An open letter to my parents….

October 11th, 2011

Dear Mum and Dad

You must have thought that it all went terribly well the day that I asked the question “Why is mine different from Dad’s”? You told me that I’d had “a little operation to avoid trouble later on”.

Boarding school was an eye opener. I hated being a “Roundhead” (circumcised). How on earth had this happened to me? What had I done? Why? It is questions like these that have been spinning around in my head ever since, what a waste of a mind.

The reason for an amputation without the patient’s consent is usually “If we don’t cut it off he’s going to die” somehow you didn’t apply this rather sensible rule to my genitals. Why do you wince when my kids suggest pierced ears, tattoos and other piercings? You did not flinch at Dr M’s suggestion.

Why did you Dad not defend me did you think you were doing me a favour? Did you not even care?

Teenage years brought masturbation, which was possible with care. Female partners could easily be too rough as I had no loose skin for them to grip. That little operation removes what would grow into about 15 sq. inches of highly sensitive tissue, that is about the same area as a £5 note.

Ever since school days I have felt fundamentally flawed. Which has led me to thoughts like why should I give up smoking. It is very hard to view ones body as a temple when you can see that someone has been in and smashed one of the windows for some fresh air instead of just opening it. I have tried to make the best of it. I do hope you had no idea of what was involved. The fifteen minutes of excruciating pain with Dr M and his instruments.

Regret is one thing I know very well. I can say that there is not a day that passes when I don’t curse my misfortune in this regard. I live with intense feelings of violation. Every time I look down I see the scar, which shows me just how I have been abused.

Some people still think that the circumcision of a healthy child is not abusive, how that can be I do not know. Genital mutilation has been the cruelest thing ever done to me.

What I do not want is anyone reading this to be in any doubt that circumcision is cruel, it still hurts more than fifty years on. Here I am with clear physical evidence of a serious sexual assault and no chance of redress, is it any wonder I sound a little hysterical.

I really used to believe it was my fault that I could not accept my fate. You left me angry, confused and ashamed about the state of my genitals and that is quite a load to carry through life. I think I am an average man in almost everything. The thing about me that is not average is that I have written this down as honestly as I can. Many men have to deny their pain or remain mute but if enough men tell their stories then perhaps society will stamp out this dreadful abusive practice.

Until recently I could not have written this letter but with the support of Norm UK, my wife, family and friends I am coming to terms with the pain behind the content. I now also know that I am not mad and not alone.

Your son

If you have been affected by circumcision contact NORM UK.
See: http://www.norm-uk.org/

Geoff’s story of abuse

October 11th, 2011

I met Helen on an online dating site and at first our relationship appeared idyllic. She soon fell pregnant and we made plans to spend our future together. Soon afterwards I found out that she was an alcoholic in recovery and had four children who now lived with their father (her ex husband), they had been removed from her care after a drunken suicide attempt a year prior to our relationship starting.
Helen’s behaviour became ever more controlling and manipulative as the months went by. She would check my emails, text messages and Facebook account. She also hacked into these account and sent text messages to my female friends from my phone pretending to be me.
Helen became violent towards me. She threw a laptop, threatened me repeatedly, destroyed another computer and would soak my sons (from a previous relationship) ironing once I had completed it. She singled my son out at meal times and often refused to allow him to eat desert. She would also serve his last and slam his plate down in front of him.
He witnessed her shouting, slamming doors at me and indulging in long periods of ignoring / isolating behaviour.
Helen also prevented me from maintaining relationships with friends by constant questioning, checking behaviours – it was easier for me to not go out that face a barrage of questions.
Helen threw me out of the house we shared, started drinking (began phoning friends and family telling the most abhorrent lies about me and spreading rumours that I was using pornography) and took an overdose – all within two month of our baby daughter being born, I later found out she had been drinking throughout this period. Despite all of this I decided to try again with the relationship but it only lasted another 5 months before I had to leave.
When I left Helen told a social worker that I had been violent and abusive towards her. The social worker advised her that I was to have no unsupervised contact – I was never invited to the meeting or allowed to put forward my side of things. I never received minutes of this meeting. Helen also lied to the Police that I had stolen some of her possessions – this prevented me from being able to recover my things before she moved out of the house we rented. I lost virtually all
of my things and an £800 deposit on the house. She telephoned the police the day before they were going to arrest me that she had found the items.
For the past 14 months I have had sporadic contact with my daughter and Helen still spreads lies and abuses me through the phone, text and email. She has threatened to lose me my job and contact with my son if I put in an application for a court order. My life is getting better slowly but it has been a living hell for almost three years now.

MANKIND NATIONAL HELPLINE: 01823 334244

If you are a man suffering Domestic Abuse or Violence the MANKIND NATIONAL HELPLINE is open Monday to Friday 10am – 4pm and 7pm – 9pm.

