You Didn't Fail: Thank you for speaking up

By James Ketter © 2016


To all my intactivist friends who know what it is like to try with all your heart to educate expecting parents, to try and spare a child from genital cutting, only to learn later that his parents had him cut anyway...

I thank you. 

You should never, ever feel like YOU failed or did anything wrong.

Let me tell you, as a victim of genital cutting myself, what you did for that baby boy:

You were the only one who spoke for him at his most vulnerable.

Do you know how incredibly HUGE that is?

Do you know how important that will one day be to him?

What it will mean to him?

Let me answer that.

No one spoke out for me.
No one.
Not one single person in my entire family, group of family friends, or even my community spoke even one single word for my sake when I was vulnerable and needed protection.
Not one damn soul.
Not a syllable of protest.

YOU didn't stay silent.

YOU cared enough to make your feelings and facts known.

You were the person who put the needs of those babies ahead of your own.

You were the only one who truly granted them their humanity.

Do you know what I would give to have just one person in my life to have given me a gift like that? Just one single person in my family, or my community, who wasn't complicit, silent, or uninterested in my fate at as a human being. Do you know what it would mean to me to have just one single person in my life who actually TRIED to save me? It would mean the world.

I actually have tears in my eyes thinking about this. I have no one who even tried to speak for me. To everyone else I was nothing more than disposable property. I would kill to have someone like you in my life. Someone who cared. Even if she didn't succeed in saving me. Just to know one single person cared enough to try might be enough to change things for me immeasurably.

You didn't fail.

You are a HERO.

I love you for speaking out. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for trying so hard. You've given those poor boys a voice when they had none. And that means so much more than you can possibly imagine.

"Any time you speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, you are heroically impacting lives and changing the world." -Danelle Day

Also by James Ketter:

Foreskin is Better: From a man who has experienced both
http://www.SavingSons.org/2016/04/foreskin-is-better-from-man-who-has.html

I Researched Circumcision! ...Did you REALLY?
http://www.SavingSons.org/2014/10/i-researched-circumcision-did-you-really.html

Meatal Stenosis: Growing up with circumcision pain
http://www.SavingSons.org/2014/09/meatal-stenosis-growing-up-with.html


Related Reading:

Why I Speak Up
http://www.SavingSons.org/2012/05/why-i-speak-up.html

You Made a Difference for That ONE
http://www.SavingSons.org/2010/01/you-made-difference-for-that-one.html

Example Letter for a Friend
http://www.SavingSons.org/2014/03/example-letter-for-friend-relative.html

Carding a Store: Tips for Effective Seed Planting
http://www.SavingSons.org/2015/01/carding-store-tips-and-locations-for.html

I tried (MGM Memorial)
http://www.SavingSons.org/2007/01/mgm-memorial.html


Communities:

