Story of Boy Raised a Girl will Break Your Heart

25 08 2015

bruce jenner

Why do people still go around preaching gender neutrality when the man who first came up with it was clearly proven wrong and was also a sick child abuser; and the child, David Reimer, who was the first guinea pig of this novel experiment committed suicide?  Here is his story by John Colapinto that is sure to break your heart:

Brenda-Reimer

Just shy of a month ago, I got a call from David Reimer’s father telling me that David had taken his own life. I was shocked, but I cannot say I was surprised. Anyone familiar with David’s life—as a baby, after a botched circumcision, he underwent an operation to change him from boy to girl—would have understood that the real mystery was how he managed to stay alive for 38 years, given the physical and mental torments he suffered in childhood and that haunted him the rest of his life. I’d argue that a less courageous person than David would have put an end to things long ago.

After David’s suicide, press reports cited an array of reasons for his despair: bad investments, marital problems, his brother’s death two years earlier. Surprisingly little emphasis was given to the extraordinary circumstances of his upbringing. This was unfortunate because to understand David’s suicide, you first need to know his anguished history, which I chronicled in my book As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised As a Girl.

David Reimer was one of the most famous patients in the annals of medicine. Born in 1965 in Winnipeg, he was 8 months old when a doctor used an electrocautery needle, instead of a scalpel, to excise his foreskin during a routine circumcision, burning off his entire penis as a result. David’s parents (farm kids barely out of their teens) were referred to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, home of the world’s leading expert in gender identity, psychologist Dr. John Money, who recommended a surgical sex change, from male to female. David’s parents eventually agreed to the radical procedure, believing Dr. Money’s claims that this was their sole hope for raising a child who could have heterosexual intercourse—albeit as a sterile woman with a synthetic vagina and a body feminized with estrogen supplements.

For Dr. Money, David was the ultimate experiment to prove that nurture, not nature, determines gender identity and sexual orientation—an experiment all the more irresistible because David was an identical twin. His brother, Brian, would provide the perfect matched control, a genetic clone raised as a boy.

David’s infant “sex reassignment” was the first ever conducted on a developmentally normal child. (Money had helped to pioneer the procedure in hermaphrodites.) And according to Money’s published reports through the 1970s, the experiment was a success. The twins were happy in their assigned roles: Brian a rough and tumble boy, his sister Brenda a happy little girl. Money was featured in Time magazine and included a chapter on the twins in his famous textbook Man & Woman, Boy & Girl.

David Reimer

The reality was far more complicated. At age 2, Brenda angrily tore off her dresses. She refused to play with dolls and would beat up her brother and seize his toy cars and guns. In school, she was relentlessly teased for her masculine gait, tastes, and behaviors. She complained to her parents and teachers that she felt like a boy; the adults—on Dr. Money’s strict orders of secrecy—insisted that she was only going through a phase. Meanwhile, Brenda’s guilt-ridden mother attempted suicide; her father lapsed into mute alcoholism; the neglected Brian eventually descended into drug use, pretty crime, and clinical depression.

When Brenda was 14, a local psychiatrist convinced her parents that their daughter must be told the truth. David later said about the revelation: “Suddenly it all made sense why I felt the way I did. I wasn’t some sort of weirdo. I wasn’t crazy.”

David soon embarked on the painful process of converting back to his biological sex. A double mastectomy removed the breasts that had grown as a result of estrogen therapy; multiple operations, involving grafts and plastic prosthesis, created an artificial penis and testicles. Regular testosterone injections masculinized his musculature. Yet David was depressed over what he believed was the impossibility of his ever marrying. He twice attempted suicide in his early 20s.

David did eventually marry a big-hearted woman named Jane, but his dark moods persisted. He was plagued by shaming memories of the frightening annual visits to Dr. Money, who used pictures of naked adults to “reinforce” Brenda’s gender identity and who pressed her to have further surgery on her “vagina.”

When David was almost 30, he met Dr. Milton Diamond, a psychologist at the University of Hawaii and a longtime rival of Dr. Money. A biologist by training, Diamond had always been curious about the fate of the famous twin, especially after Money mysteriously stopped publishing follow-ups in the late 1970s. Through Diamond, David learned that the supposed success of his sex reassignment had been used to legitimize the widespread use of infant sex change in cases of hermaphroditism and genital injury. Outraged, David agreed to participate in a follow-up by Dr. Diamond, whose myth-shattering paper (co-authored by Dr. Keith Sigmundson) was published in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine in March 1997 and was featured on front pages across the globe.

I met David soon after, when he agreed to be interviewed by me for a feature story in Rolling Stone. He subsequently agreed to collaborate with me on a book about his life, As Nature Made Him, published in February 2000. In the course of our interviews, David told me that he could never forget his nightmare childhood, and he sometimes hinted that he was living on borrowed time.

Most suicides, experts say, have multiple motives, which come together in a perfect storm of misery. So it was with David. After his twin Brian died of an overdose of antidepressants in the spring of 2002, David sank into a depression. Though the two had been estranged, David had, in recent months, taken to visiting Brian’s grave, leaving flowers and, at some point prior to his own suicide, a note.