Story reproduced with permission from: http://www.mankind.org.uk/mentelltheirstories.html

I lie on the floor with my headphones on

October 11th, 2011

A poem written by a man with mental health problems……

I lie on the floor with my headphones on

I lie on the floor with my headphones on the music is balm and pleasure
It helps my mind from blowing away
Like some old bit of paper, yellowed, loveless,
Destined to the gutter, smiling with a rotten mouth
catching flies, catching waste from every direction
with a long black tongue.

I lie on the floor with my headphones on, the music is balm and treasure
And my inner pain is treated with cool kind fingers,
With healing substance that enters ears first,
then all other regions, speaking, spreading to the spirit’s dryness,
like an oasis found at the end of a terrible struggle
in a barren, desolate place.

I lie on the floor with my headphones on, the music is balm and leisure
Some of the best experiences are when listening to music,
It doesn’t have to be a certain kind,
as long as one can absorb completely and abandon everything else
it can change one’s mind
it is sound food for the senses

I lie on the floor with my headphones on…..

NB: This poem was originally written for Mental Health Week and has been provided with the permission of the writer and Care Co-ops in Brighton & Hove.

On circumcision

October 4th, 2011

I am 58 years old. I was circumcised as a baby upon a doctor’s recommendation. As a young boy, I soon noticed that I looked different to my father and to other boys and men. I didn’t see another other circumcised penis until I was grown up. Even though I had no conscious memory of having a foreskin, I nevertheless felt that I had something missing from my penis. It didn’t feel or look right. I wanted to be able to cover the head like other boys. When I discovered what had happened to me, I was horrified. I hadn’t been born like that after all, and neither was my disfigured penis the result of an accident. Someone had deliberately done that to me! What gave them the right to do it? I hated the family doctor. I felt ashamed of the way I looked too. As I grew up, I didn’t get used to it either. In fact, the feelings of injury, loss and shame got worse.
However, there is a happy ending. Several years ago I discovered NORM UK and found out that it was possible to “restore”, or at least grow a replacement foreskin, although it will never be possible to regain all of the nerve endings lost to circumcision. I can now accept my body. I feel that as far as possible I have corrected the damage done to me as a baby. I feel at ease with myself.

My mate

September 21st, 2011

A man he trusted not long before we first met had raped him a year earlier.
We immediately became mates. Him a straight lad living with HIV and me just slightly older, a gay man on the game. It never dawned on either of us that our friendship was from the very beginning, ‘odd’. Like moths drawn to a light we were both in our own ways looking for escapism, we found ourselves immersed in strobes and lasers each pulse of light penetrating our eyes as we laughed and held each other up on dance floors, we loved each other as much as you can love a mate fuelled by how generous our dealers had been. Somehow we both knew our problems would not be solved. Endless clubbing soon turned to longer chill outs with deeper conversations, often for days with little or no sleep.
I had a secret I could not tell; I had more than one secret. I could not tell him.
I had been raped many years before – it just did not seem right to tell my mate and anyway I had not come to terms with it myself, I still haven’t, so why burden him with all my crap. He knew though. We both knew. We both dealt with our shared burden by being there for each other; by finishing each other’s emotions not just finishing each other’s sentences. We could read each other’s hurt and pain, and in an instant almost panicky way feed each other an immediate fix of laughter or sheer nonsense to balance things out again.
Then one day out of the blue my mate asked me to get him heroin. My heart tore apart at that same time he uttered those words. I knew that I could no longer provide him with that same ‘fix’. He needed more than I could give him and it hurt to look into his eyes. It really hurt!
‘If you take heroin I cant be your mate anymore’ I screamed
Our eyes would meet in the street for many years after. Barely nodding to each other. We both were hurting but I refused his hand of friendship. I needed my mate and he needed me. I also knew he needed heroin more than me. I knew this well, as this had been my only other secret.
We said goodbye to each other last week. My mate asked for some CD’s of the music we once tripped away on so happily so many years ago. He also asked for a disposable razor, and we laughed together when he said ‘don’t bother bring me a pack of razors ‘ we both knew why.
He was in his bed chocking when I arrived on the HIV ward. We sat there for hours looking into each other’s eyes over 20 years since we very first met. Our lives now taken completely different paths and yet our eyes as always were laughing full of fun and mischief.
I turned and left, my mate grabbed me and asked to be cuddled; I felt his lips kiss my neck goodbye. It was only then that I thought just for a moment our friendship was ‘odd’. My mate gracefully and respectfully showing that much love to me. A generous gift indeed.
I never once told my mate I had HIV. Of course he knew.
Rest in peace mate. I loved you.

With thanks to The Sussex Beacon nurses and HIV specialist team who cared for my mate in his final days in August 2011.