As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl

by JOHN COLAPINTO | Science |
ISBN: 0060192119 Global Overview for this book
Registered by rhombitruncated of Bowie, Maryland USA on 1/3/2003
Buy from one of these Booksellers: | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon DE | Amazon FR | Amazon IT |
14 journalers for this copy...
Journal Entry 1 by rhombitruncated from Bowie, Maryland USA on Friday, January 3, 2003
This book tells the true story of David Reimer who was born Bruce Reimer and grew up as Brenda Reimer. In a horrible circumcision accident, Bruce lost his penis. His parents, doing the best they could, found Dr. Money at Johns Hopkins, who recommended raising Bruce as a girl. He assured them that Bruce would grow into being a girl if the family were fully committed to it. Thus Brenda was born. Unfortunately Brenda never really felt like a girl, but she couldn't articulate it. Once she found out the truth, she resolved to return to being a boy.

Wow. The frightening thing about this story is not that the parents decided to raise Bruce as a girl, but the way Dr. Money handled the case. Despite numerous problems and Brenda's obvious 'tomboyishness', he published this case as an unqualified success. Because of this, many other children have been screwed up. One can only hope that in the light of the real story of David Reimer, psychologists have woken up.

I'm passing this book on to my boyfriend, who will probably release it after he's finished.

Journal Entry 2 by akuchling from Bowie, Maryland USA on Saturday, January 4, 2003
Coincidentally, three of the books I've recently read have been about medical matters, and a common theme of them all has been manipulation of evidence to prop up a pet theory. Freud did it for the sake of psychoanalysis, various authorities did it for one theory of tuberculosis or another, and this book documents an astonishing case.

When Bruce Reimer was an infant, a doctor's error during his circumcision resulted in his penis being destroyed. His parents were understandably desperate, unsure of how their son should be raised and what the injury's effects on his psychology would be. They then heard about Dr John Money, of Johns Hopkins.

Dr Money is described by the New Zealand Edge as "a pioneer in the science of human sexuality", for his research into gender identity. Money's doctrine for cases of this type was to remove the remaining genitalia and subsequently raise the child as a girl. Money argues that gender is formed purely by social conditioning; so as long as the child is treated as a girl, it will develop the proper set of reactions and psychology. Bruce Reimer was a perfect test case.

For the next 14 years, Bruce was raised as Brenda, and Dr Money wrote papers and textbooks that cited his case as an example of the successful handling of an intersex case, and as evidence that gender really was fluid. However, his breezy reports of success misrepresented the case; Brenda was unhappy with herself, contemplating suicide at one point, and never behaved in a feminine way. Dr Money's clinical tactics were also dubious, showing pornographic photos to Brenda and his twin brother when they were six or seven, and on one occasion had the two children pose in a simulated doggy-style sexual position; one wonders what the justification for this would have been.

The outcome is at least not completely bleak; Brenda drew the line at further surgery to construct a vagina and on learning the truth, soon switched to living as a male, eventually building a life that's reasonably happy. Dr Money's academic star dimmed and opinion is now shifting away from his theories, though there hasn't been any investigation of his ethics or of his treatment methods, and that seems a miscarriage of justice.

Journal Entry 3 by Safety-Sneakers from Bloomington, Minnesota USA on Wednesday, April 16, 2003
An interesting story. A frightening look at what can happen when research is conducted, and published, without proper safeguards.

Journal Entry 4 by Ducky-Di from Richfield, Minnesota USA on Saturday, September 6, 2003
Got this book from rhombitruncated, when she came to visit MN. Sorry, not a random catch!! And on top of that, I forgot to register right away!!

This was a fascinating book that gives a look at the nature/nurture argument of gender identity. The interviews with both David (formerly Brenda) Reimer and other intersexed individuals highlights not only the "nature" theory, but also outlines how such a decision, even if reversed, as in the case of David, continues to affect the persona and their family for the long term. A good, interesting read. Plan to release soon, but need to find a place where children will not find it -- probably a little disturbing to the younger age group.

