DESTIN — A group of seven men and one woman were dressed to shock on Wednesday at the corner of Emerald Coast Parkway and Spence Parkway.

Clad in all white — with bright red paint spattered on the groin area — and white cowboy hats, the group were representing Bloodstained Men and Their Friends, a national nonprofit which aims to end circumcisions of male babies in the U.S.

“We are nationwide nonprofit human rights organization dedicated to protecting all boys from unnecessary genital surgery,” said Harry Guiremand, the spokesman for the touring group. “A lot of people haven’t been aware of the intactivist movement but it’s been going on for a long time.”

 

Guiremand said that he got involved in the movement in the early 1990s after female genital mutilation, which was occurring in certain immigrant communities, was made illegal in the U.S.

“It should have been gender-neutral because everyone has the right to protection under the law, but it was passed so that it only protected one gender (female),” he said. “If the American medical establishment were to adhere to their own standards of medical ethics they would not be performing infant circumcision."

The Bloodstained Men annually travels to 60 cities across the U.S. and Canada to raise awareness. The group just came from protesting at the American Academy of Pediatrics Conference, held Nov. 2-6 in Orlando.

The only female representative at Wednesday's march, Tori Caswell said that she joined not only to speak out against male infant circumcision but also to inform expecting mothers about the benefits of intact boys.

“I worked in the lactation field for 10 years doing breastfeeding support in the early weeks and I saw it disrupting breastfeeding and bonding,” Caswell said of circumcision. “I’ve even spoken to women who thought it had to be done, so the education is absolutely necessary.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics website states that, based on scientific evidence, "the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks, but the benefits are not great enough to recommend universal newborn circumcision." Therefore, the website states, "the final decision should still be left to parents to make in the context of their religious, ethical and cultural beliefs."

Destin resident Andrew Werschky said he was riding his motorcycle past the group of protestors when he decided to turn around and see what all the commotion was about. He said he was surprised by the spectacle, but he had also never thought about male circumcision.

“I have two sons and I made this decision," he said. "I did it in good conscience and I put a little thought to it, but not a lot, and interestingly enough, watching this protest makes me think maybe I should have left that decision to them (his sons).”

Werschky said that he never thought of himself as a victim, but can see the perspective as a valid opinion and values the voice of others.

“Some people might think, ‘Wow I never thought about men being discriminated against. I never thought about that men are being circumcised and they don’t have a choice and they have to live with it for the rest of their lives,’” he said.

When asked for his takeaway on the protest overall, Werschky said that peaceful protests always have more of an appeal with him.

“It seems like a peaceful and effective way to get people’s attention and draw it to a problem that’s a real issue for some people,” he said. “My takeaway is, think.”