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As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised As A Girl (2001)

As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl (2001)
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3.94 of 5 Votes: 3
ISBN
0060929596 (ISBN13: 9780060929596)
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English
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harper perennial
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As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was R...
As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised As A Girl (2001)

About book: This book will make you very angry; that a child could be so maltreated by an "expert," who clearly was in need of help himself, but who was so intent on proving a theory that he disregarded substantial evidence to the contrary. You'll be angry, too, with other professionals who were reluctant to challenge the "great" man even when their own evidence pointed in an opposite direction. But you'll be astonished and satisfied by the incredible fortitude of a young child who realized that something was wrong and in his own way stood up to the extraordinary pressure that was put on him.David Reimer was the victim of numerous mistakes. The first was a botched circumcision that essentially fried his penis. Then he became subject to the attempts of a famous sex researcher to verify his theories about the nature of gender development. The result was a lot of pain for David and his family.Colapinto got permission from the family to write this book, and all conversations, everything in quotes, is from transcripts or documents. All the scarier.It all began when David (then called Bruce) and his identical twin brother Brian were diagnosed with a condition called phimosis that circumcision normally repaired. Bruce was operated on first, but a serious mistake in the voltage levels of the electrical surgical device was made and his genitalia burned beyond salvage. The medical staff suggested that Bruce be raised as a girl. This was at a time when feminist theory, supported by some psychologists, proposed that gender identity had nothing to do with biology: it was all a social construct. Eventually, the parents were referred to Dr. Money at Johns Hopkins University. Money was a world-renowned sex researcher who apparently suffered from a multitude of sex hang-ups himself. Money had staked his reputation on the belief that sexual identity was socially determined, and he had worked with numerous transsexuals. When Bruce's parents showed up with an identical twin who had no male genitalia, it was an obvious answer to his prayers, for now he could develop data from a twin study to validate Money's theories. Money and his colleagues at Johns Hopkins had performed numerous sex reassignment surgeries on hermaphrodite children, but no such operation had ever been attempted on a child born with normal genitalia and nervous system, a distinction that the parents, Ron and Janet, never grasped until years later. Money's conviction was the procedure would be successful; "I see no reason why it shouldn't work," he told them. The decision had to be made early, because, according to his theory, there was a gender identity gate at which point the child was locked into a male or female identity. Bruce became Brenda and was raised as a girl. There were problems from the start, but Money insisted he was right and continued to promote the case as an example of the correctness of his theory of psycho sexual neutrality at birth.In the meantime, at the University of Kansas, a young researcher was studying the role of hormones on behavior, and in a paper published in the late fifties, he marshaled considerable evidence from biology, psychology, psychiatry, anthropology, and endocrinology to argue that gender identity is hardwired into the brain virtually from conception. Hermaphrodites had an inborn neurological capability to go both ways, a capability that genetically normal children would not share.The researcher, Milton Diamond, was to become a thorn in Money's side as he marshaled considerable evidence of the role of prenatal hormones in determining gender identity. Moneys accusation that Diamond's alliance with unscrupulous media caused the cessation of what would have been the culmination and piece de resistance of his life's work, the twin study, finally pushed Diamond to a public response in the form of a paper. Money's work was still being used to support the behaviorist proponents in the psychological community, who were still trying to "convert" and "change" adult homosexuals back to a heterosexual orientation. In the meantime, Money had been uncharacteristically silent what was occurring with the twins. Diamond managed to track down the psychiatrist,Keith Sigmundson, who had been working with Brenda/David in the intervening years. Having seen firsthand the implementation of Money's theories, Sigmundson, after reading Diamond's papers and convincing himself of Diamond's research integrity, agreed that something needed to be documented publicly as to the outcome of the case.By this time, Brenda had become David, reverting to male, and had married. His parents, after years of therapy for the whole family, had finally broken with Money, and told Brenda of the genital removal. David had married and wanted to put everything behind him, but finally agreed to meet with Diamond. Realizing after their conversations that his case was being used as evidence to support the implementation of Money's theories in other cases, he decided he had to speak out. The resulting paper warned physicians of the dangers of surgical sexual reassignment, especially for intersexual newborns, since "physicians have no way of predicting in which direction the infant's gender identity has differentiated." Assigning a sex, i.e. name, hair length, and clothing, was one thing, but irreversible surgical intervention had to be avoided until the child was old enough to determine and articulate. "To rear the child in a consistent gender, but keep away the knife," was the caveat expressed by as Diamond to Colapinto.One of the more interesting side issues I think the book raises is the nature of authority, i.e. what constitutes being an expert. Certainly, being right, correct, and knowledgeable appears not to be criteria.Note 2011. David Reimer committed suicide in 2004.