Journal Entry 5 by starbytes from Calgary, Alberta Canada on Sunday, November 9, 2003
Received the book today!! Thanks so much, Ducky-Di!! I can't wait to read this! Will read and journal again soon with my thoughts!

Update 23rd November 2003: I'm so moved by David's plight...I feel for him and his suffering. I can't even begin to imagine what he went through, but I'm glad he's happy now. This book really made me think.

Journal Entry 6 by starbytes at on Sunday, November 23, 2003
Release planned for Monday, November 24, 2003 at To a friend in college in Kuala Lumpur, Selangor Controlled Releases.

A friend has asked to read this. Will be passing it to her tomorrow and I truly hope she will be as enlightened as I was after reading it.

Journal Entry 7 by starbytes from Calgary, Alberta Canada on Saturday, May 15, 2004
The subject of this book, David Reimer, has recently committed suicide. Some bookcrossers in the Chit-Chat forum has expressed interest in reading his book, so I'm organizing a bookring for it. I'll be getting the book from my friend on Monday, but probably won't start the bookring until everything has been organized.

Bookring participants: This bookring is now CLOSED!

mrsordonez -- Missouri,USA (US only)
busybooklover -- California, USA (int'l if necessary)
skeeterbess -- Hawaii, USA (int'l if necessary)
awakeagain -- New Jersey, USA (int'l)
Carrotcake -- Minnesota, USA (within USA/Canada) <-- received

Kali297 -- South Carolina, USA (int'l)
Zarylia -- Minnesota, USA/Poland (int'l)
torialouise -- UK (int'l)
gizmopuddy -- Ireland (int'l)
battypuss -- France (int'l)
aussieangel2 -- Australia (int'l)

---And back to me!


1. Make a journal entry when you receive the book.

2. Journal again, or make release notes when you mail it to the next person on the list.

3. Please PM the person you're mailing to before you mail the book out even if you already have his/her address, in case s/he might have changed his/her address, be on a trip, become inactive...etc. This is to ensure that the book does not become lost or stalled.

4. You don't have to hurry reading the book, but please keep us updated with journal entries so that we will know what's happening.

5. If the person ahead of you does not reply your PMs, or asks to be skipped, please PM me to let me know.

6. If there are any problems or change of plans or anything, please PM me for assistance, enquiries or information.

Thanks for joining the ring!! I hope you all enjoy the book!! :D

Released on Friday, May 28, 2004 at To a fellow bookcrosser in Missouri, USA Controlled Releases.

Mailed to the first person on the bookring, mrsordonez!! Enjoy!!

Journal Entry 9 by mrsordonez from Fenton, Missouri USA on Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Arrived safely (the envelope was beaten, but the book is still in great shape) TODAY (!) from Malaysia. I had been checking on this one, and was a bit worried, since I was the first on the list, and don't want to be labled a black hole by any means. I'll be reading this and passing on shortly. Thanks so much for creating this ring!

Journal Entry 10 by mrsordonez from Fenton, Missouri USA on Thursday, September 2, 2004
This book was very moving and disheartening at the same time. Colapinto obviously feels very strongly about the subject, and about how wrongly Dr. Money behaved. I personally was very appalled at Colapinto's account of Dr. Money's "unconventional" therapies. Although I do not consider myself by any means a prude, I think that he was a bit extremist in showing pornography to children, and having them act out the scenes. Not at all appropriate in my opinion. I also feel that David should have been informed earlier about the situation. I have an 8 year old child who has a clearly formed idea of gender roles and how men and women behave. I think this would be an early enough age to start identifying which gender an intersexed individual would be most comfortable in. (Knowing that David was not intersexed, but just commenting on the other situations presented in the book). I admire David strongly, and am greatly sorrowed by his passing. I somewhat wish he were still alive, just to prove that humans can triumph, but I guess sometimes the trauma is too great. I have many more thoughts and opinions about this book, but they cannot all be put into words at this time. I appreciate greatly the opportunity I have had to read this, and will be passing it on to the next reader shortly. If anyone has more information about David's life between the end of the book (publication was in 2000) and the tragic end of his life, please post links here!!! I feel like I must learn more. Thanks so much for starting this ring.

Journal Entry 11 by busybooklover on Wednesday, September 15, 2004
This arrived yesterday-- just now updating. I am catching up on rings now and will try to hurry along.. having this will make it easier because I am eager to get to it. I will journal again when it has been read and again when travelling! Thanks so much for starting this ring... I happened to read the thread the day (don't want to spoil it) this person was "in the news". Very sad and I will read it with empathy and curiosity as to how this could ever have happened. ~BBL

Journal Entry 12 by busybooklover on Monday, November 29, 2004
It was difficult to get into the mindset of this book as I kept getting interrupted and I had to re-read passages. I am completely saddened by the trials this (and all the other) families had to endure becasue of the misguided pride (ego?) of "Dr". Money and the others who were so easily misguided by his distorted reality. It is sad and frustrating to see how he manipulated this family to fill an opportunistic research need. The hippocratic oath says "First, do no harm!" HAH! I am as outraged at him as I am releived that the practice of gender-reassingment is not blundered into as lightly. I was frustrated for the Cheryl Cases and "Charley Gordon" (alias)other "victims" of medical experimentation who repeatedly tried to confront the status quo and were denied their chance as a disgruntled few.
I can't IMAGINE what David (as Brenda) went through in childhood/adolescence when that time in life is insufferable if you are physically and emotionally "NORMAL". What a nightmare! I'm profoundly saddened to hear that he took his life. I want to SHAKE that moron Money and tell him what I think of his deviant ideas (perversions) and what kind of pedophile I think HE was to expose(impose on) the twins such ridiculous acts. I feel about him the same way I do about Catholic Priests who betray the trust placed in them as they molest the children in their care. SHAME! SHAME! SHAME! It is my opinion that HE should be castrated. It may sound harsh... but I also wish the Reimers and all the other gender-reassigned "victims" peace and happiness, if it is at all possible with such a conflicted and troubled early development. I got a BA degree in Psych and had never heard of this case. It makes me ashamed to be in the same "category" as the people who deviated so far away from common sense as to permanantly scar these children and families (physically AND emotionally) Well-- I could rail forever... thanks for the opportunity to read this Bittersweet book. *sigh* I PM'd skeeterbess for address to forward book.

Journal Entry 13 by busybooklover at on Monday, November 29, 2004
Released on Monday, November 29, 2004 at about 8:00:00 PM BX time (GMT-06:00) Central Time (US & Canada) at Given to another bookcrosser in n/a, n/a Controlled Releases.


mail release sending to skeeterbess in Hawaii!!! Aloha little book!

Journal Entry 14 by skeeterbess from Waianae, Hawaii USA on Thursday, December 30, 2004
Just go this from busybooklover (THANK YOU, MY FRIEND!) Was so excited I've read a couple of chapters already! Should finish it this weekend & will send it on its way to its next destination.

Journal Entry 15 by skeeterbess from Waianae, Hawaii USA on Monday, January 24, 2005
My sincere apologies to awakeagain, and to all who follow in the bookring. The holiday season the *best* time of the year for my business, as two of my friendly competitors send all of their business my way so they can go holoholo (on vacation) for two weeks. This year the busy period was extended when one of them was unable to return from Moracco as planned. I know it sounds like "my dog ate my homework," but his traveling companion really did break her leg while escaping a monkey that bit her! His delay kept me super-busy right into the tax/insurance period that I face every January as a small business owner. So that's my story and I'm sticking to it, but I am truly sorry for delaying this book on its journey.

This book is a scathing indictment of one doctor in particular and the medical profession in general. Where was the checks and balance system that should have spared this child his nighmare chidhood? Why did 'everyone' just accept this man's word that his opinion was the only one that counted? Surely a child with such a huge obstacle in his life deserved better, as did his parents.

Bruce/Brenda/David is the hero here, because, in spite of what the "older and wiser" people in his life demanded of him, he always knew himself. His journey is unique and amazing. He didn't merely survive - he triumphed! Good for him!

