Skin In The Game

I am enough

I first found out about intactivism last year when I saw a job posting for a modeling gig. Intact America was looking for models for their Skin in the Game campaign. I didn’t know what it was all about, but it seemed pretty personal. I didn’t apply at first because I wasn’t sure it was something I wanted my face on.

I went on with my day, but something was pulling at me. It just shook me up a little. I felt uncentered because it stirred up all these negative emotions from my youth, when I felt ashamed of being intact.

I had a hard time feeling different from other guys when I was growing up. I tried to keep it a secret in the locker room because there were always jokes about how gross an uncircumcised penis was. The worst was during middle school; I would intentionally get dressed really fast or really slow. Kids who knew I was intact would say it was no surprise I wasn’t circumcised because I was Mexican, and they’d say it as a putdown.

I really looked up to my uncle, and he mentioned he’d recently been circumcised, but not for health reasons. I was in middle or high school at the time, and I could only guess it was for the same reasons I was thinking about. I remember wishing I could be older so I could get it done too.

All this got to me, and I finally said to my mom, ‘Hey, what happened with me? Can I still do it?’ She didn’t dismiss it, but she didn’t see it as an issue. My parents are from Mexico. I remember thinking, ‘OK, is this a Mexican thing? Is that a good thing? Or is that a bad thing? Because it feels like it’s a bad thing.’

Luckily, when I was old enough to make this decision for myself, I joined the Marines right out of high school. As I got older, I gained more confidence. I knew what I was doing and I learned how to just be comfortable with who I was. I realized it really didn’t matter. I had friends from all over, some who were white and some who were Black, some who were circumcised, some who weren’t. There were so many guys, and nobody made it a thing. They didn’t care.

But when it came to women and what they would think, I was still insecure about it. Early on, I had a girlfriend for a long time, and that really helped. For the first couple months, I tried to hide it. Eventually I decided we should talk about it, and she was really cool about it and said it didn’t matter. That was really important to me. We were together four years and it gave me confidence to be myself.

I’m 32 now, and I’ve had some time to really own my own experience. Still, when I learned about the Skin in the Game modeling gig, I worried about what people would think when they saw the ads: What if the whole world finds out? People are bound to see this one way or another. Am I ready for that?

But I also knew I would have liked this kind of validation, affirmation and support when I was young. I realized being a part of this could make a difference for someone. I ended up applying for and landing the gig. Not everybody will have the experiences I did to get to this point. If I can help somebody feel a little at ease, this could plant a seed and they can start becoming OK.

I’m also spreading the word in online communities I belong to—veterans, work, hobbies and interests. I want to normalize being intact and send positive support to younger kids who struggle with feeling different like I once did.



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