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IOTM – John Ellis

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.



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.