Lloyd Schofield discusses the events of the 2011 San Francisco Ballot Initiative to ban circumcision of children in the City of San Francisco.
When I was going to school, we all were required to go to the gym and take showers afterwards, and the difference was quite apparent there. It's no question that something is missing—a scar is a scar.
Until I saw the march in the Pride Parade, I had no idea of the wonderful things that Marilyn Milos has been doing for decades! I didn't know how to get in touch with the Bay Area Intactivists group to find out about it, so I kind of badgered Marilyn Milos for a few months—I thought: “Well, this woman must be very very busy.” So, I said: “Can I help you?” Finally, I got her to sit down and have lunch with me, and it was a fantastic lunch; we had such a good time.
So, I met Marilyn, and she steered me the right way [towards] the Bay Area Intactivists. So, I went to these street fairs just to kind of listen and learn; mainly, I just sat there, read the information, listened to what the other intactivists were saying, and just had people come up and talk to us, and I listened to what they were saying; it was very disturbing how angry [men felt] and let down by their society and their parents [who] should have protected them.
I wouldn't have taken on the job [of being the spokesperson for the ballot initiative (which sought to restrict the age of medically unnecessary circumcisions)] if I hadn't thought that there was a possibility that it would pass. One of the things I reasoned was: People in the San Francisco Bay Area are already voting with their children by not circumcising them. So, they already [understand] this; the old fallacies [like] “Well, having the father look like the child [is important]” obviously [don't] carry much weight, because these are circumcised fathers sparing their [children] from what they went through. So, the harm is recognized.
A couple weeks later, I was getting calls at 5 o'clock in the morning to be on radio shows, and I would say [sleepily]:
"Oh, yeah. OK. OK."
"Well, you're on in 3, 2, 1… BOOM!"
So, this was my life for 3 weeks—constant interruption to be on these not very respectful radio shows:
No, I don't want to read a book, pal—Hey look! If you're gonna be an ass, I'm gonna circumcise you right now!—
I asked ya a question, and none of these questions have been provocative, but you're pissing me off! So, let me be—
I told you when—
let me be—I don't care what you said!
You know, if you let our opponents talk long enough, they just wind up hanging themselves.
The whole idea of circumcision… [it's something that makes people want] to look away; [they don't want to] focus on it; [they want] to distract [themselves]. So, I just try [to] keep the focus brought on what the whole, most important issue is:
The rights of the individual to an intact body; the right not to be harmed; the right to make decisions for one's own self.
So, I try [to] respond with reason, and always bring it back to that central focus of what we're about—of course, everybody wants to make it about something else: “My freedom”—my freedom as a parent, my freedom as [an adherent to a] religion or a culture, or “This is what we do.” [The discussion should always] be brought back from there.
Of course, once things get heated up, it turns from religion to politics, and in politics, there's absolutely no holds barred. So, all of the positive discussion from a religious angle that we've had all along has completely been overlooked and never been acknowledged.
In fact, when I did meet the spokesperson for our opposition, Abby Porth—very much by surprise in the green room previous to a radio debate that we were on—we were cordial, but she had never even looked at our web page, or our Facebook page; she did not know it existed.
So many people who identified themselves religiously said: “We want to talk about this. We want to discuss it. Tell me what you think.” People on a one-to-one basis have been incredibly open to discussion on this. [However], when you get to upper echelons of power—whether it be governmental or religious—then the discussion is not allowed to take place. But, really, on a basic one-to-one level, people are on to this.
The discussion has elevated so quickly, so dramatically. This indicates that this is a discussion that has been waiting to be held for far too long; we quickly went through the laughing stage and joking stage, [then] the serious denial, [all the way] to the point where we're having very serious conversations [about] this in the media, and very legitimate publications. So, this has become a very serious topic very quickly.
All right. So, they've lost the legal battle at least for now. What about the court of public opinion on this?
Well, you know, they had to collect at least 12 thousand—they did collect more than 12 thousand—signatures from San Francisco residents, so those folks would presumably be on their side. And, the Centers for Disease Control reports that nationwide, the percentage of parents choosing the procedure for their baby boys has dropped over the past decade.
All right. Thanks Carolyn. Carolyn Tyler reporting.