I want people to be completely educated about the wide-ranging impact, both physical and physiological, as well as the psychological ramifications, of what this procedure is doing to men.
- Jonathon Conte
The world has lost a gentle warrior, courageous activist, and beautiful friend. My heart bleeds with the loss of Jonathon Conte, and there are not enough 'right words' to say here in this moment.
He offered experienced wisdom to fellow advocates, steadfast action that never ceased to the movement, and gentle friendship to those blessed to know him. By his own account he was a "very private person" and chose to set aside his own pain for the sake of helping others and making this broken world a better place.
Jonathon joined us in D.C. for the first time several years ago during Genital Integrity Awareness Week (GIAW) -- taking the train all the way across the nation to avoid the flights -- and instantly became a powerful piece of the East Coast riptide making changes here. His leadership with the Bay Area Intactivists not only impacted individuals, parents, babies and future adults in Northern California, but dominoed across the U.S. and Canada, inspiring thousands and giving those new to the movement an example to learn from.
From before Facebook was 'the thing,' Jonathon was part of our small crew on Twitter disseminating intact information everywhere we were able. He was part of the group that came up with the #i2 hashtag to identify materials that were pro-intact; and from 2009 until early this year, I spoke with him almost daily. We discussed expos, events, opportunities, and how to rally people into action -- one of the most difficult things to do sometimes. He was a bedrock of support, a friend, encourager, and someone to bounce around original ideas with. He was creative (his unique artwork for GIAW flyers was fantastic!) and while stoically private, he loved deeply with an incredible heart.
Jonathon's last post on Facebook was to thank mothers on Mother's Day for keeping their children intact. The share of his post [https://www.facebook.com/SavingOurSons/posts/1198321450186974] reached over 40,000 people in one day, and as everything Jonathon did, he brought the perfect mix of sincerity, compassion, and seriousness to an issue that impacts so many - all of us, really - whether we want to believe it or not.
Jonathon always encouraged advocates to meet people where they are at in their activism and education. Morph your style and presentation to fit the audience for the sake of the goal: babies saved, genital cutting ended. Because of his flexibility and compassion, Jonathon was as effective at a maternity or baby expo booth as he was riding and rallying on the streets. His positive impact has been felt everywhere. And still, he did everything while carrying a deeply hurting heart, and chose to take his own life last night.
Marilyn Fayre Milos reflects, "Jonathon's pain was deep and he wasn't able to even talk about it. My heart is in great pain...witnessing the effect of what we do to our children...and the adults they become. Jonathon did all that he could to make the world better for the babies coming into it but he was not able to overcome the world into which he arrived."
Milos will be demonstrating in Jonathon's honor on the steps of the Capitol in Sacramento tomorrow. All in the area are welcome to join her. We will be in Washington D.C. for Worldwide Week of Genital Autonomy, carrying on the torch that Jonathon lit so brightly through his every move here.
Ride free, sweet friend.
Listen to a little more of Jonathon's story:
Jonathon Conte spoke out for the basic human rights of all children. He knew that Genital Mutilation is what adults do to the bodies of healthy children. He knew that many people in our culture prefer to use the name of a doctor recommended procedure because [that word] masks the truth for them. He knew that the common, all too familiar, word is what allows a parent to make a thoughtless choice. He knew that the word is what exonerates them from all responsibility because, it is after all, a 'doctor's recommendation for cleaner, safer, and healthier' reasons. Have you noticed that when you use the euphemism - [that word] - the person you're speaking with is more then likely trying to defend their personal understanding of the euphemism, based on medicine and/or religion, (cleaner, safer, and healthier), rather than on the basis of a child's human rights? Jonathon was making a difference because he challenged people to THINK beyond their reliance on medicine and/or religion. He did this simply -- by calling what adults do to the bodies of healthy children Genital Mutilation.
Jonathon Conte speaks outside the AAP convention, 2012:
Jonathon presents the 'shame award' to the AAP in 2012 after their statement was released to support insurance funding ($$$) of the forced genital cutting of minors without medical need: