At today’s colorful pro-gay-marriage protest outside of the Supreme Court, two people were the undoubted standouts: Brother K and Franny Max, anti-circumcision activists — or “intactivists,” as they call themselves — sporting white jumpsuits with bight red circles around their crotches.
They told me that it’s National Genital Integrity Week, so intactivists from around the country are holding their 20th annual protest in Washington. The intactivists argue that, because the U.S. has laws against female genital mutilation, baby boys don’t receive the same equal protection under the law as baby girls, and they hope people who support gay marriage on equal-protection grounds will also end up supporting an infant circumcision ban.
Brother K, who says that he made that his legal name in 1986 as part of a “personal journey” to shake off what he felt “was a spiritual mark of an angry, ancient god,” hoisted a large white sign with a red circle on it that said “DON’T CUT HIS PENIS!” He spent much of the rally standing with his legs apart and both arms above his head, yelling about the crime that is circumcision. Max, who protested alongside him, held a red stop sign that said “STOP CIRCUMCISING BABIES.”
“I would say, on balance, we’re getting a lot more support here than not,” he tells me. “It is equal rights, and that’s what this rally’s all about. It’s equal rights for baby boys.”
He says he and his fellow protesters had received mostly positive feedback from the anti-DOMA protesters.
“I would say that, by and large, a lot of members of the LGBT community have been founders and major participants in our movement,” he adds.
When asked if he thought the arguments used to defend same-sex marriage could also be used to oppose circumcision, he said, “Absolutely, absolutely. And it’s going to come to that someday. It will happen. It will happen.”
Max said that between the protesters on the West Lawn of the Capitol and in front of the Supreme Court, their cause drew about 25 people today. She adds that they’re expecting around 100 to gather on Saturday for a march meant to draw attention to the issue. They’ll meet at 2 p.m. on the Capitol’s West Lawn and proceed to the White House, where they will stay until about 10 or 11 p.m.#more#
“If I support everybody’s right to get married, then it’s only logical,” she says. “If you wouldn’t cut a baby girl, why would you cut a baby boy?”
“Genital integrity for all!” she adds. “If I woke up today and I found out that I’d been circumcised at birth, I’d be hoppin’ mad.”
Karen Glennon, another intactivist, says she found signs of agreement from the anti-DOMA protesters.
“I’ve actually had a great deal of positive reception,” she says. “Those people who are in support of marriage equality see it as a choice issue and as an equality issue.”
“We came here to bring our message to this crowd because it’s very receptive,” she adds.
Jeremy Kung, who carried a sign that said “OCCUPY FORESKIN,” tells me that part of the reason he’s an intactivist is that he wasn’t circumcised.
“I’ve got a foreskin, I know what it feels like, I know how good it feels,” he says.
He also believes there’s a connection between supporting same-sex marriage and opposing infant circumcision.
“It’s all about equality for everybody,” he says. “They’re both human-rights issues. Everyone should have the right to love who they want to love, marry who they want to marry, just like everybody who’s born should have the right to decide if they want to keep their healthy body parts.”
But not everyone at the rally was thrilled to share the Supreme Court’s front patio with the intactivists.
“They should not be trying to co-opt our messaging here,” says Alan Eckert, who was protesting against DOMA.
“I think that they are trying to equate equality with what their vision of a human right is, and those are two completely different messages, and we need to stay on focus here,” he adds.
Another protester, who only wanted to be identified as Kurt, also told me that he thought the intactivists were detrimental to the cause. But a third pro-gay-marriage protester, Jorge Gardner, says the intactivists didn’t seem like much of a distraction.
“They seem to be pretty accepted around here, yeah,” he tells me. “I haven’t seen many people, like, argue with them or anything, so they seem pretty accepted.” I asked him if he thought it was fair to count the intactivists as part of the progressive movement, and he responded, “Part of the progressive movement? I don’t know what that is. I’m only 17 years old.”