Saving Our Sons Community:
FB.com/groups/SavingOurSons

Intact: Healthy, Happy, Whole:
FB.com/groups/IntactHealthy

Intactivists:
FB.com/groups/Intactivists

Peaceful Intact Education:
FB.com/groups/PeacefulEducation



~~~~~~~

Mother Loses Baby to SIDS and Cautions Parents to Protect Their Own from Circumcision



The following is a letter to Saving Our Sons:


I want to thank you for all you do in educating people about the cruel and unnecessary act of male genital mutilation. You work to open so many minds on this archaic process built on lies.

I recently lost my second son to SIDS at 24 days old. He was a beautiful healthy baby boy who tragically passed away in his sleep. The medical examiner found absolutely nothing wrong with him. He had an extensive autopsy, and all reports showed nothing wrong.

The hospital I birthed him at kept asking me over and over again if I was going to have him circumcised. Everytime my answer was a clear NO! A day later as I nursed my sweet, perfect baby boy, a nurse came into my room and said, "I am here to take him for his procedure."

I asked, "What procedure?"

She answered, "His circumcision."

I said, "He is NOT being circumcised."

She replied, "Well, he is on the board out in the nurse's station to be circumcised."

I said, "Absolutely not! I don't know who put him on that board but I have clearly stated over and over he is not to be circumcised."

She turned red in the face and apologized. She said someone must have made a mistake.

My point is that a parent has to be diligent in making sure that even though they say NO to genital cutting, that is not done 'by mistake.'

After losing my baby boy I realized that I had to speak up and say something. I am having a difficult time as it is, and if he had suffered that unimaginable pain in his short life I would never be able to live with myself. I just want to warn other mothers and fathers. Some parents send their babies to the nursery to get some rest, and if they take them to circumcise, then the parents would not know until it is too late.

One thing I take solace in is knowing my son never had to experience any suffering, including circumcision. If I had not questioned that nurse he would have been wheeled away to face mutilation that no baby boy deserves.

❤ Audrea



Awareness raising stickers and cards at Etsy

Foreskin and its 16+ Functions: Not 'Just Skin'




The foreskin is an organ present on all mammals from birth (male and female, human and other mammals). It serves many important purposes, and is not 'just skin.' When the foreskin is lost to infant circumcision, there are at least 16 important functions that are lost, and likely more that we have yet to fully understand.  

Frenar Band, or Ridged Band

The frenar band is a group of soft ridges near the junction of the inner and outer foreskin. This region is the primary erogenous zone of the intact male body. Loss of this delicate belt of densely innervated, sexually responsive tissue reduces the fullness and intensity of sexual response. [Source: Taylor, J. R. et al., "The Prepuce: Specialized Mucosa of the Penis and Its Loss to Circumcision," British Journal of Urology 77 (1996): 291-295.]

Mechanical Gliding Action

The foreskin's gliding action is a hallmark feature of the normal, natural, intact penis. This non-abrasive gliding of the penis in and out of its own shaft skin facilitates smooth, comfortable, pleasurable intercourse for both partners. Without this gliding action, the corona of the circumcised penis can function as a one-way valve, making artificial lubricants necessary for comfortable intercourse. [Source: P. M. Fleiss, MD, MPH, "The Case Against Circumcision," Mothering: The Magazine of Natural Family Living (Winter 1997): 36-45.]

Meissner's Corpuscles

Circumcision removes the most important sensory component of the foreskin - thousands of coiled fine-touch receptors called Meissner's corpuscles. Also lost are branches of the dorsal nerve, and 20,000+ specialized erotogenic nerve endings of several types. Together these detect subtle changes in motion and temperature, as well as fine gradations in texture. [Sources: 1. R. K. Winkelmann, "The Erogenous Zones: Their Nerve Supply and Its Significance," Proceedings of the Staff Meetings of the Mayo Clinic 34 (1959): 39-47. 2. R. K. Winkelmann, "The Cutaneous Innervation of Human Newborn Prepuce," Journal of Investigative Dermatology 26 (1956): 53-67.]

Frenulum

The frenulum is a highly erogenous V-shaped structure on the underside of the glans that tethers the foreskin. During circumcision it is frequently either amputated with the foreskin or severed, which destroys or diminishes its sexual and physiological functions. [Sources: 1. Cold, C, Taylor, J, "The Prepuce," BJU International 83, Suppl. 1, (1999): 34-44. 2. Kaplan, G.W., "Complications of Circumcision," Urologic Clinics of North America 10, 1983.]

Dartos Fascia

Circumcision removes approximately half of this temperature-sensitive smooth muscle sheath, which lies between the outer layer of skin and the corpus cavernosa. [Source: Netter, F.H., "Atlas of Human Anatomy," Second Edition (Novartis, 1997): Plates 234, 329, 338, 354, 355.]

Components of the Immune System

