Death by Cuts

Image of Jonathon Conte, taken from Facebook
Image of Jonathon Conte, taken from Facebook


Since coming to restoration two fairly prominent people have passed away – the first, Gary Burlingame, who I believe passed from cancer related illness. On the old site for this blog, I published a post dedicated to Gary and will have it relocated here as soon as I can get to it (Since it wasn’t very long ago, it’ll be among the last I copy over). The second is more recent. His name was Jonathon Conte. I was only loosely aware of Jonathon, because I don’t actually follow intactivism very closely. I do think the intactivist community is doing good, very challenging work – work, though, I think I’d handle slightly differently. Showing up with “blood-stained” pants seems like an elementary kind of tactic, but I’ll be the first to admit that it gets people to look and that’s what gaining visibility is all about – nothing will change if the problem of circumcision isn’t brought to light. That is what Jonathon was working so hard for, along with others.

Jonathon’s death first came to my attention via Facebook. There’s a piece on the Gay Star News site about him and about his death. The piece quotes his husband and now widower, Christopher describing how Jonathon made him pancakes the morning of and how that was a little odd. He came home later that day to find Jonathon had taken his own life. There’s a video of Jonathon talking about first learning what circumcision is, how he came to terms with what had been taken from him, and why he chose to be involved with intactivism. You can access that by clicking here.

Personally, I don’t think missing foreskin would qualify as significant enough for me to suicide over. When I reposted the article from Gay Star News, adding that it made me really sad, a friend on Facebook commented, somewhat unsympathetically, that he couldn’t believe someone would kill himself over something like circumcision. On one hand, I can look at the situation and say, “Wow. If circumcision was the toughest thing Jonathon had going in his life, then he lived a really easy life.” But I know that the truth of the matter is that Jonathon’s battle against circumcision was probably really just icing on the cake, or perhaps grease that made a slippery slide of depression that much more slippery.

I’m generally a positive person. But in 2014 I almost suicided. The whole year was quite stressful – and for a number of reasons. Work was positively MISERABLE and I felt trapped because I couldn’t, from a financially responsible standpoint, just quit and find something new. For a fourth of the year I was on medication prescribed by my doctor …. not quite “happy pills” but close enough. For most of the first half of the year I was struggling to juggle the miserable work situation with the increasingly taxing health situation of my birth mother. In the late summer / early fall I bought a very nice house with my husband, which is a stressful thing in itself, but that was compounded because work and mother stuff had really worn me down by this point in the year and I wasn’t able to love the moment as fully as I wanted – which I think hampered my husband’s experience, and caused me more anxiety. Within a week of buying our dream home, my mother passed and as the oldest and most responsible child of an unmarried dead lady I was placed in charge of things related to her funeral … kinda. I say “kinda” because some of her extended family stepped in and all manner of familiar funerary drama ensued. All of this happened around Thanksgiving, which westerners know starts the official holiday / shopping season and only ten days after that my guru passed away. Quite literally, all but the last three weeks of the year were an active hell and quite honestly the last three weeks were just zombie mode for me. But at the end of the first week in December 2014 I stayed home to work and made the decision that morning, while in my home office, that I could stop living my current life. It was too much. I planned to do it in the garage with the car running, but just moments prior to taking action my husband walked in the door and I couldn’t do it.

When I say, “It was too much” I certainly don’t mean one thing. The depression was manageable by itself. Work, if I had nothing else on my plate, would also have been manageable. Mother stuff – totally could have done it, by itself. Pick anything that year that was really a burden to me and, in bite size form, was absolutely doable. ¬†But lump all of that together on someone’s shoulders and their back may well break. Mine almost did. I think that has to be the case with Jonathon.

If you check out his Facebook page or any content he played a role in or was visible in – even the video in the Gay Star News link – you’ll see that he was an intelligent person and quite warm at heart. I think, when he was 14, a realization dawned on his young mind and it changed him. But after that point, a WHOLE lotta life happened and I really and truly don’t think he ended his own life just because of foreskin. To consider intactivism a signature of his legacy is fair, but to go beyond that (too far beyond it) and try to equate his entire reason for suicide to circumcision is irresponsible on an intellectual and emotional level and should be avoided.

On the website there was a post shared by Jonathon’s husband, which I’ve coped to share here as well. Thanks for reading.


Christopher Holden (Jonathon Conte’s husband) writes:

Dear Intactivists, friends

I want to thank all of you for the love and support expressed over the past days. I, as well as the entire intactivist community are grieving the loss of a gentle warrior. Jonathon dedicated his life to the rights of all children to keep their bodies whole. His personal suffering was the catalyst that motived him to prevent others from going through that same suffering. Tragically, his suffering got too great to bare. I, as well as all of you, have to go through the grieving process of this immense loss. We can gain strength with the connection we all feel towards Jonathon.¬†Feelings, emotions are really raw now, but once we heal we will be left with Jonathon’s legacy. This legacy is his gift to all of us to pass on. He was your fearless intactivist and he was my dear soulmate. Rest in peace gentle warrior.