Thursday, January 20, 2011

Confessions of a Circumcised Son

My mom holds my intact son for the first time (2 days old).

© Sanfis Daly 2011, published with permission:

"Sometimes when I talk about circumcision, I find other people assume it means I hate my parents, or that I blame everything on my parents, especially my mom. If I say I hate that I was circumcised, people automatically assume I hate my parents.

Last night I read about Baby Joshua and Baby Jameson, two boys who were circumcised despite severe health conditions (Left Hypoplastic Heart Syndrome and Hemophilia, both posing extreme risks for any surgery). Baby Joshua tragically died the morning after his circumcision and news is pending on Baby Jameson. These stories hit me particularly hard because I was a heart baby and experienced open heart surgery, and additional surgery is in my near future. But the comments I read on my wife's Facebook made me stop and think about how people attempt to draw attention away from the victims of this human rights violation by focusing on the mothers.

Why is this a bad thing? Besides removing attention from the victims and their suffering, it sends a message to mothers who have already played a part in the circumcision of their sons. If they sense that others will condemn them, they might not have the courage or integrity to speak out against circumcision or to share their stories with other parents.

Also, even if they do become advocates for babies, they might struggle with guilt, shame and a lot of inner pain. My wife showed me comments from other mothers who had allowed their sons to be circumcised before they were informed. The guilt and worry I read is what prompted me to write this post.

To mothers who allowed their sons to be circumcised and are feeling scared and guilty and wondering what your son will think when he grows up, I want to share my story with you.

I was circumcised as an infant. It was "just what you do" and my grandma encouraged my mom to consent, despite being Catholic. (I would later learn that many Catholics are poorly informed on this aspect of their faith and wrongly believe circumcision is a non-issue, or even believe it is approved.) I had a vague idea that my dad and my brothers were circumcised, but I never once compared penises with anyone. I also had a vague idea what circumcision was, but I was so ignorant in normal male anatomy that I had no idea what was missing on my own body.

It was the beginning of puberty that shoved me into the issue. The doctor amputated so much of my foreskin that as my penis began to grow during puberty, the tight skin chafed and tore. I experienced tearing, painful skin with bleeding. My body pulled the skin from my scrotum up onto my shaft, putting embarrassing hair onto my shaft. I even started to experience chordee, where the shaft bends. Being a shy, embarrassed teenager and not knowing these were complications of my circumcision, I didn't ask my parents but instead began to search online for answers. What I found shocked and angered me. When I was a tiny baby, someone had stolen a piece of my body. They held me down and cut me. My parents let this happen. My own grandma said it was the right thing to do as a Catholic. I was speechless, broken, depressed. Literally, depressed. I am about 5' 7" but almost reached 300 pounds as a teen. I thought my Catholic faith was a sham. I had to realize I was going to live with painful, embarrassing complications for the rest of my life. I had to process that my own parents allowed this, my own family promoted this.

 Words caught in my throat. I wanted to call out for help, but I was too angry and ashamed to say anything. I suffered in silence until the complications slowly lessened as my skin began to stretch. The issues have never fully gone away, and new ones such as keratinization of the glans have appeared. I am considering restoration.

As time went on and I got older, I braved a discussion. I asked my parents, "Why?" So much more was behind that word. But I got a foot into the discussion by framing it as religious curiosity. "Why, mom, did you circumcise me? We're Catholic, not Jewish." She said it's because Catholics are an extension of the Jewish faith. I knew this didn't make sense to me, but I didn't have the right information at the time to delve into it. Her answer, however, was not the important part of the conversation. More importantly was the concern I noted in her behavior, her tone of voice. The look, the hesitation. No words were directly said about what she let happen to me, but that look was enough. It was one of regret, of concern. My mom didn't wish this upon me. She was as ignorant and hoodwinked as I was about the whole thing. I forgave her in that moment.

As I continue to learn more about the unethical practice and societal myths behind circumcision, I have come to view the parents as victims in their own way.

Today I remain close to my mom and my dad. I do not hold anything against them. I do not hate them. I speak to them as frequently as my busy life allows. I am happy that they are grandparents for my children. My fight against routine circumcision does not detract from my love for them, and in fact it is for my parents, and all the other parents out there, that I speak out loudly and clearly.

~Sanfis Daly"


My parents meet my intact daughter for the first time.

My parents meet my intact son for the first time.