The soft mucosa (inner foreskin) contains its own immunological defense system which produces plasma cells. These cells secrete immunoglobulin antibodies as well as antibacterial and antiviral proteins, including the pathogen killing enzyme lysozyme. [Sources: 1. A. Ahmed and A. W. Jones, "Apocrine Cystadenoma: A Report of Two Cases Occurring on the Prepuce," British Journal of Dermatology 81 (1969): 899-901. 2. P. J. Flower et al., "An Immunopathologic Study of the Bovine Prepuce," Veterinary Pathology 20 (1983):189-202.]

Lymphatic Vessels

The loss of these vessels due to circumcision reduces the lymph flow within that part of the body's immune system. [Source: Netter, F.H., "Atlas of Human Anatomy," Second Edition (Novartis, 1997): plate 379.]

Estrogen Receptors

The presence of estrogen receptors within the foreskin has only recently been discovered. Their purpose is not yet understood and needs further study. [Source: R. Hausmann et al., "The Forensic Value of the Immunohistochemical Detection of Oestrogen Receptors in Vaginal Epithelium," International Journal of Legal Medicine 109 (1996): 10-30.]

Apocrine Glands

These glands of the inner foreskin produce pheromones - nature's powerful, silent, invisible behavioral signals to potential sexual partners. The effect of their absence on human sexuality has never been studied. [Source: A. Ahmed and A. W. Jones, "Apocrine Cystadenoma: A Report of Two Cases Occurring on the Prepuce," British Journal of Dermatology 81 (1969): 899-901.]

Sebaceous Glands

The sebaceous glands may lubricate and moisturize the foreskin and glans, which is normally a protected internal organ. Not all men have sebaceous glands on their inner foreskin. [Source: A. B. Hyman and M. H. Brownstein, "Tyson's Glands: Ectopic Sebaceous Glands and Papillomatosis Penis," Archives of Dermatology 99 (1969): 31-37.]

Langerhans Cells

These specialized epithelial cells are a component of the immune system in the penis. [Source: G. N. Weiss et al., "The Distribution and Density of Langerhans Cells in the Human Prepuce: Site of a Diminished Immune Response?" Israel Journal of Medical Sciences 29 (1993): 42-43.]

Natural Glans Coloration

The natural coloration of the glans and inner foreskin (usually hidden and only visible to others when sexually aroused) is considerably more intense than the permanently exposed and keratinized coloration of a circumcised penis. The socio-biological function of this visual stimulus has never been studied. The glans ranges from pink to red to dark purple among intact men with light skin tone, and from pinkish to mahagony to dark brown among men with dark skin tone. If circumcision is performed on an infant or young boy, the connective tissue which protectively fuses the foreskin and glans together is ripped apart. This leaves the glans raw and subject to infection, scarring, pitting, shrinkage, and eventual discoloration. Over a period of years the glans becomes keratinized, adding additional layers of tissue in order to adequately protect itself, which further contributes to discoloration. Many restoring men report dramatic changes in glans color and appearance, and that these changes closely mirror the natural coloration and smooth, glossy appearance of the glans seen in intact men. [Source: P. M. Fleiss, MD, MPH, "The Case Against Circumcision," Mothering: The Magazine of Natural Family Living (Winter 1997): 36-45.]

Length and Circumference

Circumcision removes some of the length and girth of the penis - its double-layered wrapping of loose, and usually longer, tissue is removed. A circumcised penis is truncated and thinner than it would have been if left intact. [Source: R. D. Talarico and J. E. Jasaitis, "Concealed Penis: A Complication of Neonatal Circumcision," Journal of Urology 110 (1973): 732-733.]

Blood Vessels

Several feet of blood vessels, including the frenular artery and branches of the dorsal artery, are removed in circumcision. The loss of this rich vascularization interrupts normal blood flow to the shaft and glans of the penis, damaging the natural function of the penis and altering its development. [Sources: 1. H. C. Bazett et al., "Depth, Distribution and Probable Identification in the Prepuce of Sensory End-Organs Concerned in Sensations of Temperature and Touch; Thermometric Conductivity," Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry 27 (1932): 489-517. 2. Netter, F.H., "Atlas of Human Anatomy," Second Edition (Novartis, 1997): plates 238, 239.]

Dorsal Nerves

The terminal branch of the pudendal nerve connects to the skin of the penis, the prepuce, the corpora cavernosa, and the glans. Destruction of these nerves is a rare but devastating complication of circumcision. If cut during circumcision, the top two-thirds of the penis will be almost completely without sensation. [Sources: 1. Agur, A.M.R. ed., "Grant's Atlas of Anatomy," Ninth Edition (Williams and Wilkins, 1991): 188-190. 2. Netter, F.H., "Atlas of Human Anatomy," Second Edition (Novartis, 1997): plate 380, 387.]

16+ Other Losses:

Circumcision performed during infancy disrupts the bonding process between child and mother. There are indications that the innate sense of trust in intimate human contact is inhibited or lost. It can also have significant adverse effects on neurological development and cause a host of problems with breastfeeding and attachment development.

