If you're driving past the intersection of West Mineral Avenue and South Broadway in Littleton between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. today, July 19, prepare yourself for an unusual sight: a group of men and women wearing white outfits marked by a large splash of red over the area between their legs.
The event is the final metro Denver stop in a current tour by Bloodstained Men and Their Friends, an organization based in Davis, California, that's dedicated to ending male circumcision in the United States. The series of what's been dubbed the "Rocky Mountain Circumcision Crisis Protests" began on July 12 in West Jordan, Utah, and is scheduled to conclude on July 31 in Salt Lake City after stops in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and one additional Colorado location following the Littleton demonstration: West Mountain Avenue and South College Avenue in Fort Collins on Saturday, July 20.
Spokesman Harry Guiremand, who lives in Kapaa, Hawaii, is among a crew of seven Bloodstained Men currently traveling through the Mountain West — but their numbers typically grow at each stop. Speaking to Westword shortly before the start of a July 16 event on the 16th Street Mall, Guiremand noted that the previous day's get-together, near South Colorado Boulevard and East Mexico Avenue, had attracted between 20 and 25 participants over the course of five hours, most of them locally based, "and at some of our protests, we've had hundreds of people join us."
According to Guiremand, the Bloodstained Men nonprofit was formed in 2012, "after the American Academy of Pediatrics said the benefits of circumcision outweighed the risks, even though they didn't know what the risks were and they didn't recommend circumcision."
Specifically, the AAP's policy statement maintains that circumcision leads to "significant reductions in the risk of urinary tract infection in the first year of life and, subsequently, in the risk of heterosexual acquisition of HIV and the transmission of other sexually transmitted infections." However, the statement acknowledges that the "health benefits are not great enough to recommend routine circumcision for all male newborns."
Nonetheless, the Academy's stance enraged Bloodstained Men organizers. "If you take away a functional body part that's healthy from someone who can't consent, the damage and harm outweigh the benefits," Guiremand says. "It's sold as prophylactic surgery, because you're supposedly doing this in anticipation of future benefits. But if the person can't consent, it's not ethical to do that. It's his body and his right to decide if he wants to sacrifice a body part based on potential benefits that may not exist in the first place and he may not want."
In Guiremand's view, "That's like giving everybody an appendectomy at birth on the off-chance they'll need it later. It makes no sense, and if you tried to sell that to parents, they'd know they were being sold a bill of goods. And almost no men who grow up intact choose to be circumcised. So there's no case to be made for doing this to them when they don't need it."
He also stresses that circumcisions aren't commonplace in most other countries. The group's website links to a take from the Royal Dutch Medical Association noting that a group of 38 physicians representing sixteen European countries objected to the American Academy of Pediatrics's policy under the theory that "circumcision conflicts with children’s rights and doctors’ oaths and can have serious long-term consequences."
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The name Bloodstained Men and the costumes worn at gatherings are undeniably aggressive, and that's appropriate, Guiremand says.
"We feel that the medical profession is banking on the idea that the injury they did to us would be hidden forever under our clothing," he explains. "By putting the bloodstain on the outside of the clothing, we're saying we were injured and we're angry about it. This is something that should never have been done to us.
"It's too late for us," he adds. "But it's time to protect the boys who are coming along. It shouldn't happen to any boys in America."
Click to get the upcoming schedule for the Bloodstained Men and Their Friends.