Many of us speak out about things that are important to us but how many of us are brave enough to speak out about a mistake we made? This is one of the most powerful ways to create change in my opinion, but it's unfortunately rare because most humans (myself included :)) are psychologically hard-wired to not enjoy admitting they are wrong. And therein lies one of the many challenges in stopping the practice of routine infant circumcision in the United States. Most people that have circumcised their sons are not particularly interested in considering the fact that they might have made a mistake. After all, it's done now, they can't take it back, why should they make themselves uncomfortable by considering the fact that they as a parent signed off on something that did real harm to their child? And so most of these parents go out of their way not to think about circumcision. They trivialize the procedure, mocking those that make a "big deal" out of it. Others advocate circumcision to pregnant family members and friends so that they can feel more secure about what they've already done to their child. After all, if their friend/relative doesn't circumcise his/her child that's going to force them to think about what they've done and then they'll feel uncomfortable. It's frightening the lengths people will go to just to avoid facing the horror of what they've done to their own child. These people are perpetuating a violent cycle just so they can avoid taking responsibility for their part in it.
But this post is not about those people. It is about the people that are really truly special and unique. The people who are brave enough to unflinchingly face a horrible mistake they made with their child and then speak out about it no matter how much much pain it may cause them to think and talk about it. When I talk to people about circumcision I use a variety of different methods depending on the parent and how well I know them, but none of the methods I use are as powerful as a loving mother standing up and saying, "I circumcised my son. I regret it every day and this is why." There is no mother that can ignore such a statement. She may argue but she cannot ignore.
Mothers who speak out about circumcision regret not only save future sons, they do honor to their own sons and men like me who are survivors of circumcision. They validate how what we have gone through is wrong and they give us, all of us, the apology we always deserved and never got. I didn't have the best experience when I tried to talk to my mother about circumcision. (I'll save the gory details for another post.) I actually felt worse for a while after talking to her about it, but every time I hear Jenny Vaughn or Marilyn Milos or any of these other brave moms speak up about how they wish they had not circumcised their sons it helps me heal. When I hear about the heartfelt apologies they offered their children it makes me feel better. When I hear about the work they do for Intactivism it gives me hope. They are the people who pave the way for others to feel safe enough and brave enough to speak out against circumcision. And they do this horrifically difficult thing simply because it is the right thing to do.
I feel honored to work alongside these women as an Intactivist and call some of them my friends. They have helped me in my personal healing, in becoming an Intactivist, and in my journey as a parent. Thanks in part to them I've come to accept that ALL of us make mistakes as parents and, thankfully, our children recover just fine from most of them. The key is what you do about the mistake. If you deny it to protect yourself the hurt to the child is increased exponentially. If you admit it and apologize the child receives the validation he needs to heal and to realize that even the most devoted mothers and fathers make mistakes. Circumcision is a mistake that the US has been lying to itself about for decades. It's time more people were brave enough to face it head on and call circumcision out for what it is: violence against children. It cannot be cloaked in religion and imagined medical benefits. It is ALWAYS violence, pure and simple.