Additionally, an infant's self-confidence and hardiness is diminished by forcing the newborn victim into a defensive psychological state of "learned helplessness" or "acquired passivity" to cope with the excruciating pain which he can neither fight nor flee.

The trauma of this early pain lowers a circumcised boy's pain threshold below that of intact boys and girls. This has been proven in a study during vaccination time. [Sources: 1. R. Goldman, Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma (Boston: Vanguard Publications, 1997), 139-175. 2. A. Taddio et al., "Effect of Neonatal Circumcision on Pain Responses during Vaccination in Boys," Lancet 345 (1995): 291-292.]

Every year some boys lose their entire penises from circumcision accidents and infections. They are then "sexually reassigned" by castration and transgender surgery, and are expected to live their lives as females. [Sources: 1. J. P. Gearhart and J. A. Rock, "Total Ablation of the Penis after Circumcision with Electrocautery: A Method of Management and Long-Term Followup," Journal of Urology 142 (1989):799-801. 2. M. Diamond and H. K. Sigmundson, "Sex Reassignment at Birth: Long-Term Review and Clinical Implications," Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine 151 (1997): 298-304.]

Every year many boys in the United States and elsewhere lose their lives as a result of circumcision - a fact that is routinely ignored or obscured. More U.S. born boys in the neonatal period of infancy die as the result of circumcision complications than from SIDS, car accidents, crib accidents, suffocation or choking. [Sources: 1. G. W. Kaplan, "Complications of Circumcision," Urologic Clinics of North America 10 (1983): 543-549. 2. R. S. Thompson, "Routine Circumcision in the Newborn: An Opposing View," Journal of Family Practice 31 (1990): 189-196.

The human foreskin represents 1/3 to 1/2 the complete penis at birth and in early childhood, and plays an important part in normal sexual functioning in adulthood.


Learn more:

National Organization of Restoring Men: The Lost List: http://www.norm.org/lost.html

Functions of the Foreskin by Drs. Fleiss and Hodges: http://www.rMomma.org/2009/09/functions-of-foreskin-purposes-of.html

The Touch Test: http://www.SavingSons.org/2014/06/fine-touch-pressure-thresholds-of-human.html

Foreskin: Sexual Functioning (CIRP): http://www.cirp.org/library/sex_function/

Restoration Resources: http://www.SavingSons.org/2009/10/foreskin-restoration.html

Saving Our Sons Community (group)



Georgetown University Lecture:
Infant Circumcision: The Elephant in the Hospital
by Dr. Ryan McAllister


An added message for physicians:



To join the MedPro advisory panel, email SavingSons@gmail.com








*******

My son committed suicide due to circumcision

By Caroline Lowbridge
For BBC News
Read more by Lowbridge

Alex sent his mother an email before committing suicide, to let her know his reasons in detail.

"It quickly became apparent that what had just happened was a catastrophe... I died in 2015, not now."

Lesley Roberts was stunned as she read the devastating final email from her beloved son Alex Hardy.

The email had been timed to arrive on 25 November 2017, 12 hours after he killed himself. Less than an hour before the email arrived, Lesley had opened her front door to find a police officer standing there, explaining her son was dead. Alex was an intelligent and popular 23-year-old with no history of mental illness. Lesley could not understand why he would have wanted to take his own life. His email explained how the foreskin of his penis had been surgically removed two years before. This is commonly known as circumcision, but Alex had come to believe it should be regarded as "male genital mutilation". He never mentioned this to his family or friends when he was alive. Lesley did not even know her son had been circumcised. In the following months, she tried to find out more about circumcision. Why had it affected Alex so badly, and why did he feel killing himself was his only option?

Lesley said her dreams came true when she became a mom to Alex in July 1994.

Alex was the eldest of Lesley's three sons and had been very much longed for, having been conceived after fertility treatment. Lesley says her "dreams came true" when she became a mother in July 1994. "He was everything I could have wished for," she says. "Gorgeous, easygoing, and adoring of his younger brother Thomas who arrived following more treatment almost three years later." He also adored his baby brother James, who was born when Alex was 13.

The walls and windowsills of Lesley's home in Cheshire are covered in photos of all of them. Alex sailed through his education and was particularly gifted at English, so much so that his old school established the Alex Hardy Creative Writing Award in his memory. "Alex was passionate about history but as his English teacher I saw in him a true talent for writing," says Jason Lowe, who is now head teacher at Tarporley High School.

Alex was an intelligent child and breezed through school.

