There was a sign on the side of I-35 yesterday that said, “Circumcision is a SEX CRIME.” in faded red letters.
There were weeds growing up around it, and it made my blood boil.
Signs like this are naïve, and I am likely one of the few men who has had sex circumcised and uncircumcised, so I have a right to speak on the matter, and let me tell you – it doesn’t really matter. What matters, especially when you are young is if you feel normal or not.
There are things to fight in this world, such as racism, sex trafficking, child abuse, and gender equality, but circumcision is not one of them.
I was born in Bay Area, and even in the 80’s, circumcision was frowned upon, and my parents were hippies (they moved there in a bus that they lived in, pretty cool). My mother didn’t want to traumatize me so early in my little life and although circumcision does lower the rates of transmission of STIs like HIV (why you see such larger percentages in Africa) the procedure does come with a risk of infection. San Francisco even recently proposed a ban on the procedure. This is interesting as San Francisco has one of the largest HIV positive populations in the US, yet only 0.0001% of the city’s population tested positive. In comparison, Sub Saharan Africa had an estimated 24.7 million people living with HIV in 2013, and in some countries the prevalence is now above 25%. The Academy of Pediatrics made an announcement in 2012 that given the current research, the benefits of circumcision do seem to outweigh the risks. Yet, this may change as we learn more and more about the microbiome.
None of those statistics matter at the micro level and when I was two we moved back to the Midwest. I grew up happy, running around barefoot through the sand and crawling through tunnels of snow. But in middle school, I started to realize I was different, and I didn’t want anyone to know. Kids can be incredibly cruel everywhere, but where I grew up it was cut throat.
When I was a freshmen, there was a kid on the football team nicknamed Foreskin. He even laughed about himself. At the time, he was a joke, and his life was hell. I vowed that would not be my fate. This dreaded secret was also one of the reasons I was likely so angry as a teenager, but looking back, I would have got in even more trouble if I wasn’t so afraid of letting girls know.
My father wouldn’t let me get circumcised until I was 18. So it was a constant mission in discretion and control. Throughout high school, it was always in the background of my mind. I can’t tell you how grateful I am that my brother didn’t care. He never mentioned it once and I think the reason a lot of kids didn’t work up the nerve to say anything about it to my face was because of him. But once when I was 16, one of friends got cute and tried to use it against me in an argument. He immediately ran, and I chased him down, threw him to the ground, spit in his eye, and said if he ever fucking said that again, I’d put a hole in his face.
That sign didn’t say shit about that.
The day I turned 18, I scheduled the appointment to get “cut”. My father drove me. He didn’t try to talk me out of it. He just waited with me. A urologist with gray hair and a nonchalant attitude stuck me with needles and local anesthesia. He took out a scalpel and then stitched me up. I didn’t watch. I didn’t care. I was free. We were half way home. My dad looked down and immediately turned the car around. I was bleeding. One of the stitches had come out, and I had to walk back in the hospital with blood running down my leg.
That wasn’t on the fucking sign either.
Everything healed just fine, and I went to college. It wasn’t ever mentioned again. Locker rooms were no big deal. I was just like anyone else, and I rarely if ever think about it anymore.
New parents may be debating what to do. What is right? What is wrong? Yes, there are health benefits for circumcision, and there are risks with undergoing any surgery at any age. I wish that kids weren’t mean to other children, and that young people didn’t attach a big portion of their self-worth to their sexual organs and physical appearance. I wish there wasn’t a 13-17 year old age range on Tinder and I wish that Brett Favre was immortal. Pick your battles and likely whether to circumcise your boy isn’t one of them.
Here is what I want you to do – I want you to investigate what is “normal” where you live, and where you plan to raise your male child.
A global map is above and below is a map with the 2014 circumcision rates from the United States.
Choose what is normal, not because you are scared of being abnormal but because you don’t want your child to suffer unnecessarily. I think that is every parent’s wish and this just isn’t a fight worth fighting. It is a minute issue in a world of much larger issues. Give your child a chance not to care about this fight and instead teach him to battle against the moral and social issues that matter. Teach him to be like my brother, to not judge and to be a friend regardless of race, social economic status, or sexual orientation. You don’t want to explain to your hormonal raging 14 year old boy why he is different, and if you do, it need not be about the skin that is or is not on his penis.
You want your child to drive by that sign and feel nothing. You want him not to notice. Trust me.