Additional reading:

A compiled list of links related to circumcision:

Confessions of a Circumcised Man:

Confessions of a Circumcised Woman:

Baby Joshua's Story According to His Mom:

Circumcision and Religion (includes Catholic links):
http://guggiedaly.blogspot.com/2011/01/circumcision-and-religion-condensed.html

30 comments:

  1. Thank you for sharing your story!

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  2. OMG. I am so sorry Sanfis and Guggie. I am so glad to have both of you as friends. I now understand all of your anger these last two days over baby Jameson, Sanfis. Keep up your quest to inform parents, and to outlaw MGM. And if you have not already, maybe consider restoration? Hugs to both of you! Fanny

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  3. so well written!!

    much love to your whole family

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  4. Beautiful! Thank you SANFIS!!

    Emilee

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  5. Thank you for sharing this with us.

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  6. Its not easy to bare your soul to strangers the way you have. My son is intact,,my husband wanted to circumsize, but I held on strong to not cutting our son..He is 8 and has had no issues with his intact self, other than an older doc trying to yank back his foreskin when he was an infant !!! Thank You for your candor and best of luck !

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    1. I'm glad you seem to have known that the doctor wasn't supposed to do that (and presumably stopped him). So many doctors in the USA are ignorant about the foreskin. It makes me wonder if they're qualified to be doctors at all.

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  7. Great post - a wonderful, gentle answer to the ignorance that surrounds circumcision.

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  8. I definitely recommend restoration! My husband began the process when we found out we were having a boy and leaving him intact. It has done wonders for his self esteem, plus given him confidence he didn't previously have.

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  9. This makes me so sad that I let my son's father make the decision to circumcize my son. I was and am a very conscientious mother who breastfed, stopped immunizing, co-slept and attachment parented. I did my research on circumcision, but the information was not as advanced as now. My son was circumcised at home, by my nurse-midwife, with me holding him rather than being tied to a board. This, however, in no way made it easier on him. If I had it to do over, I would not do it again, even if it meant me escaping somewhere where he could not be mutilated. I have no idea (he is now 31) whether he has had any problems but this story has prompted me to write him a letter telling him how sorry I am. I have fought hard against not having my grandsons circumcised all are intact but one. Thank you so much for sharing your story.

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  10. You are so right in saying the blame does not lie with the parents. I would go so far as to say it doesn't really lie with those family members around them who talked them into doing it. It's the misinformation and lies that are allowed to circulate that cause circumcisions to happen. If you don't know any better, what else can you do? It's so sad - I have friends who are very dear to me who have circumcised their sons and did so without my knowledge. If they had asked me what I thought about it, I would have told them, I would have sent them articles, blogs, facts to help them decide the educated way - but unfortunately, at the time I did not even think to ask if they were considering it. It makes me sad, because I know if they knew the facts before hand, it would never have been done.

    Thank you so much for your post, it was beautifully written and heart-felt.

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  11. Thank you for your post.
    Due to my ignorance,my three sons were all circumcised.I remember,just like yesterday,the first two questions my mother asked me after I had each son.Are you breastfeeding?Is he circmcised?
    Anyway,if I had known then,what I know now,I never would have had them circumcised.

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  12. I would love to hear more about the Catholic part of not needing to circ.

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  13. Beautifully written Sanfis. Thank you.

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  14. If my son ever asks me I'm going to be honest "I didn't know any better and I'm sorry I did that to you, I wish I hadn't" I hate that I did it too, and the worst part is that there is nothing I can do to fix it. Luckily his doctor was very generous with the skin he left over. Sometimes it still looks circumcised.
    I wish this guilt would go away. I love my son. Maybe I'll feel better when he gets older and he likes his penis! hahahahahaahahahaha! Thanks for posting this!

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  15. Anonymous, http://www.catholicsagainstcircumcision.org/ is a good place to start.

    Sanfis - you make some excellent points. This is something that has troubled me as well. Parents want the best for their children. Some of them who circumcise are stubborn, pig-headed and refuse to read new information presented to them, but most - especially those of your parents' generation - were just misinformed by a medical profession they should have been able to trust.

    I have an intact brother, probably left that way in part because it was going very much out of fashion, but partly because my mother was an RN who during her career held cotton wool balls soaked in brandy to the lips of boys being circumcised. When the skewed 'AIDS prevention' studies were released, my mother squirmed and questioned whether she should have chosen circumcision for my brother. The idiocy and irrationality of it enraged me and I wanted to slap her out of it - for one thing, she'd taken part in these horrific acts, and secondly, my brother has a mild ASD and is - to my knowledge - a virgin in his late 20s. Even if you found the studies convincing, the argument would have been absurd. How could she even have this thought, let alone voice it?

    As much as I found it hard to understand though, her reaction was born out of love. She was born of a time where her father and brother would have been cut, and my father certainly is. A little boy with a foreskin must have seemed odd to her. I try to remember that some parts of the USA still have a culture around circumcision similar to that.

