Literally, from across the country, men and women traveled to march with the Bay Area Intactivists for genital autonomy in San Francisco’s 2013 Pride Parade. The heroic organizing efforts by Jonathon Conte paid off in a well orchestrated display against routine infant male circumcision down Market Street. With the song Say No to Circumcision, Leave Those Babies Alone we strode down the parade route high on the empowerment of spreading awareness about the lack of credibility for circumcising infants.
Intactivists from all over the world gathered in SF
As I talked to committed intactivists from various points in this world I was struck with the different language that resonates as a focal point for people and the diversity of our backgrounds. At the core of the intactivists struggle is to completely stop routine male infant circumcision either through public consciousness raising or legislation. The paths and experiences that brought all these committed intactivists together are many and varied. Some like Marilyn Milos of NOCIRC have been on the front lines of the debate and struggle for years and others, like me, only recently came to lend my voice of protest and education.
Words are powerful tools of education against circumcision
The language and descriptive words used to paint an intactivist’s opposition to circumcision were illuminating. While the issue of ending routine circumcision was constant among all the marchers, their words conveyed the different philosophical perspectives and experiences that brought them to the point of advocating for a baby’s right to be left intact.
- Sexual violence
- Genital cutting
- Routine male infant circumcision
- Human rights
- Equal rights
- Second class citizens’
- Genital mutilation
- Genital autonomy
- Pro choice
- Born perfect
- Your body your choice
- Forced circumcision
- Cruelty and anguish
These were just a few of the articulate words and phrases that rolled of the tongues of intactivists on a bright and warm San Francisco Sunday afternoon.
The costs of advocacy
At some point, we finally work our way to the inevitable conclusion that a baby boy, girl or intersex individual is born with inalienable human rights which supersede any parental control. The cost of advocating for the human right to be left intact is the ostracism and ridicule from family, friends and strangers. Every intactivist marching on Sunday had realized the benefit of advocating for genital autonomy was greater than the social cost incurred. My conversations with other intactivists at the San Francisco Pride Parade underscored that a commitment to advocate for genital autonomy cuts across social, ethnic, religious and cultural lines. These people are willing to sacrifice time and treasure to not let the drum beat of education about circumcision fall silent.
- The couple from the foothills who run a farm and retreat center for HIV/AIDS patients and caregivers.
- The retired doctor who knows first hand the experience of genital cutting.
- The gardener from Florida that has been organizing the march on Washington D.C. for decades.
- The woman who wheels her circumcision education cart down to the ocean boardwalk every week to talk to people about circumcision.
- The couple from San Diego, Teamuncut, who have those uncomfortable conversations with friends and family.
- The woman who is willing to shed protective clothing to generate conversations that body parts are sacred.
- The young college student who cradled the inflatable pink penis in the parade.
- The veteran news man who commissioned a song to enlighten people not to circumcise their babies.
- The man so committed to ending circumcision he changed his name.
- The chiropractor who risks curbing his business with his advocacy.
- The man with cerebral palsy who wheeled in his first protest march.
Why are you here?
Then there are the other innocuous people like me who happen to materialize to support the cause. It was a joy to meet all these
passionate people, hear their stories and what motivates them day-in and day-out to educate people about the perils of circumcision. As I drove home from a long and fruitful day I reflected on the many different people I had met. In the back of brain, a familiar Sunday school hymn started to play. I remember hearing and singing the song as a child and understanding the invisible threads that connect people from different walks of life into common fabric of faith.
The song of saints
Appropriately, from my perspective, this hymn is sung on All Saints Day: I Sing a Song of the Saints of God.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen, and one was a shepherdess on the green: they were all of them saints…and I mean to be one too.
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest, and one was slain by a fierce wild beast: and there’s not one reason no, not the least, why I shouldn’t be one too.
You can meet them school, or by the sea, in church, or on trains, or in stores, and the house next door, they are all saints of God whether rich or poor, they are folks like me, and I mean to be one too.
– by Lesbia Scott, traditional hymn for All Saints Day, lyrics can vary by arrangement
A perfect sacrifice?
Saints are sacrificed. Saints are persecuted. Saints will not give up their faith. I walked with some Saints on Sunday. Perhaps the San Francisco Pride Parade is a fitting outdoor church to display our faith that all people are born perfect.
Below are recordings of some of the intactivists and motivations for attending the march. Beyond the recordings is a photo gallery of images of the day. Click on the thumbnail to enlarge. If you want an original full size picture let me know and I can send it to you.