As an aside: Law and Order did an episode last week that was oviously based on this true story. The ending was quite satisfying (spoiler coming up!) *One* of the twins kills the doctor, but the police don't know which one and can't indict!

I'll take this to the post office today for mailing to awakeagain. Mahalo for sharing!

Journal Entry 16 by awakeagain from Port Murray, New Jersey USA on Saturday, January 29, 2005
This was the first bookring I ever joined and it's finally here! I'm looking forward to reading it.

Journal Entry 17 by awakeagain from Port Murray, New Jersey USA on Friday, February 25, 2005
I remember when my first child was born at a birthing center; the form used for the baby's birth had spaces to be checked off marked "Male" "Female" and "Indeterminate". It had never occurred to me that it wasn't obvious whether a baby was a boy or girl until I saw that form! The midwives said they'd never had a birth at the center when they couldn't determine the sex of the child from their external examination but it does happen.

So I had that in mind when I read this book. I can understand when a baby is not clearly male or female that a decision needs to be made as to how to raise him/her, especially before some of more recent hormonal tests could be performed. But this is the story of a normally-born, normally-equipped male who was deliberately raised as female.

It was clear that "Brenda's" instincts rebeled for years before she was old enough to refuse any further treatments. Part of the tragedy of this story was the evidence of depression in the family. It's not clear how much would have been there anyway, regardless of what happened to baby Bruce.

I really thought that marriage would be David's salvation since he'd met someone who was accepting of his past. That's where I feel the family issues of depression played a role. Perhaps he was doomed whatever he did.

Sending on to Carrotcake.

Journal Entry 18 by Carrotcake from Minneapolis, Minnesota USA on Friday, March 4, 2005
Received in the mail the other day. Thanks! I'll try to finish reading it within a few weeks and then send it on to the next person.

Journal Entry 19 by Carrotcake from Minneapolis, Minnesota USA on Sunday, April 3, 2005
It seems obvious to me that if a boy loses his penis, he is still a boy. But this book explains how an entire medical establishment has the strong belief that Freud's theory is unquestionably correct: A boy without a penis isn't a boy. He is therefore, by default, a girl.

That idea seems ridiculous to me, since a penis is merely an organ and it's the testicles and brain chemistry and hormones that make someone a male. And individual gender identities in society vary greatly. But nevertheless, Freud's theory was believed and lives were affected by it, as told in this book.

David's life experiences and struggles really make my own pale by comparison. I feel sad that he didn't get proper guidance that might have made his life slightly less tragic. But people were doing what they thought was best for him, at the time.

Sent off to Kali297!

Journal Entry 20 by Kali297 from Greer, South Carolina USA on Thursday, April 7, 2005
I was out of town for a few days and found this book in my stack of mail when I returned home last night. Thanks -- It looks very interesting, and I'll try to read it as quickly as I can.

Journal Entry 21 by Kali297 from Greer, South Carolina USA on Friday, April 15, 2005
I finished this book a few days ago and contacted next-in-line Zarylia, and she replied that she would regretably have to pass on reading it right now. So it's going out today to England, to BX'er torialouise.
David Reimer's ultimate fate (post-publication) broadsided me when I re-read a previous BX'ers entry when I was almost at the end of the book. The author, Rolling Stone contributor John Colapinto, had tried to bring his considerable research to resolution on as upbeat a note as possible, although he had alluded to David's still-unresolved anger and suggested that he perhaps could use some therapy to deal with it. And of course Calapinto reveals the history of clinical depressions of both the mother and twin brother in the book. So it was not surprising to learn of one more tragic consequence of the sufferings of this Canadian family, who could be any family, so normal did they seem before fate intervened to make them victims of medical manipulation and their son one of the most famous medical cases in history. Dr. John Money, the sexologist who used the case for his own agenda, was aptly villified in the book, if everything written about him -- or even a portion of it -- is true. Experts are always allowed to flourish until science catches up to truth, and they are usually forgiven due to the limitations of medicine in any given age. But the hubris of this man precludes any compassion or forgiveness.
It's just an incredible story, and the author did a fine job and a great service in moving the family toward closure (whatever the consequences), and to future research in persuading this understandably reluctant family to share such heartbreaking revelations. It has helped to raise the profile of the complex nature/nurture issue and wrongs that need to be righted in a highly readable way.
There is an excellent postscript article to the case with additional discussion as to why things turned out the way they did on the Slate website, dated June 3, 2004.

