Birth of an Activist: Reflections from David Wilson of Stop Infant Circumcision

By David Wilson, founder of Stop Infant Circumcision Society and Genital Integrity Awareness Week

I remember as a child looking at this photo of myself as a baby and thinking that I had wet my diaper. And then my mom told me that it was not a wet diaper, but was blood from being circumcised. I had no idea what that meant or what 'circumcision' was until one day when I was about 11 years old. I overheard my mom talking about circumcision and when I asked what it was, she said that when I was born "the doctors thought my ding-a-ling was going to be too big" so they cut off a piece.

I ran to the upstairs bathroom and looked at myself and I could see the difference in the texture of skin, and I could see the scar, and said to myself, "They did cut me..." At the time, I thought they must have taken a section out of the middle and reattached it. I was traumatized for several years until I got into sex ed classes in school.

Circumcision just didn't make sense to me because my cousins in the Bahamas were not cut. I saw them peeing outside when I was visiting at age 6-7 years. I went home and tried to stuff myself inside like they could. And realized I couldn't. When mom told me several years later that I had been cut (shortened) it started to make sense, and began my work to speak out. Still, she told me that it was just something "they" did to boys - that it was better. But I always thought, if circumcision was supposed to be so good for boys, why weren't my cousins cut? They were perfectly fine - healthy as could be. It just didn't make any sense and it was a tough realization to come to.

In the 1970s I attended Vietnam War demonstrations, and that is when I got my first taste of demonstrating. Years later, I made my way to Washington D.C. on April 1st (April Fools Day) with a homemade magic-markered sign to stand on the steps of the Supreme Court and speak out about infant circumcision. I chose April 1st originally because it was my own way to use a humorous approach to raise awareness on a serious subject.

The second year when I returned again on April 1st, I spent time on the steps of the Supreme Court and then walked to the East steps of the U.S. Capitol. I saw a gentleman sitting there demonstrating and asked an officer if it was something I could do as well. He said I could and told me how to file permits with the Capitol Police - something I've done each year since.

A buddy and I would drive up from Florida through the night, spend all day demonstrating on April 1st, and turn around to drive home. In 1996 I acquired a computer and got online to find that I wasn't the only one with a passion for seeing an end to infant circumcision. Just a few years later Van Lewis found me and together we made the annual trip back to Washington D.C. April was named Child Abuse Prevention Month in 1983, and the federal FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) Law became effective on March 30, 1997, so it has made sense to keep Genital Integrity Awareness Week at this time each year.

One thing that still astonishes me after all these years is the lack of outrage that should exist over the 117+ baby boys who die as a result of circumcision each year in the United States. That number is low [due to lack of recording/logging by hospitals] but whenever this comes up in conversation, unknowing peoples' response is, "Well, it doesn't happen that often..." Yet when even a handful of babies die needlessly from other things, we jump to ban and file lawsuits. All the while death from needless genital cutting continues to be ignored. Aside from death, what about all the thousands more who lose a part of their glans? Who have chunks taken out of the shaft? Who have other botched outcomes? All men lose something when they are subjected to circumcision...

For the longest time after learning the truth I did not want to look at the pictures. I did not want to watch the videos. But as time went on, I realized people need to see this. And as a result, some of the signs used in our demonstrations have become more graphic. This year we had one sign showing the distinction between an intact and circumcised baby boy -- it is something that parents need to be aware of. The old saying, "the truth hurts" is applicable here... This is the truth, and it does hurt, and it cannot remain hidden any longer.

Video by James Loewen of Bonobo3D. View more of Loewen's work at his channel:

More from David Wilson at


  1. Great! I love what you all do!

    BTW that "When did this become preferable to this?" images are extremely powerful!!!!! THATS WHAT THE PEOPLE NEED TO SEE!

    Keep up the fantastic work!

  2. roger desmoulins7/04/2013 10:25 AM

    David, I did not know you were an old friend of the late Van Lewis, the Rosa Parks of our movement.

    The sex ed I got did not mention circumcision. Diagrams of the male reproductive system in books published in the USA 40-50 years ago, did not include the foreskin. This was indeed the surgery that dared not speak its name.

  3. Karen Glennon1/17/2015 12:08 AM

    I have stood in Washington DC at Genital Integrity Awareness Week with David for many years now. I will continue to do so until either we end this atrocity and violation of males in our culture or I die.
    I am grateful for the time and energy of so many others who stand with us. The message is being spread. People are learning the truth and babies are being saved this trauma. It's difficult to bring a painful truth to the public. So many turn away, unable and unwilling to see honestly the pain that they have either experienced themselves as circumcised men or people who have participated in this in some way. It is hard but we need to face it, make what amends we can and stop it from happening again. Bit by bit, mind by mind, heart by heart, we are changing the world.

  4. roger desmoulins1/21/2015 4:48 PM

    Karen, is that you carrying the sign "When did this..."?

    1. No - that is Callie (David's wife).


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