By Shadi Elien
Glen Callender wants Canadians to embrace the foreskin, and he’s got a few surprises up his pants to show people why the foreskin isn’t “just the wrapper; it’s the candy”.
“I want to communicate to people how big of a deal circumcision really is,” Callender told the Georgia Straight by phone from Courtenay, B.C.
The founder of the Canadian Foreskin Awareness Project—an advocacy group that wants circumcision performed on male minors to be made illegal in Canada under the Criminal Code—Callender will showcase his foreskin and all the parts that come with it in a tent at the Davie Street Pride Party on Friday (July 30) and the Sunset Beach Pride Festival on Sunday (August 1).
The boisterous 36-year-old will explain the anatomy and function of the foreskin and demonstrate how to clean an uncircumcised penis. Cleanliness is often cited as a reason parents opt to circumcise their sons, but Callender says that parents should have more faith in their kid’s ability to self-groom.
“It is insane that people cut off a part of their son’s anatomy because they don’t think that their kid will be intelligent enough to pull back his foreskin and clean under it,” he explained.
Callender recalls the first time he noticed something different about other guys’ penises. “I remember I was in the pool, and I would see the men and boys who were circumcised, and it didn’t occur to me that they were cut,” he said. “I just looked at them and thought, ”˜How the hell are they keeping their foreskins pulled back like that without using their fingers?’ ”
He soon learned about the practice of circumcision—the removal of a fold of skin that covers the head of the penis—and is horrified that the procedure is still legal in Canada.
“It’s simply a human-rights issue,” he said. “You are imposing an amputation of sex organs by force on a child who has no idea what is being done to them.”
Dr. Arif Bhimji, a spokesperson for the Association for Genital Integrity—a Canadian group that’s raising public awareness of the issue of infant-male circumcision—told the Straight in a phone interview that children’s rights are being violated by this “unnecessary procedure”, since it is carried out on a nonconsenting individual.
Circumcision is required by the Jewish and Islamic faiths, but Bhimji questions the pious veil under which many circumcisions are performed, arguing that we shouldn’t be making an exception for religion.
“It’s irrelevant the reason that you’re doing it,” he said. “There are long-term consequences”¦it’s irreversible, and if we’re not doing it to females, then why are we doing it to males?”
On the other hand, some members of the gay community think it’s all about personal preference when it comes to circumcision.
Mark Robins of Gayvancouver.net told the Straight by phone that his preference is for men who are circumcised, but he thinks it might be a generational thing.
“I understand that there are people who prefer [their sexual partners] to be uncut, but it’s like saying, ”˜Do you like cherries or blueberries?’ ” Robins said.
He also understands why Callender chose Pride weekend to promote his message, noting that when it comes to topics that are taboo in some circles, the LGBTQ community tends to be much more welcoming.
“I think the gay community tries to be accepting, and we do try and be supportive of people dealing with sexual matters, because we’re not afraid of that,” he said. “That’s the underlying joyfulness about the gay community, as far as I’m concerned.”
But a word to the wise: it won’t be your junior-high sex-ed curriculum on display this weekend.
“People are in for a fantastic dick trick,” Callender said with a chuckle. “I do something with a handful of red seedless grapes that is physically impossible to do with a circumcised penis.”