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I was circumcised twice—first when I was born and again as a revision when I was about 5 years old. This has haunted me ever since.

I clearly remember the second circumcision—surrounded by doctors all looking at me. I was scared and cold, and my mom had left the room. This was not a pleasant experience. I remember that day like it was yesterday. Looking back at my teenage years, I noticed that I had a few experiences that were not normal. I did not know that without the foreskin, the glans and shaft can become dry, which results in small painful tears and chafing.

Fortunately, I’ve learned to do some of what a missing part of my body (the foreskin) is supposed to do: keep things moisturized. But the scar is a daily reminder that I was robbed. I have never had any complaints from partners in the past, but that is not the point. Even in a world where this is considered the norm, I have always been conscious that something wasn’t quite right.

I wanted to know why circumcision was considered necessary, so I started to do more research. I found out how common circumcision and mutilation are for children and young adults all over the world, and how hospitals sell foreskin to tissue banks, and somehow this ultimately becomes facial creams and cosmetics. I was shocked and felt sick when I read this. I got so angry, a friend told me to look for organizations that are fighting against it, so I could find people who share my anger and aren’t afraid to speak out about it.

That’s when I found Intact America online and saw what they are doing to change things. I want to make a difference any way I can. I want people to recognize that this is a business. Tell me why the hell a single foreskin can sell for upwards of $100,000? In fact, I think they owe me $200,000 since they did it twice. They did it twice and I still have part of my frenulum, a sensitive band of tissue that helps contract the foreskin over the glans. Medical professionals learn to perform circumcision by actually doing it. There is no infant penis model for them to practice on. Was I a test subject? The whole thing is absurd.

What hits me the hardest is knowing I will never have the full experience of being intact. My solution is tissue expansion. It’s a non-surgical method that, when done properly, can yield many benefits. Essentially it creates a neo-foreskin through gentle stretching exercises over a year or two. It won’t have the same nerve endings as the original foreskin, which is still sad, but it will provide every other function, including improved sensation, a more moist and supple glans surface, and protection. This is a permanent and long-term investment for me. I am even considering a tattoo to symbolize the journey my body and I have been through.

There are things I have experienced that I just do not want to share. This, however, is something I am brave enough to fight for. All of these negative experiences imbued my aura with an eternal flame of darkness. A dark flame sounds very contradicting, like an oxymoron, and that’s because it is. It’s still fire. It’s still fuel. Is it light? Nope. But I will use it to propel me throughout the rest of my life. If I can fight for myself, I can fight for others. If I can love myself, I can love others.

I am only 20 years old. I feel like I have been through too much already. But I am still breathing. I am still standing. I am still here. I grieved the person I was as a child full of innocence. I have shed my skin many times. Nothing really fazes me anymore; I am often disappointed by things most people think are scary. I have no fear because I know I can face anyone or anything. This little journey I’ve been on with my body has been horrible yet liberating. I am conquering one thing at a time. Deconstruction and reconstruction. Death and rebirth. This is my story.

V.R.

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