#TBT: As Nature Made Him: A Book Review

I have never done a book review before. So here goes.

This is a book review of a book called “As Nature Made Him; The boy who was raised as a girl”. Its a real-life story about the life of David Reimer. But first, let me copy-paste the info I got from elsewhere.

As Nature Made Him (John Colapinto)

This book is based on The True Story of John/Joan, orginally published in Rolling Stone. The so-called twins, or John/Joan case, is one of the most famous in modern medicine and the social sciences, cited repeatedly over the past thirty years as proof that our sense of being male or female is not inborn but primarily the result of how we are raised.The case set the precedent for sex reassignment as standard treatment for thousands of intersex children every year. But now David Reimer, the subject of this misguided experiment, has come forward to tell how it was a failure from the outset. Read chapter excerpt at MSNBC.

As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl by John Colapinto, HarperCollins (2000). (Amazon.com)

David Reimer (August 22, 1965 as Bruce Reimer – May 5, 2004) was a Canadian man who was born as a healthy male, but was sexually reassigned and raised as female after his penis was accidentally destroyed during circumcision. PsychologistJohn Money oversaw the case and reported the reassignment as successful, and as evidence that gender identity is primarily learned. Academic sexologist Milton Diamond later reported that Reimer never identified as female, and that he began living as male at age 15. Reimer later went public with his story to discourage similar medical practices. Due to years of severe depression, financial instability, and a dissolving marriage, he committed suicide. (Read more thanks to Wikipedia)

My 2 cents:

He was born Bruce and was twin brother to Brian. In the family’s culture, circumcising children at a tender age was the norm. So the two were circumcised. Bruce was the first of the two to be circumcised. The doctors used a new method to circumcise him. That method went terribly wrong and Bruce’s penis was destroyed. Actually it was burnt! They called it a botched circumcision. Bruce now only had a portion of his penis and bits of the scrotum. A doctor called John Money who was the pioneer in the sexuality of children advised them that, in keeping with his beliefs of the fact that nurture trumps nature, they should reassign the child to female as he would not have a normal life as a male without a penis. This was also concluded due to the fact that, in the medical world, it is said that its easier to dig a hole than to build a pole.

Growing up, Bruce, now Brenda, had a terrible child hood. It was clear from an early age that the reassignment failed miserably and that Brenda’s manly instincts took control over what she was being told to behave like; like a girl. Anything to convince her that she was a girl and girls behaved in a certain manner was futile. She was stronger than her brother Brian, she fought with boys in school and was even nicknamed “tom-boy” in school. She always had a ‘rough look’ and demeanour.

When Brenda reach pre-pubescent age, she was required to begin hormone replacement therapy in order to begin feminizing her body and avert any possible masculinization. She refused incessantly. By this age she had been through several psychiatrist who all had one goal in mind: to nurture her into a proper girl, in accordance to John Money’s instructions and belief.

Another doctor on the other side of the country had been challenging Dr. Money’s beliefs about nurture over nature and he was of the contrary opinion. His name was Dr. Milton Diamond. Dr. Diamond believed that nature tramped nurture every time and that there was no way a normal baby boy could be ‘nurtured’ into a girl. He believed that ones true sense of being either male or female (or neither or both) was intrinsically hard wired into their brain.

After wars between doctors, psychiatrists and her parents, Brenda at age 14 grew tired of living a lie and made the switch from Brenda to David. He picked the name because of the bible character’s ability to withstand magnanimous trials and tribulations. He went ahead to join high school and was a much happier kid than ever before.

After spending almost half his life living a lie, David Reimer managed to get a wife and children. In the book, he portrays himself as a happier man. His message is clear. One cannot ‘make’ a child to either male or female. Its the child that knows themselves. For thirty years, the medical fraternity had been getting it wrong. Children born with ambiguous genitalia or boys who suffered botched circumcisions were being reassigned to girl hood and hence most of them were being thrown into pits of hell!

I loved this book. It was the first I had read in a long long time. I was completely moved by it and I absolutely recommend it where you can find it.


This #TBT is from my old old ooold blog Me I Think… and I will be posting an old post every Thursday 🙂


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