It was while on a school skiing trip to Canada, aged 14, that Alex fell in love with the country. He had enjoyed skiing as a child and the trip reignited his passion. So, when Alex reached 18, he decided to defer university and live in Canada for a year. "He fell in love completely with Canada and made so many friends and got a promotion at work," says Lesley. "After one year he rang me and said 'Mum, I'm deferring my place for university'. The same thing happened after year two." Two years turned into three, then four, and by the time of his death Alex had been living in Canada for five years and had obtained residency. "He was known as the 'super-smart Brit' with impeccable manners," says his mother. "The super-intelligent guy from the UK who helped people with their Canadian residency applications."

Alex was an avid skier and snowboarder, but said he found physical activity painful after being circumcised.

Lesley visited her son several times, both alone and with his brothers and stepfather. They were a close family, but Alex did not tell any of them he was secretly suffering with a problem with his penis. "I had issues with a tight foreskin," he eventually wrote in his final email, "but from my late teens it created issues in the bedroom as it meant my foreskin would not retract over the glans as intended which caused some awkward moments."

In 2015, still silently suffering, Alex consulted a doctor in Canada. He was given steroid cream to stretch his foreskin, but went back to the doctor after just a few weeks because he did not think the treatment was working. The medical name for Alex's problem is phimosis. It simply means his foreskin was too tight to pull back from the head of his penis, or the "glans" as Alex referred to it in his email. This is perfectly normal for boys in the early years of their life. As boys get older, their foreskin usually starts to separate from the head of the penis.

Lesley says that Alex was "intuitive, empathetic, gentle, kind, witty, quirky, unassuming, and caring."

Phimosis does not always cause problems, but if it does, problems can include difficulty urinating and pain during sex. In England, the NHS advises topical steroids and stretching techniques - and circumcision as a last resort. Over in Canada, where circumcision is more common, Alex was referred to a urologist. "He immediately suggested circumcision," Alex wrote. "I asked about stretching and he completely lied to my face and said it would not work for me. "I was mostly trusting as I felt he was the expert who knew best in this regard so with a pinch of salt I accepted it."

Lesley has since read online reviews of this urologist which have made her question his competence. One patient said she had been unable to work since having surgery for kidney problems, and he had "destroyed" her quality of life. "I'm a mother of three young children who are scared every day I will die as they see me suffering in so much pain," she wrote. "I can see how he misdiagnosed others, botched surgeries, and ruined lives," said another review. "He's dangerously incompetent." Another review of Alex's urologist read: "They left a surgical instrument in my bladder but I only got notified three months later. Run away before you get hurt!"

Lesley says she misses Alex's "big sparkly eyes, his grin, his sense of humor, and his bear hugs."

Lesley, who was "horrified" by these reviews, has asked for the urologist to be investigated. She has been told an inquiry is ongoing. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia told the BBC it "cannot disclose the existence of a complaint against a physician, and only may do so if the complaint leads to formal discipline". "I will wish with my last breath and with all of heart that my darling son had run away," says Lesley.

Much to his regret, Alex was not able to research the urologist - or circumcision - properly at the time because his laptop was broken. He had tried researching the topic in a public computer space but felt uncomfortable, and also felt it was "too much of a taboo" to discuss with friends. So Alex booked what he believed was a minor procedure and had the surgery in 2015, at the age of 21.

Alex adored his little brother.

In the email to his mother, Alex explained, in great detail, the physical problems he had suffered afterwards. He described experiencing constant stimulation from the head of his penis, which was no longer protected by his foreskin. "These ever-present stimulated sensations from clothing friction are torture within themselves; they have not subsided/normalized from years of exposure," he wrote. "Imagine what would happen to an eyeball if the eyelid was amputated?" "He was in so much pain that it hurt to do normal physical activity," says Lesley. "He was a keen skier and snowboarder so you can imagine the pain he was in."

What is lost to male circumcision.
Informational cards for distribution at Etsy.

Consultant urological surgeon Trevor Dorkin, who is a member of the British Association of Urological Surgeons, advises his patients that the head of their penis will be more sensitive after circumcision. However, this sensitivity usually reduces. "I always say to guys 'it's going to feel more sensitive to start with' because all of a sudden you haven't got this protection over the head of the penis and it will feel different," says Mr Dorkin, who has carried out more than 1,000 circumcisions. "But in the vast majority of the cases the man adjusts to that, the brain adjusts to that, it adjusts to the signals that are coming back through the nerves from the head of the penis."

