As we advertised, Circumcision Choice attended the 2017 AAP conference in Chicago, Illinois. We went to advocate for both parents and doctors who intactivists have bullied and intimidated both online and in person.
Before we go into our experience, let's talk a little bit about our position that is often misunderstood.
We are not pro circumcision
We do not support FGM, MGM, or intersex mutilation
We support a parent's right to either decline or choose to have their male neonates circumcised, because unlike mutilation, neonatal male circumcision does not cause harm
So with this in mind, we went to the 2017 AAP convention to protect parental choice, and to protect pediatricians from the wrath of intactivists.
We arrived at McCormick place on Saturday morning, and we immediately saw two women and a man with a baby carriage type thing and signs. We mistook them for anti abortion protesters, until another team member spoke to them. It was discovered that one of the women was an intactivist named Sarah Rouse Cooney. She accused one of our team members of "blocking her on Facebook after he tried to recruit her." She refused to listen when he tried to explain that was not at all what happened. The man they were with began yelling across the street, and called us "morons" after we yelled "our child; our choice." We left that area, and went to go set up. When we arrived closer to the entrance, we saw another group of intactivists.
One of the female intactivists was carrying a baby, and we told her that her baby was cute. She informed us he was Intact, and we told her that was none of our business; we did not need to know the genital status of her son. The police laughed because they were within earshot.
The day progressed, and we got a lot of encouraging comments and thumbs up from both doctors and passersby. One woman walked past our sign that said "circumcision is a medical procedure; not a crime," and said "it's the truth; I had my baby circumcised." Some people were confused, and once they realized we were counter protesters, they were impressed. One of the doctors said he was very glad we were there, and it was important to have both sides presented.
The highlight of the day was when a man named Steven from their side came over and started raging. He started screaming at the top of his lungs, and moved his body from side to side as he screamed about being "mutilated." We told him he was not a victim, and that he was circumcised; not mutilated. He did not appreciate the good news. In fact, it seemed to enrage him even further! The police had to step in, and his fellow protesters ushered him back to his side of the road. They coddled him when he got over there, and refused to tell him that he was not broken. The police stood on close guard to protect us from the intactorage after that.
The next day we arrived, and began to set up shop over by the bus station. We were told by the Chicago PD that we had to move further down. We obliged. We were on one side of the street, and the intactivists were on the other. They arrived first, and picked that side of the street. They decided they wanted our side, and Brother K began arguing with the police. They forced him to stay on his side. They were not taking any chances after the incident the day before. We both stayed on our respective sides of the street, and then Cooney and her husband arrived again.
Sarah's husband, an attorney, began to argue with the police, and thought he had negotiated a deal where we would have to move, and they could come over to our side. The police came over to tell us, but we also had a legal scholar with us, and we refused to move. We told the police that either everybody stayed on the opposite side or we would not move. Another member of our team pointed out that the spot they wanted us did not give us a chance to relay our message effectively. The police agreed, and decided that we would all stay on the opposite side of the street, and they would stay in the middle to keep us separate. They told us that a few intactivists entered the hall and tried to reach the convention floor in violation of the rules. (We later learned that Frances Maxant a.k.a. Franny Max had tried to infiltrate the convention.) The police would make arrests if they did that again.
Brother K began to spin the story right away, and started to record a video. He claimed we were trying to incite violence (all four of us) against his group of thirty or forty people, and the police were there to protect them from the "circumcision bullies." The truth is that they were there to protect us because of what went down the day before.
We stayed for a few hours, and we watched Maxant ask doctors if "they cut babies," after she incorrectly informed people that "circumcision makes the penis smaller, and no one wants a smaller penis." We tried to explain that the length of the penis does not change when a neonate is circumcised, but she refused to believe us.
The day before Seth Edwards had asked a male member of our team if his mother uses his penis. We were not quite sure what that was about or why he was inquiring about our team member's penis while referencing his mother. It was disturbing to say the least.
Apparently there have been some concerns about our attire. It was hot, and it was bright. We wore sunglasses, just like Brother K and Brian Herrity did to shield our eyes from the blazing sun. That's it. We are not ashamed of our position. We knew we would be filmed, and we knew we would be photographed. We wore comfortable shoes, and our male protester wore plain white shorts because circumcision does not denote an injury.
We are extremely glad that we went. There were very few of us, but our message was heard. We spoke up for all of the parents, and all of the doctors that intactivists bully relentlessly. See also: The 2017 Chicago AAP Counter-protest: Myths and Facts