David also had marital difficulties. He was not easy to live with, given his explosive anger, his cyclical depressions, his fears of abandonment—all of which Jane weathered for almost 14 years. But with David spiraling ever deeper into sloth and despair, she told him on the weekend of May 2 that they should separate for a time. David stormed out of the house. Two days later, Jane received a call from the police, saying that they had found David but that he did not want her to know his location. Two hours after that, Jane got another call. This time the police told her that David was dead.

David Reimer before he killed himself

Genetics almost certainly contributed to David’s suicide. His mother has been a clinical depressive all her life; his brother suffered from the same disease. How much of the Reimers’ misery was due to inherited depression, and how much to the nightmare circumstances into which they had been thrown? David’s mutilation and his parents’ guilt were tightly entwined, multiplying the mental anguish to which the family members were already prone.

In some press reports, financial problems were given as the sole motive in David’s suicide. While this is absurdly reductive, it is true that last fall David learned that he was the victim of an alleged con man who had hoodwinked him out of $65,000—a loss that ate at him and no doubt contributed to his despair.

In his final months, David was unemployed—for him, a disastrous circumstance. When I first met him, seven years ago, he was a janitor in a slaughter house—tough, physically demanding work that he loved. But when the plant closed a few years ago, David never found another full-time job. And thanks to me, he didn’t have to. I split all profits from the book with David, 50-50. This brought him a substantial amount of money, as did a subsequent movie deal with Peter Jackson, the director of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. With no compelling financial need to work, David was able to sit around his house and brood—a state of affairs for which I feel some guilt.

In the end, of course, it was what David was inclined to brood about that killed him. David’s blighted childhood was never far from his mind. Just before he died, he talked to his wife about his sexual “inadequacy,” his inability to be a true husband. Jane tried to reassure him. But David was already heading for the door.

On the morning of May 5, he retrieved a shotgun from his home while Jane was at work and took it into the garage. There, with the terrible, methodical fixedness of the suicide, he sawed off the barrel. Then he drove to the nearby parking lot of a grocery store, parked, raised the gun, and, I hope, ended his sufferings forever.

John Colapinto is the author of As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised a Girl. He is a contributing editor at Rolling Stone magazine where his original story about David Reimer won a national magazine award for reporting. His 2001 novel About the Authoris being developed for the screen by Dreamworks.

Story is courtesy of www.slate.com


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14 responses

25 08 2015
Robert Gaines

+Chinwuba Iyizoba Satan, father of all lies. 

25 08 2015
Chinwuba Iyizoba

Again,+Robert Gaines why are text books read by 8yr olds in school, now teaching gender neutrality to kids? What is behind this?Who is behind this confusion of minds of our little one?

25 08 2015
Robert Gaines

+Chinwuba Iyizoba One species can change and it is natural. A sea horse, it can alter itself to keep the species alive. Mankind don’t have that option. 

25 08 2015
Chinwuba Iyizoba

What then is the agenda of the mainstream media propaganda for gender neutrality,+Robert Gaines? Perhaps, the people paying them will know 

25 08 2015
Robert Gaines

+Chinwuba Iyizoba in hospitals when babies are born they go by BOY or GIRL. If they say transsexual, what color clothing down they wear? Do we wait to see how they choose? I saw a boy who wants to look like a girl. I call that confused. The pelvis bone define male and female on a skeleton. 

25 08 2015
Biggsy IsGod

+Robert Gaines

I’ve explained in my statement what a “false transsexual” is.

25 08 2015
Nathaniel Hansen

+Biggsy IsGod confusing topic… I mean they can’t change physically. Neurology aside. If a man wants to be a woman they just can’t, they’ll never have ovories and can’t make babies. It is forever a man body if born one. 

25 08 2015
Chinwuba Iyizoba

I agree with your statement, +Robert Gaines Still the mainstream media would like us swallow falsehood. The recent glamorized media blitz of Bruce Jenner is case in point 

25 08 2015
Biggsy IsGod

Whilst I superficially agree with your statement. People who are true transsexuals, as opposed to those who claim they’re non-gender binary for the attention. Do have a disconnect with their brain & their physiology. They do have bathe brain make up of the gender/sex they identify with.

The evidence within the field of neuroscience that shows this, meets empirical standards.

25 08 2015
Robert Gaines

+Biggsy IsGod True transsexuals? When is there a false one? 

25 08 2015
Nathaniel Hansen

You can’t change what you’re born as no matter how much surgery you get

25 08 2015
Robert Gaines

No, you are born one and nobody changes it. 

25 08 2015
Lisa

What a sad story. Lessons for parents with deformities either manmade or natural: Do not be anxious to hide such deformities from friends and neighbor because oftentimes it may lead you to desperate measure and make you susceptible to falling into the hand of tricksters like Dr. Mooney.

25 08 2015
Betty Isa

You are right Lisa, it is best to admit and accept your child’s imperfection. Overcoming the feeling of shame puts you in a better position to truly help the child in the way the child needs best. My heart goes out to the Reimers. Sad

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