Alex also wrote about experiencing erectile dysfunction, and burning and itching sensations, particularly from a scar which sat where his frenulum was removed. The frenulum is a band of tissue where the foreskin attaches to the under surface of the penis. Some men refer to it as their "banjo string". "It's one of the more erogenous zones so it's thought to be important in sexual function," says Mr Dorkin. "The foreskin, the head of the penis and the frenulum is a very, very sensitive area. "But again when you do circumcision sometimes the frenulum is not preserved and it doesn't necessarily have an effect on overall sexual function and enjoyment."

Men take part in the Silent Survivors Stand during Genital Integrity Awareness Week in Washington D.C.

But Alex felt his frenulum had been important. "Through its absence I can certainly verify it is the most erogenously sensitive area of the penis and male body overall," he wrote. "If someone were to amputate your clitoris you may begin to be able to understand how this feels." He wrote about experiencing cramps and contractions in his muscles and "uncomfortable" sensations which extended deep into his abdomen. Lesley does not know whether or not Alex had sex after his circumcision. "Where I once had a sexual organ I have now been left with a numb, botched stick," he wrote. "My sexuality has been left in tatters." He asked: "Nature knows best - how can chopping off a section of healthy tissue improve nature's evolved design?"

Lesley did not know her son had been circumcised until after he died.

Like many people, Lesley admits she knew very little about the foreskin or circumcision before her son died. "I didn't know anything apart from I believed it was a very routine surgery," she says. The foreskin is sometimes dismissed as a "useless flap of skin", but Mr Dorkin says it does have a purpose. "It covers the head of the penis," he says. "In terms of what's it for, it provides a bit of protection to the head of the penis. It's thought to have some sort of immunological function perhaps." Circumcision rates vary a lot depending on where you are in the world and which culture you grew up in. According to the World Health Organization, 95% of men are circumcised in Nigeria but only 8.5% of men in the UK are.

Who in the world is circumcised? Figures from the World Health Organization.
Learn more at Medical Professionals for Genital Autonomy.

Most of the men circumcised in the UK are either Muslim or Jewish, as circumcision is regarded as an important part of their religions. According to the 2011 census, Muslims accounted for 4.8% of the population in England and Wales, while 0.5% were Jewish. People who question circumcision are sometimes accused of being anti-Semitic or Islamophobic, but Lesley stresses her son was neither. "For me, this has nothing to do with religion at all. I respect all people of faith or indeed no faith, as Alex did," she says. In Canada, where Alex had moved to, an estimated 32% of men are circumcised. Alex felt male circumcision has been normalized to the extent that most people do not question it, while female circumcision has become known as female genital mutilation (FGM) and is now illegal in many countries.

The most common forms of male and female genital cutting.

He felt male circumcision should be known as "male genital mutilation" - a view shared by a growing anti-circumcision movement. "If I were a female (in Western nations) this would have been illegal, the surgeon would be a criminal and this would never have been considered as an option by doctors," Alex wrote. "I do not believe in championing one gender over another but I feel strongly that gender equality should be achieved for all." Campaigners for "genital autonomy" believe it is wrong to circumcise a baby or child - whether they are male or female - because the patient cannot give consent, and these campaigners regard circumcision as a human rights issue.

Alex was the oldest of Lesley's three sons.

Having lived with an intact penis for 21 years, Alex believed men circumcised as babies or young children would "tragically never be able to fully comprehend what has been taken away". He estimated he had been stripped of 75% of the sensitivity of his penis. However, experiences of men circumcised as adults differ dramatically. Some report a significant loss in sensitivity and greatly reduced sexual pleasure. Some report being less sensitive but say there is no change in their overall enjoyment of sex. Some are happy with their decision to get circumcised. Some, like Alex, deeply regret having it done.

Alex celebrated his 21st birthday whale watching with his mom.

Alex sought further medical help following the circumcision as well as psychological help, but never shared his problems with his family or friends. "I was with him during those two years and I think I would be lying if I said I didn't think something wasn't right," says Lesley. "I did say 'Is something bothering you? Are you OK?' and he would absolutely reassure me that he was." Lesley, who used to be a teacher, now hopes to go into schools and speak to young men about sharing their problems, even if they are very personal. "I think we all know that men don't particularly tend to talk about their problems in the same way that girls do but I think circumcision is very much a taboo subject," she says. "Alex was reserved. He certainly wouldn't have said 'I've got a tight foreskin and it really hurts'. And he didn't. And I didn't know." Only a week after Alex died, a friend opened up to Lesley about his own circumcision. "He told me he wouldn't normally have mentioned it but he had a circumcision as an older man, 10 years ago, and he was in constant daily pain," says Lesley. "It just seems it's more common than you think."

