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Voices — “Glenn”

I was born to a 17-year-old nursing student in the deep Southern Baptist South. She chose not to have me circumcised and kept me intact. To say this was unusual in the South is an understatement.

My earliest memory of being uncircumcised—and that it was unusual—happened when I was 3 and 4. My aunt, who was four years older, and my uncle, around 12 at the time, noticed how different I was and started playing doctor with me. They retracted my foreskin to show that I could look just like my circumcised uncle.

My parents learned of this practice and there were swift repercussions. Although I was only 5, I felt ashamed and different, as I knew the fact that I was different had piqued their curiosity. When my brother was born soon after, he was circumcised. When I asked my mom why I was different from everyone else, she said, “When I first saw you, you were perfect and I couldn’t imagine changing you.” That was the last of it.

In the locker room when I got older, I hid my penis or pulled my foreskin back before anyone could see me. On dates, I was never with a woman who had been with an uncut partner, so I always received questions. Occasionally, I even got questions from her friends. I remember one date who, upon seeing it for the first time, paused and said, “Um, I’m really not sure what to do with that.” As if I wasn’t self-conscious enough! It’s not so complicated that you need an instruction manual!

I married young. My wife had been with only one other person, and he was cut. She had her own sexual insecurities, so finally after 20 years of marriage, we decided to stop hiding and threw caution (and our clothes) to the wind and went to a nude beach. It seemed I had the only foreskin on the beach. I told my wife that each time I got out of the water, I felt the music stop and everyone stare. I asked her to prove me wrong, so we tested it. She laughed and said, “Well, yes, there are some lookers. It’s just that you are so uncircumcised. It’s very noticeable.” (The last day of our trip, my wife did notice another uncircumcised man. He turned out to be from France, where circumcision is much less common.)

A few years later, when our marriage began to deteriorate, we tried spicing things up. I bought some porn featuring European men, who would most likely look like me. However, she wanted to see “something a little different” (cue my insecurities), so after a little research, I found a ring that we could use during sex that would hold my foreskin firmly back during intercourse. She was thrilled to have something that both looked and felt different. Being fully retracted also exposed the glans and offered great sensation for me because the glans is usually covered and protected by the foreskin. The skin of the glans is very soft and sensitive. It was pleasurable for both of us!

After we divorced, I was single for five years. During those years of dating, none of my partners had been with an intact man, and the questions continued. But when I married again, I married someone who has truly embraced my body. In fact, since the foreskin provides natural lubrication, it makes sex comfortable for her because her vagina is smaller.

It’s been quite a journey for me, but despite my insecurities and partners’ questions, I don’t regret one bit being intact. I even kept both of my boys intact, hoping their modern world would be a little less inquisitive. But we still have work to do: My niece just had her baby boy circumcised because “uncircumcised boys were made fun of at my school.”

Still, I am a living testament that insecurities can be overcome. And for the right person, whether it was your mom at birth or your current partner, you’re perfect.

Glenn

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Marilyn

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

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.