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Big Change is in the Air

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.



  • Bettie M.

    December 18, 2016 2:40 pm

    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.

    • David Balashinsky

      December 18, 2016 6:06 pm

      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.

  • Marilyn Milos, RN

    December 18, 2016 7:28 pm

    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!

  • ken satifka

    December 19, 2016 2:29 pm

    David B – The way that you jumped down Bettie M’s throat just proved her point

    • David Balashinsky

      December 20, 2016 11:12 am

      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.

  • Joey Moore

    December 19, 2016 5:28 pm

    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.

    • Marilyn Milos, RN

      December 19, 2016 9:39 pm

      Thank you, Joey. I hope we get to the tipping point before my toes are stickin’ up! That would be icing on the cake!

  • Jenny Ro

    September 30, 2017 12:57 am

    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.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.


Marilyn Fayre Milos, multiple award winner for her humanitarian work to end routine infant circumcision in the United States and advocating for the rights of infants and children to genital autonomy, has written a warm and compelling memoir of her path to becoming “the founding mother of the intactivist movement.” Needing to support her family as a single mother in the early sixties, Milos taught banjo—having learned to play from Jerry Garcia (later of The Grateful Dead)—and worked as an assistant to comedian and social critic Lenny Bruce, typing out the content of his shows and transcribing court proceedings of his trials for obscenity. After Lenny’s death, she found her voice as an activist as part of the counterculture revolution, living in Haight Ashbury in San Francisco during the 1967 Summer of Love, and honed her organizational skills by creating an alternative education open classroom (still operating) in Marin County. 

After witnessing the pain and trauma of the circumcision of a newborn baby boy when she was a nursing student at Marin College, Milos learned everything she could about why infants were subjected to such brutal surgery. The more she read and discovered, the more convinced she became that circumcision had no medical benefits. As a nurse on the obstetrical unit at Marin General Hospital, she committed to making sure parents understood what circumcision entailed before signing a consent form. Considered an agitator and forced to resign in 1985, she co-founded NOCIRC (National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers) and began organizing international symposia on circumcision, genital autonomy, and human rights. Milos edited and published the proceedings from the above-mentioned symposia and has written numerous articles in her quest to end circumcision and protect children’s bodily integrity. She currently serves on the board of directors of Intact America.


Georganne Chapin is a healthcare expert, attorney, social justice advocate, and founding executive director of Intact America, the nation’s most influential organization opposing the U.S. medical industry’s penchant for surgically altering the genitals of male children (“circumcision”). Under her leadership, Intact America has definitively documented tactics used by U.S. doctors and healthcare facilities to pathologize the male foreskin, pressure parents into circumcising their sons, and forcibly retract the foreskins of intact boys, creating potentially lifelong, iatrogenic harm. 

Chapin holds a BA in Anthropology from Barnard College, and a Master’s degree in Sociomedical Sciences from Columbia University. For 25 years, she served as president and chief executive officer of Hudson Health Plan, a nonprofit Medicaid insurer in New York’s Hudson Valley. Mid-career, she enrolled in an evening law program, where she explored the legal and ethical issues underlying routine male circumcision, a subject that had interested her since witnessing the aftermath of the surgery conducted on her younger brother. She received her Juris Doctor degree from Pace University School of Law in 2003, and was subsequently admitted to the New York Bar. As an adjunct professor, she taught Bioethics and Medicaid and Disability Law at Pace, and Bioethics in Dominican College’s doctoral program for advanced practice nurses.

In 2004, Chapin founded the nonprofit Hudson Center for Health Equity and Quality, a company that designs software and provides consulting services designed to reduce administrative complexities, streamline and integrate data collection and reporting, and enhance access to care for those in need. In 2008, she co-founded Intact America.

Chapin has published many articles and op-ed essays, and has been interviewed on local, national and international television, radio and podcasts about ways the U.S. healthcare system prioritizes profits over people’s basic needs. She cites routine (nontherapeutic) infant circumcision as a prime example of a practice that wastes money and harms boys and the men they will become. This Penis Business: A Memoir is her first book.