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  16. its nice to hear this as one of those Mom's who feels tremendous guilt about doing this to my son... My husband and i made what we thought was the best decision with the information we had at the time we consulted family members i read (all the wrong) articles... My brother was left intact but later had to be circ'd for legitimate medical reasons we thougth we were sparing our son these potential future problems... It is correct that the blame lies in the misinformation... i will always greive my son's loss and hope someday he will see it as you do!

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  17. In the UK Catholics would never consider circumcising because it's quite clear the NT is against it. I'm not Catholic but I am a Christian.

    Anon with the 31 year old son. I hope this makes you feel a little better, if your son was done at home with you holding him he probably doesn't have problems from it. If the MW had cut off as much as what is usually done you wouldn't have been able to hold him for it. She probably did something similar to what Jews and Muslims do (when they're doing it properly) and removed what naturally over hung the tip of his penis. This means he has plenty of foreskin to prevent the problems that Sanfis has explained happened to him.

    I'm not saying that any circumcision is OK, but I hope it helps you feel a little better about it to know the way it was done has probably helped it to not be so bad.

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  18. Safis, I don't blame your parents or anybody else's parents. Most of us believe that if doctors do X, X must be a good thing to do. I discovered what circumcision was in my 13th year. It was not until my late 30s that I was able to accept forthrightly that American medicine simply cannot think straight about the tip of the penis.

    I blame medical school profs for teaching medical students to circumcise babies. I blame the unwillingness of pediatric urologists to make public how much of their caseload stems from repairing routine circ damage. I blame a small group of leading doctors (e.g., Edgar Schoen) who are obsessed with making the penis bald. I blame a medical profession that has happily circumcised over 100 million baby boys over the past 130 years, without having ever investigated the possible adverse consequences for sexual pleasure and functionality. I blame doctors and hospitals that, 1940-80, quietly circumcised all babies whose parents had medical insurance, without asking the mother. They did this primarily for mercenary reasons.

    A result was that we Baby Boomers grew up in a totally circumcised world. For many of us, the natural penis looks disgustingly weird and sexually repelling. People who think this way feel a strong compulsion to circumcise their own children. They are mistaken but they, like their circumcised sons, are also the victims of a warped culture. Like it or not, human sexuality and genitality are social constructs. This fact can have deplorable consequences, and routine circ is a case in point.

    I blame an American culture that invented striptease, Playboy magazine, the massage parlor, adult films, video rentals, and internet porn, but that finds it very embarrassing to discuss the penis that Nature intended. I grew up surrounded by boys whose mouths were open sewers of lewd wisecracks and the coarsest of 4 letter words. But circumcision was never talked about before college. I never had a conversation about foreskin until I met my wife.

    Guggie, thank you for opening your blog to a series of remarkable memoirs like this one. And kudos to you for not being ashamed of revealing that you are a practicing Roman Catholic, and that Catholic moral teaching has much influenced you here.

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  19. Thank you so much for writing this. I am the mother of a beautiful 15 month old son who is circumsized. I just didn't know then. Now I do and feel so insanely guilty about letting them do that to his perfect little body! How horrible! I just didn't know...

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  20. It takes a great deal of courage to write what you have Sanfis. Thank you for sharing!

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  21. Be informed. It's so important:(

    Thanks for sharing:) Im now sharing your story on facebook:)

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  22. OK I get this is a pro intact blog pst and your story is great but your case is also rare; as with uncirc'd boys can have rare issues too. If you had never experienced any issues then the domino's would not have fallen as they did. Completely circumstantial and both sides can feel equally depressed. I know intact males who were depressed because they were treated like it was a deformity and one *intact but also had chordee* of them led a drug ridden life in the beginning because of a terrible depression of adolescence. Your story is triumphant and beautiful in the end (and I'm glad you don't hate your parents) but we need to all remember to be unprejudiced towards each other. And always know that we just do the best we know at the time; and hope to educate people in a positive manner for the future.

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  23. THANK YOU FOR YOUR STORY I FEEL THE SAME WAY MY FRIEND

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  24. wHY dont the government do a survey?? Afterall look at the statistics...america high level of serial killers....and all countries that practice circumcision seem to be at war with each other...i mean when was the last time you heard of say finland and greece going to war??? No you wont see that ...how many serial killers religious nutters are circumcised?? A lot i think theyd find

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  25. Love this. Thank you for speaking out. We, also, chose to stop the cycle of circumcision with our son. Here is our short story: http://amyelizabethsmith.wordpress.com/2010/09/21/the-circumcision-decision/

