NOVEMBER 2015: November’s Intactivist of the Month is John Ellis. Most of you reading this have never heard of John Ellis. He doesn’t carry signs at protests or comment publicly on Facebook. But a long list of VIPs certainly know his name. You see, John, a commercial airline pilot who grew up in Montreal and lives in South Florida, makes it his business to write detailed, well-crafted letters to public figures around the world, educating them about infant male circumcision, and asking that they exercise their influence in bringing the custom to an end.
John has chosen formidable targets for his missives — from President Obama (who received his first letter from John when he was a Senator), to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (aka William and Kate), to ACLU president Susan Herman, and to Pope Francis, to name a few.
And, doubtless, because of the substance and seriousness with which he presents his case, John regularly receives personal replies, not simply form letters.
When asked how he became aware and involved in the fight against infant circumcision, John said, “Family members have told me that since I was a young child, I had an interest in fairness. Early on, it dawned on me that we engaged in the routine genital mutilation of boys while protecting girls. It’s just not fair. And it violates the Constitution in both the United States and Canada.”
“Talk about equality in our culture — not to mention in international human rights documents — is based on a foundation of hypocrisy,” John says. “We don’t treat boys and girls equally,” he continues. “Girls get more comforting, while there’s a ubiquitous lack of sensitivity and empathy toward men and their genitalia.”
“Essentially,” John posits, “circumcision constitutes the systematic bullying of baby boys, who are picked on because they cannot defend themselves.”
John’s letters are polite, highly informative and quite personal — for example, noting that William’s mother Diana was adamantly opposed to routine infant circumcision, and congratulating the royal couple on “protecting Prince George…, safeguarding his human rights and guaranteeing his right to security of person.”
Pre-empting medical and scientific arguments, John writes, “If our doctors were right about the perils of failing to circumcise, then European men in general, and Scandinavians in particular (first world medicine and hygiene, but no routine circumcision) should be plagued with male health issues directly attributable to their foreskins. But, of course, this is not the case.”
So far, it appears that none of John’s eminent correspondents has taken up the cause of intactivism. The responses John receives vary from personal and cordial, to cooler and more reserved.
But, “As all of us know,” says Intact America Executive Director Georganne Chapin, “every letter, every conversation, plants a seed, which in turn takes root and grows. John’s persistent outreach, and his clear presentation of facts, law, and ethics around male genital mutilation, are doing their job. The intactivist movement — and American boys — are lucky to have John Ellis working alongside us.”
“The word must be heard and this barbarism must end,” says John. “Intact America is the leading organization fighting to topple the ignorance, blind adherence to herd mentality, and willful disregard of the facts underlying routine underage circumcision. IA does this this by raising awareness, shaming the perpetrators, and assisting victims. Anything we all can do to assist IA in spreading the word brings us a little closer to ending this barbaric behavior. This is why I support Intact America, and encourage others to do the same.”
One of Intact America’s greatest strengths is the diverse and supportive intactivist community. Our “Intactivist of the Month” series highlights some of the most ardent opponents of infant and childhood circumcision, whose tireless efforts will ensure a future where all babies are kept intact.