(This article was originally published in the Summer 2010 edition of Whole Woman Magazine)
I’m a regular guy who’s been blessed with good fortune in this life. Successful career, long and happy marriage, three wonderful children, and recently, a grandchild, good friends and have travelled extensively. Of course there’s always ups and downs in life and some events have been emotionally challenging at the time, like relationship breakdowns, retrenchments and the loss of loved family and friends to ageing, illnesses and accidents.
Beyond all of this, there has been something which has had a profoundly negative impact on my life since I was a young boy. Something which left me physically and emotionally scarred. Something which left me feeling damaged, violated and incomplete as a man. Something which has impacted my self confidence throughout life. Something which I’ve only just begun to speak about in the last few years.
As a young boy of around 8 years old, I discovered that an important part of my penis was missing. It would be some years later that I discovered what had happened to me had a name: Circumcision. Yep, circumcision. The ‘little snip’. Removing that ‘useless flap of skin’.
This was my ‘big secret’ and I was acutely embarrassed about it. How on Earth could something so common, socially acceptable and supposedly beneficial have such a negative impact on my entire psyche? Why did I freeze and go into a cold sweat at the mere mention of ‘circumcision’ or ‘foreskin’...?
Several years ago I discovered a paper written by Australian Professor Greg Boyle (1 Male Circumcision: Pain, Trauma and Psychosexual Sequelae) which addresses the psychological impact of circumcision upon men. It described my feelings accurately and gave me the confidence to finally discuss my ‘big secret’ with my wife of over 15 years. There were lots of tears, hugs and a great sense of relief to have this out in the open. I’ve since discussed these feelings with my mother and a trusted male friend, which has been extremely helpful and cathartic.
Soon afterwards, together, with a fair amount of trial and error, my wife and I worked on a home-made foreskin restoration device, which, after 4 years of sustained effort, delivered me a replacement foreskin and a penis virtually indistinguishable from an intact penis (even the family doctor was most surprised that I’d once been circumcised and that restoration was even possible). Restoration is an amazing process using well established tissue expansion techniques which reverses much of the damage of circumcision. Over time, the exquisite, frictionless gliding function gradually returns, along with a degree of lost sensitivity. Foreskin restoration has been an absolute God-send for me and has provided a great deal of physical healing and helped me to more effectively deal with a lifetime of emotional distress. Of course, much of the damage caused by circumcision can never be undone, as the excised structures and erogenous tissues are lost forever.
Unfortunately, for all the progress made, it seems part of my very being was irrevocably crushed - along with my foreskin - on the day some nameless, faceless, emotionally-detached doctor performed a medically-unnecessary surgery on the genitals of my voiceless, defenceless, infant self. While I do have much better perspective on the whole issue these days, my original hopes for complete emotional healing may have been too optimistic, as I cannot escape a recurring intrusive thought; a wish that I’d simply been left alone as a baby.
I am comforted by the knowledge that circumcision is gradually being exposed for the medically-useless and brutal act that it truly is. It is also comforting to know the cycle of violence ended at my generation in my own extended family. My participation in the world-wide Intactivist community, a community of passionate, committed and gentle people has given me hope that respect for basic human rights will ultimately overcome a range of dark forces when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable in our society and I look forward to the day that doctors place ethical practice before financial gain. I look forward to the day that legislators place human rights and children’s welfare before the sensitivities of vocal religious minorities. This will happen, I’m just not holding my breath.
I remember once reading; “What circumcision did to my body is bad enough, but what it did to my mind is worse.” I wish I didn’t feel this way, but I just do and it’s just who I am. I share these very private thoughts to help raise awareness that circumcision is never in the best interests of the child and to provide some insight into how the harm of circumcision often extends beyond the more obvious physical harms.