I have understood for years that circumcising a baby boy is a horrific act of mutilation. But even though I was circumcised as an infant, for most of my adult life my views on it remained an intellectual exercise.

Sure, I'd speak up if friends or clients were expecting a baby and the topic came up. I'd tell them why it is mutilation, what it involves and why it's unnecessary. And before my son was born, I told my wife I didn't want him circumcised and she readily agreed. I understood in my mind that circumcision was wrong, hurtful, unnecessary but It never hit me, not fully, that I had been traumatized as a baby, that I had been damaged by male genital mutilation.

In my practice as a rolfer, I help clients release the pain and rigidity that is in their bodies. This pain comes from a variety of sources, including issues with injuries, posture, alignment, flexibility, breathing and prior trauma, which lives in the body. I initially came to rolfing as a young art student in California and found relief from pain, both physical and emotional, resulting from a motorcycle accident and childhood depression. I saw what rolfing could do, and as I learned more I decided to become a rolfer myself. Over the years I've seen trauma's effects on the clients who come to see me. Most of us are unaware of how the tissues of our bodies are literally a physical record of the events and emotions of our lives.

One day about five years ago I was giving a rolfing session to a friend, who also is a rolfer and was expecting a baby. She told me she and her husband had learned they were having boy. She is Jewish, so I wondered if they were going to have him circumcised and I asked her. Her response was earth-shattering to me. She looked at me with this incredible thrust of emotion and said, "No fucking way would I ever let that happen to my child." She had lots of empathy and understanding of trauma and the body, but on a much deeper level as a new mother. As she spoke the power of her expression of protection for her baby hit me right to my core. I remember thinking, "Holy shit, I am wounded. I am traumatized." I had never truly seen it, felt it or admitted it to myself.

Of course I knew I was circumcised — it was routine for boys born in U.S. hospitals in the 1950s — but until that moment I had not actually admitted to myself that I was a victim, that as a baby I had been mutilated, that I had been traumatized. I stayed up all night reading about it and researching. It was an overwhelming awakening.

Since that experience I have become more outspoken, engaging people on the street with a group of intactivists and being more bold in conversations with family and friends. My new deeper feelings about this also brought a few things to the surface. One was remembering something my mother had told me: that during my first two years I would wake up every night screaming my head off in horror. I did not sleep for two years. I remember being moderately and chronically depressed as a child, despite the fact there were no obvious external factors that might have caused this. The whole color of my life makes more sense now.

I also now realize that after I became sexually active the painful sensitivity I experienced in foreplay led to a variety of negative feelings and symptoms, including premature ejaculation, frustration with intimacy, and resentment and blaming in relationships that I now understand were a direct result of the physical difficulties I had from circumcision.

I still find it hard to fully grasp the scope of the impact circumcision has had on millions of relationships like mine. I believe it's the denial of this underlying pain that provides the energy and vigor with which people will fight to protect this form of torture. There is an incredible amount of denial around this: not only what we are experiencing as men who were circumcised as infants, but what we are promoting as a society and what we are doing as individual parents and medical caregivers.

Male and female genital mutilation colors our entire society. It's well known that some people who are victims of violence become perpetrators of violence. In societal terms I believe misogyny is a form of violence perpetrated by the victims of circumcision.
I can only hope that the work I do and the conversations I have along the way help to open more eyes. I'm grateful for the work Intact America is doing to break through that denial and to promote genital autonomy for future generations.

William Kaye

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