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As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised…

As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl (P.S.) (edition 2006)

by John Colapinto

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Title:As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl (P.S.)
Authors:John Colapinto
Info:Harper Perennial (2006), Edition: 2, Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:To read

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As Nature Made Him by John Colapinto

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    My Lobotomy by Howard Dully (MyriadBooks)
    MyriadBooks: For adults searching to understand what was done to them as a child.

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'As Nature Made Him' is the horrifying true story of David Reimer, who lost his penis as an infant after a botched circumcision. His parents, only under-educated teenagers at the time, believed in the expertise of John Money at the Johns Hopkins Hospital. Dr. Money told them the best course was to castrate the baby and raise him as a girl, that nurture was more important than nature; gender could be changed with willpower, surgery and hormone treatments. The book recounts Brenda's lonely, mixed-up childhood and the devastating effect it had on the entire family. I was filled with rage at Dr. Money, who only wanted to promote his theories and stroke his own ego, no matter what the cost to patients or their families. This book is doubly devastating after hearing the news that David Reimer (formerly Brenda) had killed himself in May, 2004 at the age of 38 ( )
  memccauley6 | May 3, 2016 |
I read this MANY years ago and found out today that the subject of this book died back in 2004 by his own hand. So sad. This book is a well written account of a doctor's awful idea which we now know ruined the lives of the entire family.
  ER1116 | Jan 13, 2016 |
I feel so sorry for the family involved and especially David. But at the same time I have issues with how this book is written. There is an underlying theme that these events are more tragic because it happened to such a GOOD family. It's tragic regardless of the family's background, beliefs, lifestyle. Over all the book is easy to read in that's it's written in a very straight forward manner, though the subject matter makes the book hard on the emotions. I have Glasgowgal's address and will be mailing the book to her soon. ( )
  pussreboots | Sep 13, 2014 |
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. ( )
  ecw0647 | Sep 30, 2013 |
Colapinto tries not be sensationalistic. Meanwhile, I try to be sympathetic about the medical zeitgeist of 1967 and try not to mind that Dubrovnik is on the Adriatic, not the Aegean (77). Mostly I'm just horrified by circumcision. Maybe intersexuality was only beginning to be studied then but I thought circumcision had long since been debunked.
  ljhliesl | May 21, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 25 (next | show all)
As John Colapinto makes achingly clear in this riveting, cleanly written and brilliantly researched account of a world-famous case, Money's effort to prove the plasticity of human sexual identity by transforming Bruce into Brenda was a cataclysmic failure.
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I have entered on an enterprise which is without precedent, and will have no imitator. I propose to show my fellows a man as nature made him, and this man shall be myself.

--Rousseau Confessions
How could I not be glad to know my birth?

Sophocles, Oedipus Rex
The difficulty is to detach the framework of fact -- of absolute, undeniable fact -- from the embellishments of theorists and reporters. Then, having established ourselves on this sound basis, it is our duty to see what inferences may be drawn and what are the special points upon which the memory turns.

The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes
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On the morning of 27 June, 1997 I paid my first visit to David Reimer's home, a small, nondescript dwelling in a working-class neighborhood of Winnepeg, Manitoba.
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Book description
Eight–month old David Reimer, an identical twin, had his penis accidentally amputated during a botched circumcison attempt in Winnipeg, Canada. At the direction of the famous psychiatrist Dr. John Money of Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, this child’s parents were directed to re-assign David’s sex to a girl and given the suggestion to later make available to him vaginal surgery and hormone treatments to grow breasts. This experiment did not go as planned, but Dr. Money continued to defend his position and influence others in psychiatry to go along with his mistaken ideas about nature versus nurture. At age 14, “Brenda” Reiner decided to once again become a boy.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0060929596, Paperback)

Once you begin reading As Nature Made Him, a mesmerizing story of a medical tragedy and its traumatic results, you absolutely won't want to put it down. Following a botched circumcision, a family is convinced to raise their infant son, Bruce, as a girl. They rename the child Brenda and spend the next 14 years trying to transform him into a her. Brenda's childhood reads as one filled with anxiety and loneliness, and her fear and confusion are present on nearly every page concerning her early childhood. Much of her pain is caused by Dr. Money, who is presented as a villainous medical man attempting to coerce an unwilling child to submit to numerous unpleasant treatments.

Reading over interviews and reports of decisions made by this doctor, it's difficult to contain anger at the widespread results of his insistence that natural-born gender can be altered with little more than willpower and hormone treatments. The attempts of his parents, twin brother, and extended family to assist Brenda to be happily female are touching--the sense is overwhelmingly of a family wanting to do "right" while being terribly mislead as to what "right" is for her. As Brenda makes the decision to live life as a male (at age 14), she takes the name David and begins the process of reversing the effects of estrogen treatments. David's ultimately successful life--a solid marriage, honest and close family relationships, and his bravery in making his childhood public--bring an uplifting end to his story. Equally fascinating is the latest segment of the longtime nature/nurture controversy, and the interviews of various psychological researchers and practitioners form a larger framework around David's struggle to live as the gender he was meant to be. --Jill Lightner

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:57 -0400)

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The true story of a family who spends 14 years trying to raise their son as a girl after his botched circumcision.

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