A recommendation from hells_librarian, I checked this book out and read it last Sunday afternoon. I didn't take as many notes as I might have normally, as the story just sucked me in. A gripping story of Bruce, an infant boy who, after a botched circumcision, was surgically altered and raised as a girl, upon the recommendation of an expert in gender identity & sexual reassignment. This expert, Dr. John Money, had been looking for proof that nurture was more important than nature in gender identity; as this boy had an identical twin brother, it seemed the perfect situation: same genes, same parents, same upbringing, except for one being a boy and one a girl. However, the child (renamed Brenda) never quite seemed to fit into the model of girlhood, try as she would. The years of therapy, both with Dr. Money and other psychiatrists, only confused her further, as she was never told exactly what had happened. Her family was as supportive as they could be in the circumstances, trying out different schools and even moving halfway across the country in an attempt to give Brenda a new start. While I felt the parents made the wrong decision, I could understand their reasoning and empathize with them. The bizarre details of the therapy sessions disturbed me at least as much as the graphic details of the surgeries; Dr. Money not only showed Brenda (and occasionally her brother, Brian) pornographic material (not just drawings & photos of nudes, but actual porn), he also asked very sexually explicit questions at what I thought was much too early of a time in her life. As puberty arrived, Brenda's nature rebelled against the regimen of hormones; and once she learned the whole story, she decided to become male again, adopting the name David. He is now in his late twenties, relatively well-adjusted, and married to a woman whose 3 children satisfy his longing to be a father. This story is nearly as much about Dr. John Money as it is about Bruce/Brenda/David: exposing his prejudices (bordering on perversions, IMHO*) in the realm of sexual study. He remained convinced that Brenda would turn out just fine; his insistence at completing the surgical alteration in her early teens nearly drove her to suicide; I got the impression he was treating this human being as a lab animal. Dr. Milton Diamond, another sex researcher, also found himself questioning this celebrated "twin study" and his opposition fueled a 30-year feud between the men. Oddly enough, the original (skewed) results of this study were considered proof to feminists that there are no meaningful differences between men and women. Colapinto ends the book with a more general study of gender reassignment and intersexed individuals. As with any minority, there are activist individuals speaking out against cases such as the one in this book, and he presents their viewpoint in a fair manner. Treatment options are slowly moving away from infant surgical reconstruction to raising the child in a specific gender, but leaving the surgery decisions to the individual, once he/she is old enough to understand and determine his/her gender identity. While the family will face difficulties with this course of action, it seems to me that less permanent damage is done to the child this way. Recommended to anyone interested in gender identity or in biographies of people who successfully face incredible challenges. ------* My (rather skimpy) notes refer to him at one point as "a fucking nutcase". However, my personal history may be coloring my impressions a bit.
