Most people I worked with this last year will tell you it was a tough year for intactivism. Not all of the setbacks were caused by our opponents, either. There were missteps and unexpected unintended consequences resulting from a few of the efforts intactivists engaged in. That’s my take that more than a few disagree with.
I’m not going to rehash what the problems were. I’ll only say that when we individually or in small groups seek to push this issue forward, a thoughtful period of reflection can’t be all bad. As much as we want genital mutilation and the child abuse to stop, we have to work through all the possible outcomes as much as possible and prepare for the most obvious.
Beyond that, this movement is one of individual effort. I applaud every person who puts him or herself on the line, risking family and professional relationships, their livelihood and their future to make it just a little less likely some poor infant will have the flesh torn and sliced from his penis in the name of culture, junk medicine or religion.
New Direction, New Emphasis
For some time now, prevention efforts have been gaining a strong following across the country that, while still nascent, are very promising. The new faces and new voices that pop up everyday in comments to news articles and on facebook in reference to some new outrage to line the pockets of American circumcisers in Africa are helping to mainstream intactivism.
So, while we are far from victory, it is time for this blog (and for me personally) to begin asking what’s next in building the current synergistic, multidisciplinary movement to end the suffering from forced and unwanted circumcision.
Traditionally, there have been two pillars of intactivism. The first is education and outreach to drive down the numbers of children subjected to this abuse. The second has always been restoration. Getting involved in the latter has often been a highly personal journey that requires a level of mental and emotional fortitude few can sustain over the period necessary to be successful. I believe there are developments afoot that could bring much needed changes, thereby making this second part of the movement available to many more men and their partners.
Foregen is an organization, founded in Italy, that has recently extended its efforts into the nonprofit sector of the United States. In short, restoration through regenerative medicine is its area of concern. While you can go to their website to learn more about their ideas and efforts to get the research done, I will say this: we need this research because we need real therapies that are realistically within the grasp of every man who has suffered from being circumcised, whether he was circumcised by force or submitted to circumcision as an adult.
Still one might ask why. If we have restoration through skin expansion technologies, why do we need a new medical approach to foreskin restoration? The short answer is because skin expansion does not work for everyone. It is not often spoken about perhaps because restoration failure is or feels like defeat for the movement. To admit that once circumcised, it is permanent and no amount of personal effort can overcome the damage, the violation, or the psychological fall out is to submit to those who do this to children and misguided adults.
Over the next year, I’m going to be touching on regenerative medicine and its promise for foreskin restoration here on the blog. I’m aware that this is getting a little far afield from circumcision and HIV. However, as the blog evolves towards intactivism, I believe regenerative medicine needs and deserves attention.
Meanwhile, Dr. Stephen Badylak, while perhaps not necessarily a friend (or foe) of intactivism, has done some killer research that could help regenerative restoration take a giant step forward. He spoke at the Singularity Summit in 2011. Below is his talk that explains what is possible.