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IOTM – Brian Leaf

JUNE 2014: Author and educator Brian Leaf is the director of The New Leaf Learning Center, a holistic tutoring center in Massachusetts. As an advocate of “conscious parenting,” he’s become known for his ability to blend research and humor, as evidenced in his most recent book, The Misadventures of a Parenting Yogi: Cloth Diapers, Cosleeping, and My (Sometimes Successful) Quest for Conscious Parenting—which includes an entire chapter on circumcision. Earlier this month, his essay “Why I Didn’t Choose Circumcision” (excerpted from his book) was featured in the Parents section of The Huffington Post.

In his chapter titled “The Myth of Smegma,” Brian tackles the issue of circumcision head-on (so to speak). “In the 1800s,” he writes, “germ theory was gaining attention and people believed circumcision could fight the ultimate germ demon, smegma. Sounds like a Batman villain… Smegma is actually found in most animal genitalia and serves, in fact, to clean and lubricate the genitals. The word smegma itself is Greek for soap. Where the hell was Freud for all this? What would he have said about these wealthy white doctors all happily enjoying their foreskins while recommending that new babies lose theirs? Circumcision was the new snake oil.”

Ultimately, Brian and his wife decided not to circumcise their son. He explains: “People ask me, ‘What will you tell your son when he asks why his penis is different from yours?’ I don’t understand this concern. Why must his penis match mine? Our hair color is different. We have different noses and his teeth are better than mine. Should he get braces and a retainer to mimic my overbite?”

Brian LeafHe also discusses what it was like growing up within a Jewish culture, but not necessarily a religious one. “Ironically, for me, the decision actually came down to God. I trust her, and I don’t think she designed the human body with throwaway foreskin, like an Old navy tag we’re supposed to remove before wearing. I think the human body is holy and magical and perfect as is.”

Brian also credits his decision to leave his boys intact to the work of Intact America and Mothering Magazine. “When my wife was pregnant with Noah, our midwife gave us Intact America pamphlets, a photocopied Mothering article about circumcision, and later a book about circumcision. All of this opened my eyes. I hadn’t realized that I had a scar on my penis. I just thought that was what a healthy penis looks like. I had no idea, honestly, even what circumcision really was. I just accepted it and assumed it was nesessary. Now, years later, I am so proud to support the work of Intact America and to help other new parents get the facts.”

“Brian Leaf just oozes common sense – about circumcision (not doing it), about parenting (love your baby and have fun), and about life (be conscious and don’t take yourself too seriously),” says Georganne Chapin, executive director of Intact America. “He even demystifies smegma! Intact America is fortunate to have this parenting expert among our ranks.”

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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.