This is Richard DeSeabra, Director NORM of NYC. Three weeks ago I decided I
wanted to do some lobbying at the AAP conference for the entire 5 days of the
event just as I had done in Philadelphia following the NOHARMM demonstration.
 Twenty-seven NORM and NOHARMM members from the tri-state area, Pennsylvania
and DC contributed to my airfare, registration fee and expenses to go out
there. Thanks to all of you who contributed! Here is a summary of what went
on with a little bit of advice for intactivists here and there:

Thursday, Oct. 12th 
Arrived in San Francisco and actually bumped into Ken Drabik, director of
NORM of New Zealand on the street 3 hours after my arrival! He had just flown
in an hour earlier! We had met a few weeks earlier in New York City. The fact
that intactivists are now bumping into each other around the world must be a
good sign.

Friday, Oct. 13th: Registration Day. 
Felt nauseous approaching the Moscone Center. The hostility of the Pediatricians 
at the AAP Philly Conference came
back to me and I realized then and there "here we go again." My goal was to
contact committee heads and discuss the importance of inviting doctors who
share our views to speak at future conferences. I also  wanted to meet with
the heads of the three committees that are going to revisit the circ issue. I
always introduced myself as the director of NORM of NYC, a support network
for men damaged by circumcision. That word "damaged" stops them in their
tracks. Then after talking about the deaths and the boy who lost the head of
his penis recently in Marin County just over the Golden Gate (I would point
as if I knew what direction Marin County was in) I would proceed to talk
about what men are doing to reverse this. As soon as I started to get smirks
I would mention if it is OK for a woman to want a breast after mastectomy
then it should be acceptable for men to want a prepuce after a postectomy. I
felt very empowered by the fact that so many restoring men had contributed to
my being out there. I had a constituency I was representing. I left messages
with a few heads of committee and got a call back from the head of COPAM,
Peter Rappo. Spoke for 45 minutes. Told him about the various movements and
mostly about NORM. He seems to appease well.  He told me they were literally
"bombarded" with material. He added that they had received some threatening
mail. I told him you can't go around cutting off the best part of millions of
men's penises and expect every one to be happy about it. "Deal with it" I
told him. But I don't encourage any more of that kind of mail who ever it
was. Marylin Milos told me that day that Edgar Schoen had called her asking
about NORM wanting to know if this were some "gay group". Left message with
Schoen but he never got back to me.
Saturday, Oct 14th: Day 1 of conference:
NOHARMM Demonstration at 11:00 AM. I don't wear a NOHARMM button to keep NORM
and NOHARMM separate. NOHARMM was very professional looking.  They got a lot
of frustrating snickers and laughs from doctors but every once in a while
there was a good response. One nurse from San Antonio told me they have to
save the foreskins for the Hospital's Dept. of Oral surgery  which uses them
for reconstructive surgery of the inner lining of the mouth. I couldn't find
her address afterwards  because I forgot her last name. I'm still working on
finding her though. At 2:00 PM I go to COPAM meeting. I thought I was going
to stand outside and lobby as they went in and came out but the sign by the
door said "Meet the Committee on Practice and Ambulatory Medicine." I didn't
realize the meeting was open to all conference members. Sat there for an hour
and a half and they talked about liability problems, congress, Hillary
Clinton, money, vaccines and I finally realized that circ was not going to be
brought up. Finally I got up and said that for the past three months I had
heard that COPAM was going to address the issue on circumcision... and as
soon as I said the "c"  word they all smirked and there were some laughs. I
told them to shut up and stop laughing because 4.5 billion people agreed with
the demonstrators outside and not with them. "If there is anyone who is
lunatic fringe here it's not me and it's not NOHARMM. Let it be know  that
YOU are in the minority on this issue. Not us."  They clammed up and I spoke
and told them about the deaths and botched cases (I pointed to Marin County
again).  I told them I was representing men of NORM. Rappo interrupted me and
said "Well Richard, you know we spoke yesterday for 45 minutes". My reply:
"Yes, you and I spoke but had I not shown up here you wouldn't have mentioned
anything about our conversation to your colleagues nor was circumcision going
to be brought up." I added that as they talked for an hour and a half around
130 boys had been circumcised. I asked them to come up to me and take the
report I had written up at the request of another committee called Five
Fields of Study on Circumcision for Future AAP Conferences. At the end, some
of them asked me for the report and I handed out the rest. One doctor
interjected, "What's the big deal. The parents of those 130 children all
consented to having the circumcisions done." Then, I blurted out "No one has
the right to amputate all or part of someone else's healthy genitalia without
their consent! Why is this so difficult for American doctors to get? Why? No
one answered. And I insisted, "Can you tell me why?" Silence. Then after
doing a brief one on one with them afterwards and I was told that a new task
force is going to be formed and that they were going to discuss this issue
later that night in a closed meeting.

