As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl
14 journalers for this copy...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
THE BASIC GUIDELINES:
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
Mailed to the first person on the bookring, mrsordonez!! Enjoy!!
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.
mail release sending to skeeterbess in Hawaii!!! Aloha little book!
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!
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.
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!
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.
Thanks for sharing - this is a book i will remember for some time.
Sending on to gizmopuddy now x
Have contacted Battypuss for address, will send it on as soon as I have it.
Released 14 yrs ago (11/14/2005 UTC) at
WILD RELEASE NOTES:
Tried to contact Battypuss with no response, so with Starbytes' agreement, am sending to Aussieangel2
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!
Thanks for the chance to read this!!