Care of the Disadvantaged
Circlist Member Experiences
The following accounts record the experiences, opinions and feelings of those who have at some time been involved with the care of physically or mentally handicapped males. Also included are comments regarding orphans and orphanages.
See also our Chapter ‘Considering circumcision?’, linked from the Navigation Bar at the foot of this page.
Neither of my parents enjoyed good health during their retirement years. Living as they did 5 hours driving from my place of work, I was not on hand to help with their everyday needs although I tried to visit alternate weekends.
In March 1981 my mother collapsed and died from heart attack, leaving my father without his carer. Even if he had been compos mentis
he probably would have been unable to continue living alone, never having learned to cook. But the situation was complicated by the fact that, two years before, he had been diagnosed with rapid-onset Alzheimer’s Disease.
At first it was possible to care for him in a normal Nursing Home, but within six months of my mother’s death it became necessary to move him to a specialised psychogeriatric unit. It was at this juncture that the issue of circumcision arose. I distinctly recall my conversation with the Nursing Home proprietor. The following quote comes from somewhere in the middle of the admissions process, mixed in with things such as Date of Birth (1908), Next of Kin (me), Court of Protection involvement (Yes) and so on:
Proprietor: “Is your father circumcised? Or, should I say, do you know whether he is circumcised?”
Me: “Yes, on both counts. He was done as a child. His mother’s maiden name was Wiseman, which I suspect indicates a Jewish connection somewhere way back in the Family Tree.”
Proprietor: “Oh, good. That’s one less thing to arrange, then.”
Nothing was said by way of explaining the reason for the question and it was only when I discovered the CIRCLIST website in the late 1990s that I realised what lay behind it. Just how my father would have reacted had he been circumcised at age 73 on my authorisation I dread to think. In his demented condition, he even resented having his hair brushed for him.
I would urge any man receiving the dire news that they have Alzheimers to get circumcised fast if they are not already cut. It’s probably one of the best preparations you can make for the dark days ahead.
Chris - UK
Even though completely heterosexual, I never married. When computers began to be a bit more available in the 70s, I stopped teaching and wrote computer programs for the school district, mostly at our school bus facility to track bus costs. I could set my own time schedule for work. My parents had both died and I was living in our Lake Washington waterfront family home.
I had a friend that was in charge of vocational rehabilitation for Washington State. He told me there was a group home for boys in Everett, a few miles north of Seattle that was going to be closed. There was a boy, Ron, that was 8 years old that had a genetic nerve disease called Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2) that was going to be difficult to place, would I take him?
I had the time and actually thought it would work out pretty good. Since it was the middle of the school year I had him home on weekends until the school year was over. He turned 9 during the school year. This boy had been removed from his mother and aunt by a court because of child abuse, hence his living in the group home. Let’s say this boy did not have much in the way of good social skills or knowledge of personal hygiene. Every day was an uphill struggle. It didn’t take long to see why they couldn’t get anyone to take him. A one word description would have been incorrigible.
One of the things suggested for taking on a child like this was bonding. Take the child on a long car trip and then the child would see he had a home when he returned from the trip. I asked Ron where he wanted to go, he said Disneyland. Since it is a long drive from the Seattle area to Anaheim, my neighbor’s son, Mike, who had just turned 16 and had a new driver’s license was willing to go along. He was tolerant of my very active 9 year old and willing to help in the long drive there and back. Besides, he wanted to go to Disneyland himself.
When we were at the Disneyland Hotel while they were changing to go in the pool I heard Ron talking to Mike. He asked Mike how come they looked different, was it because Mike was older, would he look like that in a couple of years? Mike told him, no, it was because “I am circumcised and you are not. You would need to be circumcised to look like me. Ask your dad about it”.
Ron never did ask me, but he did not need to. I was going to have him circumcised as soon as I had the authority. There was a delay in getting the final adoption papers because his mother, who I never met, did not sign a release until two weeks before he turned 10. Two weeks after he turned 10, I had him in our family doctor’s office to make arrangements for being circumcised. I didn’t talk to Ron about it, this was going to be done - my decision. He did say a couple of times that he wanted to look like our neighbor who he admired so I guess he wanted it done.
NF2 is a terrible disease. Small benign tumors form on the nerve linings causing all sorts of problems depending on the affected nerve. He had lost the sight in one eye due to a tumor on the optic nerve the first year he was with me and had a tad less than perfect motor control in his arms and hands. There was always a puddle of urine on the floor around the toilet before his circumcision, a combination of poor vision, hand motor control and foreskin. He was used to being prodded and poked by doctors and having small tumors removed so this pre-circumcision visit to the doctor was about normal for him.
My experience with a rather loose cut was not satisfactory, so I asked the doctor to do a tight cut for him. When we got to the doctor’s office the next morning everything was ready. I held Ron’s hand while he had a local and the doctor went right ahead. It didn’t take very long, He used a clamp, I think Gomco, but didn’t know the names of things then. The cut was indeed tight with the scar not quite half way up the shaft. This tight cut turned out to be important later.
Ron was used to tumor surgeries and didn’t seemed to have any discomfort with the circumcision; he healed rapidly. For a 10 year old he was open about talking about it and a couple of weeks later he told me he really liked it, he looked like Mike and the other boys at school and he liked how much easier it was to go to the bathroom and not have to clean up the floor.
