That’s why there are so many regret moms today. But we are speaking out now–regret moms, survivors of genital cutting, and all those who now know what goes on behind those closed doors.
In the early days, ours was a message no one wanted to hear. Today, our choir’s song is getting louder and louder and, as you say, we are getting closer to the tipping point. Thank you for all you do to speak out, offer reasoned direction, and promote our work with a positive attitude. One day, as more and more people become educated, the USA will be a safe place to birth baby boys. So, with appreciation to each and every voice in the choir, I just want to say thank you…and, Happy Holidays!
David B – The way that you jumped down Bettie M’s throat just proved her point
Obviously I could not disagree more, Ken. Bettie’s point is that Georganne is comparing apples and oranges and thereby diluting the message and intellectual and philosophical integrity of the Intactivist cause. That is plain and unambiguous from her comment. I disagree completely with such an approach to human rights struggles. It makes no sense whatsoever to fragment all human rights struggles and treat each as discrete and perfectly unrelated to every other human rights cause. Not only does this make no sense philosophically but, purely from a strategic standpoint, it is ultimately self-defeating. Our cause will be won ultimately not by differentiating it and sequestering it from other human rights causes but, on the contrary, specifically by making common cause with those who campaign on behalf of human rights insofar as they apply to other people and in other particulars.
As for your characterization of my reply to Bettie as “jumping down her throat,” all I can say is that such an incendiary and insulting comment called for a stern rebuke. It merely fell to me to make it since I saw it. But I stand by what I wrote. To call civil rights and equality for blacks and LGBTQ tax-paying Americans “radical” and to imply, as she did, that the crusade for equality for these people is “unnatural” and “abnormal” is profoundly insulting to these people and should likewise be insulting to all Americans. If anything, I was far too diplomatic in my response to her so, now that you have gotten me to think about it more, I realize that I should simply have been more direct and called her comment what it is: racist and homophobic.
As for your comment that my response to Bettie proved her point – well, I am afraid I disagree here, as well. I see nothing advantageous in Intactivists narrowly tailoring our message so as to avoid offending the racist and homophobic segments of the population that practice male genital mutilation. I think we are far more likely to succeed by getting them to recognize the common humanity of all people and by getting them to recognize the simple truth that basic human rights belong to all of us: African Americans, LGBTQs, and all boys and men with respect to their innate an inalienable right to grow up with their bodies in one piece.
A further thought. (And thank you, Ken, for forcing me to think about this some more.) What has Bettie done for this cause? What has Georganne Chapin not done for this cause? Instead of criticizing me for jumping down Bettie’s throat, might I suggest that you instead more appropriately have criticized Bettie for jumping down Georganne’s? Bettie’s comment was not only racist and homophobic but disrespectful in the most unseemly way to one of the giants and patron saints of Intactivism: Georganne Chapin.
I thank you and Marilyn for your tenacity! I hope to be alive to see this injustice brought to an end, it will bring peace.
Thank you, Joey. I hope we get to the tipping point before my toes are stickin’ up! That would be icing on the cake!
thank you so much for the time and energy you put into this website … i discovered i’m expecting a boy last week and feel strongly about this issue. some of
my relatives are old fashioned and don’t take much stock in my opinions, so it’s helpful to have sites like this i can direct them to, to explain in clearer and more academic terms why i don’t want to mutilate my baby.