Here is a quote from an email forwarded to me last week from a man who—at the Massachusetts legislature MGM hearing in 2010—had given me both his email and snail mail address.
I received a donation envelope [from Intact America] at my home address today and it’s started a riot with my family. [Now], we’re not on speaking terms and the big Christmas get together … is not going to happen … How one stupid little envelope can cause so much embarrassment and shouting matches … is mind boggling!
… I’ve been doing my part to stop circumcision… But I’d like to stay anonymous because my family is ignorant.
For me, by far the greatest leap forward in 2012 has been the growing public face of intactivism—in particular, the willingness of men to declare publicly their circumcision status, and declare publicly the way they feel about that. In response to Intact America’s Men Speaking Out campaign, dozens of men submitted photos of themselves as they are today, holding photos of themselves as babies. In comments posted along with the photos, more than a few of these men remarked that they have fallen out with their parents or other family members, because they chose to give voice to their feelings of having been maimed as babies. See for yourself.
Most poignant for me, of course, were Intact America’s press conference and demonstration, held in October during the annual convention of the American Academy of Pediatrics in New Orleans. Shortly before the event, IA was informed that the AAP would not allow us into their exhibit hall, unleashing a chorus of men’s (and women’s) voices directed at doctor who refuse to acknowledge their complicity in American medicine’s biggest rip-off.
As a 60-year-old American woman, my intact genitals are pretty much taken for granted—this despite the fact that some of my contemporaries, victims of a medical system that into the 1970s occasionally gave the nod to clitorectomy-as-a-cure for masturbation or unacceptable emotionality, are not so fortunate. Nonetheless, for me even to write this paragraph might cause others to think about my private body parts—a somewhat discomfiting thought, at best, for me. I can only imagine the courage it takes for a circumcised man to come out not just with the fact that he was genitally altered as a child, but that he still feels angry, humiliated, and grief-stricken as a result.
What I witnessed in 2012, however, was a transformation. Men who previously spoke of circumcision as an “issue”—something carried out by doctors or religious practitioners, a procedure done to babies or children, a cultural phenomenon, a medical practice, even a human rights violation—have now begun to speak their personal truths. Many of those statements bring tears to my eyes, no matter how many times I read them.
But not everybody is so emboldened, so liberated to speak out.
While I cannot presume to condemn a person who is afraid to speak publicly about something that has impacted him so intensely, I can ask this question: How is circumcision ever going to end, if we are afraid to talk about it, if we are afraid that, by speaking out against this horror inflicted on babies behind closed doors—and which then continues to haunt the men those babies become—people won’t like us, anymore? What is the value of peace among family or friends, if that peace is purchased with silence or hypocrisy on a matter of such importance? How are we to educate the ignorant, if we are intimidated into silence?
To be clear, I do not expect every person in the world to speak out against every single unjust cause. But no cause was ever won by people keeping silent! In the case of circumcision, being embarrassed to come out, to speak out, only serves to empower those who cut or those who want to deny the damage.
My New Year’s wish is for everyone affected by genital mutilation—everybody who is suffering himself or herself, or who loves somebody who has suffered from being overpowered and genitally disfigured—to find the courage to speak out.
To this end, please consider making a donation to the Intact America end-of-year campaign. Your help will help us to create ongoing public opportunities for men and women who are willing and anxious to make their voices heard. That is the way we are going to overcome.