Sunday, Oct 15th, Day 2 
8:00 AM Committee on Fetus and Newborn meets. A lot of people show up to this
one. Presentation and Questions were taken. Couldn't make it to  the mike in
time. Wiswell was there and his numbers in  a new study on jaundice  were
being questioned by the panel (so what's new).They adjourned and I introduced
myself to Committee head William Oh. Very level headed guy. Probably the only
doctor there who didn't put on a smirk when I mentioned the word
circumcision.   He shook his head almost as if it were a pity that the 89
statement had happened, "We can't let a doctor, who had been so openly
pro-circumcision, head the task force again", he said. "We're going to try
our hardest to  get someone objective to head the next task force even if it
takes a year to find this person," he added. Another staff member had told me
that Edgar Schoen is going to have nothing to do with the next task force.  I
think we may have discredited Edgar Schoen. One committee member I talked to
turned out to be a total flake claiming circumcision was "a guy thing" and
that we should spend our time educating the fathers. She claimed parents do
it. It's not the doctor's. I repeatedly asked her, "Who picks up the Gomco
clamp?"  but she refused to acknowledge medical participation. This is why I
don't like calling circumcision a cultural phenomenon. It relieves the
medical community of their responsibility in the matter and allows doctors
like this one get away with asinine statements like "Parents do it". Calling
it a cultural phenomenon gives the American people too much credit for it
when in fact it was the medical community that brought this to and
perpetuates it in America. Americans don't participate in circumcisions as
other cultures do. Americans don't watch or celebrate circs. They simply
enable them to happen. Signing a consent form is hardly a cultural event in
my opinion. I always refer to it as a medical problem or a medical fetish (as
someone just recently put it) or as medical fraud.  I'm going to make sure
that William Oh is aware of her views which were beyond unprofessional.
Later, I came across the Association of Nurse Practitioners and gave them
material on the Nurses for the Rights of the Child. I found the La Leche
League booth and bonded with them for a while.  And I may have convinced one
of the authors of the Best Selling book What To Expect: The First Year on
making some changes in her circumcision section. New editions go on press
every 4 weeks so I can follow up on this easily. I attended an open plenary
session about UTI's and renal scarring (the new buzz word). One extremely
arrogant doctor from Washington DC by the name of Belman  put up a slide with
Wiswell's numbers and mentioned "those people outside passing out information
on the rape of the phallus should see these numbers". He got a generalized
but not so enthusiastic laugh out of the audience. When question time came
around I got in line at the mike. However, before I got to speak 3 doctors
spoke out against his view on circumcision. Then I realized that one of the
doctors on the panel was pro-intact. The plenary session ended before I could
get to the mike.

Monday, Oct 15th, Day 3. 
I bumped into two doctors I had seen at the Philly conference.  One was
against circ (she's European) but she's not too outspoken because she loses
referrals from OB-GYN's. This is one dynamic in the issue that should be
studied. The other doctor was a Muslim from Brooklyn he said that he now
agreed with us after reading the NOHARMM literature I gave him at the last
conference. I spent the rest of the day wiping smirks off of doctors faces by
talking about the deaths and botched cases (always pointing to Marin County).
 But if you can't get the smirk off their faces turn around and move on. Or
else you'll just take it personally and it will undermine your work as an
intactivist. The use of the word circumciser when you talk to people about
this is very powerful. As John Erickson says: Circumcision is not the
problem, Circumcisers are the problem.

Tuesday, Oct 17th , Day 4. 
Cynthia Howard from Rochester spoke on breast feeding tips. At no point in
her lecture did she talk about her widely publicized study in which she
discovered that circumcision may cause breast feeding failure. One of her
tips should have been: Don't Circumcise! But doctors really fear this issue
even if they are against circ. I brought that up during question period and
she agreed  it is "ludicrous" to circumcise 200 boys to prevent one UTI. She
was very sweet but she still believes in circ in some cases. She needs to be
educated further and I am convinced that she may be a strong ally one day. We
have to start describing circumcision as OBSOLETE and talk about alternative
or conservative treatments. Finally I went to the Friends of the Canadian
Pediatric Society meeting. I had some wine and shmoozed. I asked someone to
point out the president of the CPS and as soon as he was alone. I approached
him. Introduced myself and he was immediately asking me questions like
"What's the deal with you Americans? When are you going to give up
circumcision?" (they have a fabulous statement on circumcision.) He treated
me as if we were old buddies. I told him to be strong and not make the same
mistake the Australians made when they just recently made their policy weaker
by saying there are possible benefits to circ. He gave me his card and he
reassured me, "We are not changing our statement". On the way out of the
hotel I saw Jocelyn Elders approaching me. I stuck my hand straight out shook
hers and new that I would have to be brief.  So I talked for not even a
minute while she walked. She mentioned that she knew a physician who has been
working on the subject and her husband looked puzzled during our short
conversation. It wasn't much of a contact but it just seemed to be the thing
to do. 

Wednesday, Oct 18th, Day 5.
The last day I just went down to the conference hall. Everyone looked jaded.
I was jaded. Some doctors dosed off during plenary sessions. I got some
addresses of some foreskin friendly doctors and left early. On the way out I
bumped into the AAP security manager that tried to kick me and Tom Morris
(NOHARMM of Philadelphia) out of the Philly conference. She said I looked
familiar and I said I was the trouble-maker at your last conference. I
reassured her I was well behaved this time and we laughed.

There is a lot of follow up stuff I have to do now and I will be posting some
of these follow up actions soon on the internet in the form of mail actions.
We should all take the time right now to pat ourselves on the back. The
combination of letters written over the past months, NOHARMM demonstrations
at two conferences and advocacy within the conferences made them realize: We
are not going away!!!!! We must continue this tactic at there next
conferences in Chicago in March and in Boston in September. And it is
important we follow up with ACOG at their April conference in Denver. It is
quite evident that we are not going away. One staff member after a
conversation asked me as if she already knew the answer,"See you in Chicago?"
My answer, "Yup!"

Much love to everyone!
Richard DeSeabra

(File revised 6 May 2008)