Dr. Trevor Dorkin, urologist and member of the British Association of Urological Surgeons, warns his patients of the risks before he will perform circumcision surgery.

Mr Dorkin says serious problems following a circumcision are rare, but not unheard of. "You do hear of horror stories where a circumcision has been done poorly and there's damage done to the head of the penis itself," he says. Sometimes too much skin is taken and this can result in what's known as "burying" or shortening of the penis, where it gets pulled back into the body. "Surgeons at the end of the day are human and there is potential for human error and technical error during any operation," he says. "One of my mentors told me every case is a tricky case, that's got to be your approach to surgery. You never take anything for granted in surgery."

Circumcision always has risk, but it is especially great when performed upon an infant. Adult circumcision has real and lasting consequences, but when done to a fully informed (which Alex was not) consenting adult, it is not as life-threatening as infant circumcision.

There have been cases of children and men dying after being circumcised. Four-week-old Goodluck Caubergs bled to death after a nurse circumcised him at his home in Manchester, while one-month-old Angelo Ofori-Mintah bled to death after being circumcised. Since 1995 at least 1,100 boys have died in South Africa after ritual circumcisions. Some penises fall off after becoming infected and rotten, while some have to be amputated. In Canada, where Alex was living, newborn baby Ryan Heydari bled to death after being circumcised by a doctor in Ontario. Recently there have been reports of two babies dying within weeks of each other after home circumcisions in Italy, and a two-year-old boy died after being circumcised at a migrant centre in Italy.

Complications of infant circumcision, via Stanford University School of Medicine.
See Also: Death from Circumcision

"I'm not qualified to say that circumcision is always bad, because it isn't," says Lesley. "It certainly was in my son's case and I think we need more research. We need to look into the risks, what can really go wrong, and we need to be more aware of them." If circumcision is necessary, Mr Dorkin says it is important to tell patients about potential complications. "Particularly when you are doing the operation in a guy who is in his late teenage years or early adulthood, it's a very sensitive area and sexual function is important, so you have to explain the risks to them," he says.

As a child, Lesley says Alex was "gorgeous, easy going, and adoring of his younger brother, Thomas."

"Alex said he was not made aware of all the risks," says Lesley. "If he had, I feel sure he would not have had the surgery. "Alex wasn't alone. I now know he wasn't the only one that this has happened to. And that can't be right." The UK charity 15 Square, which tries to educate people about circumcision, says Alex is not the only man to have killed himself after being circumcised. "It happens more frequently than people realise," says chairman David Smith. There are no statistics on men who have killed themselves after being circumcised.

Alex died over a year ago but his story has not been told until now. An inquest into his death was held in the UK but it was not reported by the media. Lesley, who is normally private and reserved like her son, only agreed to share Alex's story because it was his dying wish. "If the following information can benefit anybody then it has served its purpose," he wrote. "I did not feel comfortable raising the issue when I had a choice, so if my story can raise awareness to break this taboo within society regarding men's health then I am happy for release of my words. "Alex said in his letter 'We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us'," says Lesley. "This is the last thing I'm doing for my precious son."

Alex asked his mother to share his story after he left this earth.

*******

If you were cut against your wishes at birth, or misled to believe the amputation of your prepuce would benefit you as an adult, there is hope through restoration, and support in many men's groups today. MenMatterToo.org/men

Related Resources:

NORM.org

Saving Our Sons Community 

RestoringForeskin.org

RestoringTally.com

SOS Men

The Intact Network

Restoration resources and reasons circumcised men are restoring today.
Informational cards for distribution at Etsy.
What was so difficult in keeping my son intact was not that my son would feel different in a locker room, but that I would feel different from him. I would then have to accept that I'm an amputee from the wars of a past generation. - father in "Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma"


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