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  26. I am going through almost exactly what you did right now. Except I must confess I do hate my parents. I went through word for word the exact same complications and problems you did and more. For me it wasn't a religious thing though, it was a "doctors say you should" type of thing. I am so angry and hurt that I can barely contain it these days. Unlike you I studied everything I could for 3-4 years about circumcision before anyone knew of my feelings. My parents are the ones who noticed something was wrong and confronted me, and after a few months finally got it out of me. They want to help me feel better but can't understand why I'm angry. They believe I'm the one who's wrong and that there must be some other problem. They refuse to understand that I'm not ok with having some doctor tie me down and cut parts of my body off against my will. Especially not a part as private and pleasurable as the foreskin. I know probably more than the vast majority of doctors about circumcision by now. Unlike you who people at first believe you'd be angry I have the opposite problem. Every person I've talked to can't believe I'm upset they say I should be happy, thankful, even grateful to the doctors who did this to me. It's so wrong and unnecessary and barbaric to force circumcision on children or anyone for that matter. I feel so alone and helpless and angry. I want to fight this so badly I need to stop other boys from going through this horror. Iv never read another persons story that was so close, nearly identical to mine. How did you ever end up forgiving your parents. How do you get over the fear, overwhelming hatred and sleepless nights? This entire practice needs to end but how do I convince people? No one will listen to common sense, basic facts and reasoning or basic human rights and fairness. I know this thread is several years old but the story is to familiar, and advice or tips would be beyond appreciated.

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  27. I'm wondering if you have any advice for me. My son is only 11. So my regret that haunts me is just the pain and agony and torture he felt. At the time I thought it was like getting ur ears pieced but with meds. And I'm just now learning what he went through. And it terrorizes me. Just looking for a way to cope and forgive myself. I can't help but wonder how scared he was and if he thought it would happen again. If he had nightmares Ect. Thank you

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    1. Sitting down to talk about it briefly and calmly might be the best starting point. Stay brief at that age, but offer to provide any information he wants. A sincere apology and an offer to provide information/guidance for any potential problems is sometimes all a heart needs to feel loved and to move on.

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  28. I were circumcised and are now happy about it.

    My Story

    Ic came originally from Austria an played with my genitals a lot. I played so much that it got red. It was so red that we were by the doctor who told me to stop it.After i didn't stop it and there other visits by him. He told my dad that they had to penectomy (Complete penis will be removed) me. My father even told me this at home and applied to me. I stopped it for a while and after my father moved to his new girlfriend in the U.S. Illinois. I started it again as i was living by my mom. Three Months Later i moved although to the US. My stepmom caught me doing it. She was a doctor but is working with people who had cancer. She told me that i have to stop it. A few days later my dad told me if i wouldn't stop it he will circumcise me so that i couldn't move my skin anymore. To be honest i was shocked. Three Weeks later my dad was on a business trip in Germany. I actually was under the shower as my stepmom came in and saw my red Penis she asked
    What is that ?
    I had no idea what to answer.
    She got out of the bathroom and called my dad. They talked to each other for over an hour. On the next day she picked me up from my School and told me that we are going for a Check up by a her known pediatric. In the waiting room she told me that i will have a little operation in the next upcoming weeks. I suspected evil. I was with her in the doctor office and must show her my penis. She said okay let me have look through your documents. She read them and told my stepmother okay we will circumcise him really tight to make sure that it couldn't get red again. She called in her nurse and told her to prepare all things for a circumcision she was surprised and asked today. I just felt crazy and looked to my stepmother she smiled to me.
    We all were going to a other room what doesn^t looks like a operation room. I saw there a few operation thinks. I started crying and my stepmom, the nurse and the doctor take me and layed me down and strapped me on. As i waked up i had a rally bad pain and a crazy feeling. My Stepmom was nowhere. The Doctor together with my stepmom came in and asked how i feel. I told them okay. The Doc told me that i cold get home in 10 minutes. After 15 minutes i were sitting in the car. As we were home i was bit tipsy. I ( walked) to the couch and watched a Movie. My mom came to me and take seat at the couch and asked me if i am now happy about it. I taught : Are you kidding me ???!!
    I told her not and she started to discussed with me.
    She told me that this was the better option than the penectomy and that this circumcision was good for.
    I took another pain killer. And called my dad who totally agreed to her.
    3 Months later i had to go really urgent to the toilet and ran to it. I don't care who wasn't in the bathroom. I sat on it. And i here'd my stepmom. She asked me how i am and if i am happy about so less movement down there. I correct her and told her that there was not less movement there was just NO fucking movement. She answered me better than no penis.

    Now with 19 years i am happy about it. What could be if my dad had me penectomyed me.

    And i even was shy to show my penis to my dad. Because of the Doctor Visits in Austria.

    Afterwards i know that nobody would belief this story and will thought that this was a joke. No it wasn't please keep me serious. Because i want to know what would you have done if your son ( hopefully not) would be in this Situation.

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