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Reviews
Chin
During the time of 1965, Ron and Janet Reimer, a young Canadian couple, gave birth to two healthy boy twins. Once Bruce and Brian were about eight months old, the Reimers took them in to the hospital because of difficulties. Baby Bruce Reimer had his penis practically burned off. Then one night in 1967, the Reimers were hopeful when met they Dr. Money, who had success in sex change operations, with new genders. Over a period of time, Bruce turned to Brenda. As an experiment, Money had a focus on the idea that one was raised a boy, the other raised a girl. He planned to scrutinize behavioral differences between the two. The Reimer twins were exactly the guinea pigs or the white laboratory mice being tested to prove his theory as correct. Brenda, however, didn't like dresses or dolls that a typical girl was expected to like. But, she wanted to play with trucks, along with her brother. Continued to treat Brenda like a girl, Brenda suffered from emotional and behavioral problems. Money had reported that baby Bruce's gender reassignment was a complete success and that Brenda had grown up as a happy, well-adjusted girl. However, he manipulated Brenda’s response, Money interpreted and assumed Brenda’s response was “girl” to prove his theory. Despite of the sex change, however she still managed to live a healthy, happy life. Colapinto quotes Money’s transcripts in the incident of the interview with Brenda, “I then asked her if she would want to be a boy monkey or a girl monkey. Her reply is audible on the tape, ‘a girl one.’ I inquire as to why…Again, the reply is audible on the tape, “I’m already a girl.’ The pronunciation of girl is as if it were spelled g-r-i-r-l.”(Colapinto 103). At the time, David himself said, reflecting on this issue, that he had said gorilla instead of girl. Money didn’t go any further than girl because it was what he wanted to prove all along. Money created bias to fit his interpretation of his work. In the psychological perspective; traits and characteristics that we associate with gender were entirely incorrect based upon Money’s interpretation of his experiment with Brenda Reimer. Money set as the example that these trait stereotypes are not trustworthy. It was not until Milton Diamond, a biologist, found flaws within Money’s work on gender differences. Money’s data of Brenda Reimer were being misused. If Brenda would to be in my high school class, depending on her actions, I would want to get to know her a little. Because I would want to treat someone they way they would treat me. We are not judging her by appearance for what she is.
Sarah
This was a powerful and disturbing book about a ruthless scientist (who I believe was a sociopath as well as latent pedophile) who advised a young and impressionable couple to raise one of their twin sons as a girl after a botched circumcision damaged his penis. "Brenda" as she was called, suffered immeasurably, and so did the whole family. The scientist had something to prove – his pet theory that genetics has nothing to do with what makes us male or female, that it is all a product of how e ar
Kelly H. (Maybedog)
It is not often I can say a book turned my world view on edge but this one did. This is the story of a boy, David, who, because of a surgical accident as an infant, lost his penis and was raised a girl until he was 13 or 14. The gender reassignment never worked on him: he was always aggressive, butch, eschewed "feminine" things, etc. He never felt like a girl and when he finally found out the truth, he felt like everything finally made sense. The book is well written and very interesting. It doesn't just focus on his life but spends quite a bit of time talking about gender reassignment research, the lives and opinions of intersex (hermaphrodite) people who were raised as a different gender than they ended up adopting, the politics involved with gender reassignment at the time of this incident, and biological theories of gender. The author appears to try to be objective but the horror of what this boy went through is so pronounced, it's hard for Colapinto to remain neutral. He very much makes the psychiatrist, John Money, who initially recommended the gender reassignment into Dr. Evil and, if the text is correct, it certainly is good and just that he does. If everything in the book is true, I don't know why Money isn't in jail for child endangerment and pedophilia.So why did this book set my worldview asunder? Because I was raised to believe that I am more than my genitalia, that I am capable of doing and being anything I want to be. Just because I'm female doesn't mean that I will like makeup or dresses. Just because someone is male doesn't mean they will be aggressive and like sports. I grew up believing that the only differences between boys and girls was a matter of size, musculature and genitalia. But this book talked about the research that shows that just small amounts of testosterone introduced into the uterus during pregnancy can make a girl much more aggressive, masculine and even gay. This boy always felt wrong, never felt like a girl, even though he was told he was one. I've always felt like a girl, even when I hated wearing dresses. I hate makeup and have never had any desire to join a sorority or be like Barbie. But I am also not violent or aggressive in any way. And I am bisexual. So what makes a woman a woman and a man a man? It's more than muscles and it's more than genitalia. But it's apparently at least partially rooted in biology and genetics. So I am propelled to do more reading in this area, especially on the subject of transexuals and intersexuals. It's definitely food for thought.
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