Journal Entry 22 by torialouise from York, North Yorkshire United Kingdom on Friday, July 1, 2005
Arrived safely - up next on my TBR list

Journal Entry 23 by torialouise from York, North Yorkshire United Kingdom on Wednesday, August 31, 2005
I remember watching the documentary on the BBC about David and his story stuck with me. It was fascinating to read his story, and how Dr. Money believed so strongly in the nurture debate that this would overcome any genetic programming. I think David's strehgth of mind and determination from such a young age are testiment to the person he was, and do make him a real hero, to have overcome such adversty to make a life. It seems so tragic that his life ended as it did.

Thanks for sharing - this is a book i will remember for some time.

Sending on to gizmopuddy now x

Journal Entry 24 by Gizmopuddy from Maynooth, Co. Kildare Ireland on Monday, September 12, 2005
Received this today in the post. This was the first bookcrossing ring/ray I ever joined, and having been watching it's progress with interest for over a year. Will put it as near to the top of Mt. TBR as I can, so as not to hold it up too long.

Journal Entry 25 by Gizmopuddy from Maynooth, Co. Kildare Ireland on Saturday, October 22, 2005
A truly fascinating book, in the literal sense of the word. I had actually never heard of David Reimer, before the Forum thread last year announcing his death. I re-read it just now, and it is even more sad now I know the story. This story is so sad in general, truly for David, but also for his Mother, and Brian, who also suffered at the hands of John Money, I am reluctant to bestow the title doctor on him. The man was such an egocentric, and a pervert and pedophile along with it, wrapped up under the guise of a publicily respectable title. How he subjected David and all those other children to such treatment and in the main has escaped censure is beyond me. I wasn't even aware prior to this book that sex reassigment took place. And definitely not on such a large scale. Even though the story and subsequent outcome is heartbreaking, I am very glad I read this book. Thank you Starbytes for starting the ring.

Have contacted Battypuss for address, will send it on as soon as I have it.

Journal Entry 26 by Gizmopuddy at on Sunday, November 13, 2005

Released 17 yrs ago (11/14/2005 UTC) at



Tried to contact Battypuss with no response, so with Starbytes' agreement, am sending to Aussieangel2

Journal Entry 27 by aussieangel2 from Dayton, Western Australia Australia on Monday, November 21, 2005
Received in the mail today from gizmopuddy. Looks interesting but I'm in the middle of another book right now. I'm going to see if my friend wants to read it first as it's the type of book she reads. Will journal again when it comes back.

Journal Entry 28 by aussieangel2 from Dayton, Western Australia Australia on Thursday, January 19, 2006
Received this back from my friend last night. I will read as soon as I can and then post back to starbytes.

Journal Entry 29 by aussieangel2 from Dayton, Western Australia Australia on Monday, May 1, 2006
I finally finished this book. I found it heavy going in some parts and I think the author spent too much time on the background of the doctors and their disputes.

I did find it very interesting reading though and was glad that things worked out for David in the end. Although, on reading other journal entries it may not have lasted. I've been avoiding going to the website listed for more information until I finished the book.

I was appalled at what Dr Money put him and his brother (and many other children) through in their childhood.

This is returning to starbytes this week.

Thanks for the opportunity to read this!

Journal Entry 30 by aussieangel2 from Dayton, Western Australia Australia on Thursday, May 11, 2006
I forgot to make a journal entry when I posted this. It was sent a week ago, back to Starbytes, by economy air which will takes 2-3 weeks.

Thanks for the chance to read this!!

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