Since we lived on the lake, it was not uncommon for him to walk downstairs from his room in the buff, go out on the back porch and hop in the lake for a swim. He didn’t use a swim suit very often and never had a ‘swim suit’ tan. He brought school friends to go swimming all the time during the summer, they almost always swam in the buff with him and I never saw one that wasn’t circ’d.
Because of his poor eyesight he was unable to drive and did not leave home when he was out of high school. His NF2 disease begin to take it’s toll. When he was 23 years old, he gradually lost his hearing because of NF2 tumors on both auditory nerves; sign language allowed us to continue to converse. At 27 his leg motor control worsened, it became difficult for him to walk and he had to be in a wheelchair. It was at this time the tight circumcision was shown to have been wise. When we went out in the car and at night when he was in bed, I had to help him put on a condom catheter. This was much easier to put on with the tight skin. We had to keep his pubic hair trimmed because just one hair under the condom catheter hurt. When he needed to go, all he had to do was go; the urine would flow down into a bag under the wheelchair or bed. With him unable to use his hands very well by then, I can imagine the cleaning problems we would have had to face had he not been circumcised.
He finally became too much for me to handle at home by age 30. There was a care facility about a half a mile from home that took 5 young men in a regular house. He didn’t like being away from home at first, but he became friends with the other young fellows there and came to like the place. At the care facility they used a foley catheter, another device that is easier to use when circumcised. The condom catheter could not be used continually whereas the foley could stay in for about two weeks at a time. It is a small tube inserted into the penis, pushed up into the bladder and held in place by a small balloon inside the bladder. He didn’t like the feeling at first but got used to it. He did not mind the female nurses putting them in but he preferred me doing it every other week when the foley needed to be changed.
Ron died at age 32 of a brain tumor caused by the NF2 disease.
The types of catheter mentioned in this article
|Both images adapted by CIRCLIST from originals copyright © 2010, Healthwise Inc.
The word Circumcision in American Sign Language.
I mentioned that in later years we used sign language because of Ron’s deafness. There isn’t a sign in American Sign Language for every spoken word. For example, snow would be signed as ‘white rain’. But there is a sign in ASL for circumcision. Make a loose fist with both hands with the thumbs sticking out. Touch the nail of one thumb with the tip of the other thumb and circle it around front to back a couple of times.
Orphans and Orphanages
Made in the style of a "docu-drama", the 1992 film The Leaving of Liverpool
tells the story of a group of British orphans who, after the end of WW2, are sent to Australia and other parts of the world that once were part of the British Empire. The story begins at an orphanage located in Liverpool, where we first observe the way the children were treated by the ones responsible for their upbringing. Strict discipline and corporal punishment were common at many institutions run by the Catholic Church and this one was no exception.
The kids, both boys and girls, are gathered into the main hall of the orphanage for an important announcement. They are to be sent to different countries to experience “great adventures” and contribute to the educated white population of several Commonwealth countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
These child migration schemes were real and in the next scenes we observe how the kids were ‘prepared’ for their big adventure. They find themselves in an operating theatre; the film shows in some detail their tonsils being removed. What is played down in the film (but well documented in the historical record) is that many if not all the boys heading for Australia were at the same time very tightly circumcised or recircumcised, that being the current norm in the country of their destination. Rumours abound to the effect that a few girls, at the behest of their prospective adoptive parents, underwent clitoridectomy to prevent masturbation. It was not illegal at the time.
The remainder of the film follows the fate of these young migrants to Australia, many of whom had very unhappy experiences upon arrival in their new surroundings. So unhappy that in 2010 the Prime Ministers of both Australia and Britain issued formal apologies for what happened to these children.
||Click on the Audio Description button to hear a review of this film by ‘Ribbonmaster’ of the website <www.theskykid.com>. Format: mp3, duration 5 minutes 34 seconds.
Amazon.com currently lists the DVD as unobtainable. If buying second-hand, be warned that most copies in circulation are in PAL-4 format, applicable to the Australian analogue TV system. These will not play on NTSC equipment designed for the North American market.
Do not confuse the DVD with the book The Leaving of Liverpool
by Maureen Lee. That is another story, wholly fictional rather than fact-based.
I have a good friend who was brought up in an orphanage in Australia. He was cut at 5yrs and he told me that all the other uncut boys of that age were also done.
Jozua - South Africa
One has to remember that orphanages have, in the legal sense, a Duty of Care. Normally there will be one doctor who looks after all the orphans and if his advice is that boys should be circumcised (or that children should have their tonsils out) the orphanage isn’t going to apply that advice selectively. They are pretty much bound to apply such professional recommendations to all.
Routine circumcision of boys entering orphanages was often the case in the United States prior to the 1960s. This was a procedure that was paid for by government insurance. These institutions had doctors on call that could easily do a boy’s circumcision if it hadn’t already been done at birth.
Generally speaking, orphanages in the USA (in the sense of large institutional establishments) are no more. However, the practice of getting boys circumcised when they are orphans continues even to this day.
I personally know of a home that takes in orphan and troubled boys. Most usually the parents are still alive, but incarcerated. At any one time they have from 4 to 8 boys between 6 and 16 years of age. The parents who run the home look after the boys until some permanent arrangements can be found; some of the boys end up staying with them for several years. Both of these parents are very pro-circumcision. Within the first three months of his arrival, they arrange for the circumcision of any boy who arrives uncut.
This is done with the State’s permission; technically I believe every boy has ‘agreed’ that he wanted to be circumcised and that is all that the social worker in charge asks.
Anonymous - USA
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