One of the California’s most outspoken voices against male circumcision has died.
34-year-old Jonathon Conte was an outspoken activist against the circumcision of males under the age of 18. In addition to collecting signatures for a 2011 ballot measure that would have outlawed the practice in San Francisco, he was also known for going around to Pride festivals and other public events carrying signs with slogans like “Got genital rights?”
On Monday, he was found dead in his San Francisco apartment. His partner of five years, Christopher Holden, says it was a suicide.
Conte often said that the reason he was so outspoken about male circumcision was because of his concern for others. In a 2011 video posted to YouTube, he explained that when he was 14, he saw a picture of an uncircumcised penis for the first time. That’s when he realized a part of his body “had been cut away from me.”
As a result, he suffered feelings of “incompleteness, both physically and sexually.” He ultimately decided, “If I as a victim, and other victims, don’t speak out against this practice, it will continue, and more men will continue to experience the painful emotions I’ve had to deal with.”
According to Holden, Conte’s suicide this week came as a complete shock. He tells the Bay Area Reporter that Conte made pancakes for breakfast that morning, which was “unusual,” but that “he seemed fine.”
When Holden got home from work that afternoon, “I heard some soft music coming from the bedroom.” When he went in to check on Conte, he discovered him with a bag over his head connected to a helium tank.
“I went over there in shock and ripped it off and tried to do CPR, but of course it was too late,” he said. “It’s very fast acting.”
A suicide note has not yet been found.
Friends of Conte were shocked by the news. They have described him as “a lovely man,” “really sweet,” and “caring and vulnerable.” His funeral will be held over the weekend.