Addressing parents who circumcised or intend to circumcise despite the compelling evidence against the practice remains our biggest challenge as activists for genital integrity and bodily autonomy for all. Since cultural change is the most likely (and probably most effective) route to ending non-therapeutic child circumcision, we have to confront it. Logic matters, which is my preferred route. But emotion matters, too. Kindness and decency can contribute to the discussion and sway parents into protecting their sons the way they would protect their daughters if someone suggested genital surgery on them.
In that approach, I think this post at Mothering achieves a brilliant mix of logic and emotion. A mother wrote it to her son before the circumcision, which never occurred because her son benefited from her persistence in wanting to do the right thing for him. (It also helped that the urologist selected for the possible circumcision embraced ethics¹ enough to be uncomfortable without consent from both parents.) Thus, the letter she wrote to her son to apologize for allowing him to be circumcised instead became an excellent testament to the arguments against circumcision. I strive to achieve this power in my writing.
You’re cuddled up peacefully against me. You’re so happy and innocent and perfect. You’re four days old and you are amazing. I want to give you everything. And I’m already failing you. I’m so sorry, XXXX. I won’t ask you to forgive me because I’ll never forgive myself. I’m your mother and it’s my job to protect you. And I don’t know how to do it. This week, your dad and I will take you to a doctor’s office. They will strap you to a board and cut off a perfectly healthy part of your body. The most sensitive part of your perfect little body will be raw and sore. There is no medical reason for us to do this to you or put you through this pain. But we’re doing it anyway. I don’t know how to stop it. I am failing you. Letting this happen goes against everything I ever wanted to teach you. I don’t know how I’ll be able to look you in the eyes after I do this to you. How can I teach you to love your body when I’m showing you that your body wasn’t good enough? How can I teach you to be confident in being who you are when we’re putting you through surgery just so you’ll fit in? How can I teach you to love and accept others the way they are when we’re rejecting your perfect little brand new body the way it is? How can I teach you to believe in yourself and believe that you can do anything if we think your body needs surgery because we don’t think you’re capable of basic hygiene? And how can I teach you that God made you when I’m showing you that God made a mistake? I’m so sorry for not protecting you. I’m so sorry that I will never be able to be the mother that you deserve now. Please know that I believed in you, XXXX. I believed that you would be a strong, confident man who would love his body the way God made it, love who he was, and not give a damn about what other people thought you should look like or who you should be. I fought for you, XXXX. I just didn’t fight hard enough, and I will regret that for the rest of my life. And I will spend the rest of my life trying my best to undo the damage that I’m letting be done. I will always cherish these first few days of your life, when you were still whole and trusting and the happiest baby I’ve ever seen. The days before I failed you. I love you, XXXX. I’m so so sorry.
This follow-up provides a nice perspective from the mother after she kept her son safe.
¹ If only that urologist understood the ethics of circumcising without consent from the healthy patient…