Remembering Jonathon Conte

Newsletter

Remembering Jonathon Conte
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Activists Remember [Jonathon] Conte, Try to Deliver Petitions to AAP

ARC Newsletter Volume: 
11
ARC Newsletter Issue: 
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In Loving Memory
Jonathon Conte pride intactivist genital integrity circumcision
Jonathon Conte Passing Out Information on the Street

October 27, 2016

Intact America, a group that advocates for the end of circumcision for male infants, held a news conference outside the meeting of the American Academy of Pediatrics in San Francisco, where it had tried to present a petition but was rebuffed ahead of the meeting.

The group also remembered longtime intactivist Jonathon Conte, a gay San Francisco man who killed himself in May.

As the October 22 rally got underway, some passersby stopped to talk to protesters and read their handouts, though most people entering Moscone Center for the conference avoided looking at the demonstrators. Rally organizers had hoped to deliver a petition with 10,000 signatures to the AAP. The protest was organized when reps from AAP refused to meet with Intact America, the organization behind the petition.

According to Intact America, in the past year researchers and experts have published articles and studies that contradict the 2012 AAP statement that "the benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks." Conte was remembered by the small group of about 25 protesters, who gathered to speak out against forced and medically recommended circumcisions.

San Francisco resident Lloyd Schofield, a close friend of Conte's, spoke at the rally. Schofield said that Conte had referred to his circumcision, which happened during his infancy, as "forced genital mutilation."

"Jonathon lost his job a week after his opposition to human genital mutilation was documented in the San Francisco Chronicle ," Schofield said as he fought back tears. "He then devoted himself full time to speaking out, so that others would not have to endure the physical and psychological pain that he did. Eventually the lies, myths, and denial perpetrated by those at the AAP who practice, promote and profit from genitally mutilating healthy children were too much to bear and he took his own life in May."

Niki Sawyers traveled from her home in Philadelphia to attend the rally. She said that she was a "regret mom," someone who had allowed doctors to circumcise her son.

"Circumcision doesn't just hurt the baby, it hurts the mother," she said. "It keeps on hurting. Most mothers I speak to would never have allowed it had they known the facts. Why are parents not being given the facts?" According to a flier handed out by Intact America, foreskin is a natural part of the penis. Removing it removes a layer of protection which the penis needs and also reduces the pleasure of sexual sensation.

Georganne Chapin, executive director of Intact America, told the Bay Area Reporter that circumcisions were medically  unnecessary.

Agency Details SF Activist's Death

ARC Newsletter Volume: 
11
ARC Newsletter Issue: 
3
ARC Newsletter Section: 
Remembering Jonathon Conte
Jonathon Conte Gay Pride Bay Area Intactivists
Jonathon Conte at Gay Pride

August 11, 2016

The suicide of a gay San Francisco man who'd campaigned for years against circumcision is detailed in a report released by the medical examiner's office.

Jonathon Conte, 34, was found by his partner May 9 in their Alamo Square apartment with a plastic bag over his head and a helium tank by his side. The report lists the cause of death as asphyxia.

No drugs were detected in Conte's system, according to the report, which confirmed the manner of death was suicide.

Conte, who went to LGBT Pride and other events and rode his bicycle carrying signs with slogans like "Got genital rights?" had made intactivism "his life's work," Christopher Holden, 42, Conte's partner of five years, said shortly after his death.

Since Conte's death, Holden has been faced with a rent increase on the apartment they shared in the 1200 block of Grove Street. The two weren't registered domestic partners, and Holden hadn't been able to get his name on the lease.

In an interview Saturday, just after the medical examiner's report was released, Holden didn't want to share details of his housing situation, but he said, "It's been a difficult transition going from [Conte's] death into having to make quick changes in my life. ... His absence is ever present."

Holden, who's described Conte as "caring and vulnerable," has said that Conte had never indicated he was thinking of killing himself. He didn't leave a note.

The medical examiner's office said in its report that when the helium tank arrived with Conte's body, it was empty, but the report indicates Conte died solely from having the bag over his head.

In Memoriam: On the Passing of My Personal Hero and Friend Jonathon Conte

ARC Newsletter Volume: 
11
ARC Newsletter Issue: 
3
ARC Newsletter Section: 
Remembering Jonathon Conte
Jonathon Conte Riding for Genital Integrity bike ride
Jonathon Conte Riding for Genital Integrity

May 15, 2016

It is with deep sadness that I write this. Last Monday, May 9, I lost a dear friend and fellow activist, Jonathon Conte.

For those who knew him personally, he was a bright and friendly person. But on the inside, he was tormented by many things, and circumcision was near or at the top of this list of grievances.

Conte accomplished many things during his life. First and foremost, he was the lead organizer of Bay Area Intactivists. Conte was instrumental in the 2011 San Francisco MGM Bill initiative to extend the female genital mutilation law to protect children of all sexes. He also spurred me on to become more active and start the NYC Intactivists group. Conte and I kept in touch frequently and shared strategies and had ongoing projects together at the time of his death, including maintaining the events listings on IntactNews.

When people asked Conte about his sexual orientation, “Are you gay or straight?” he would coyly reply, “I’m an intactivist.” He was a very private person. We both went to the Genital Autonomy Symposium at the University of Colorado at Boulder in the summer of 2014. Conte and I climbed onto a rooftop overlooking the campus under a starry night. It was his idea. I laid bare my inner workings to Conte and he barely talked personal details about himself. But he did mention his family back in Florida whom he cut off all contact from, a very difficult thing to do. We shared our concerns with the intactivist movement, expressed our common frustrations and talked strategy. I’m really grateful we shared that moment together.

In the recent past, I’ve become concerned about Conte. I watched as he took to the streets to do more and more unplanned solo protests against circumcision, seemingly without break. I recognized outward signs of sadness that were growing. Just before his death, Conte shared his mother’s day photo on Facebook that he’d shared years previously, his face wearing an expression of deep torment. His face in that photo expresses how he constantly felt about what was done to him, what was done to many of his friends, what was done to millions of boys and girls and intersex children, and what is and continues to be done. Conte frequently hid these feelings behind a smile. But it is these feelings that drove him out into the streets to act. And he often bravely shouldered so much weight all by himself.

Jonathon Conte killed himself on Monday, May 9, 2016 at his home in San Francisco. I've been feeling so devastated since hearing this news early the next morning. But I also feel so fortunate for having counted him as a friend, and will carry forth his legacy for the rest of my days.