Today David Reimer would be 50 years old. He would be at the peak of his career, perhaps with a couple of teenage kids, whom he could look forward to sending off to begin their own lives, and could look forward to retirement, becoming a grandfather, and enjoying the life he built for himself. Only David Reimer is dead, because of an evil sexual experiment that was performed on him years ago.
Crime 1: Male Genital Mutilation
David (originally named Bruce) and his twin brother Brian were born in 1965 in Winnipeg, Canada. His parents, two farm kids barely out of their teens, were concerned about how the boys were urinating, and they were referred for circumcision at 7 months.
The twins were misdiagnosed with phimosis, a failure of the foreskin to fully retract. However, this is perfectly normal for infants, and the foreskin often does not fully retract until age 10. The doctor performing the male genital mutilation experienced a malfunction in his equipment, and David’s penis was almost completely burned off. They left the hospital. David’s brother Brian was not circumcised, and his phimosis naturally resolved itself.
Crime 2: Sexual Experimentation
The parents, deeply concerned about the trauma and pain this would cause David, traveled to Western medicine’s premiere institution: Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, where they met with Dr. John Money, a pediatrician and psychologist (I would also credit him as having one of the largest effects in the field of linguistics of anyone in the last century).
Dr. Money had begun working at Johns Hopkins in 1951 and opened a groundbreaking clinic there—the Johns Hopkins Gender Identity Clinic, in 1965, around the time of David’s birth. The parents had seen Money on TV talking about new treatments for people with sexual disorders.
Money had a quite extreme suggestion for David’s parents. He told them they should surgically remove what remained of David’s penis and raise him as if he were a girl. Money theorized that sexuality was primarily caused by social learning from early childhood, and that it would be in David’s best interest to simply be raised as a woman, since penile surgery at the time was very limited.
Money was an expert in hermaphrodites (now called intersex), people born with multiple or mismatched sexual organs, and it was far easier to create a vagina for them than a penis, so this is what he recommended for David.
A Brief Bio Of Dr. John Money
Money was born in New Zealand, moving to the USA to earn a PhD at Harvard in 1952, after writing a dissertation on hermaphrodites (Hermaphroditism: An Inquiry into the Nature of a Human Paradox). Money was married briefly in the 1950s, but quickly divorced and would never marry again.
He is almost fully responsible for modern day usage of the word “gender” to refer to sexuality. He focused on abnormally developed sex organs and had a special interest in hermaphrodites. He theorized that gender was a learned trait, of which having a penis or vagina was only one of many factors. In addition to the typical factors of chromosomes, type of genitalia, presence of sex hormones, etc., Money theorized there was an additional factor that decided one’s sex: “Gender role and orientation as male or female, established while growing up.”
At the time, the word gender was not used to refer to human sexuality, and Money explained gender role as:
all those things that a person says or does to disclose himself or herself as having the status of boy or man, girl or woman, respectively. It includes, but is not restricted to sexuality in the sense of eroticism. Gender role is appraised in relation to the following: general mannerisms, deportment and demeanor; play preferences and recreational interests; spontaneous topics of talk in unprompted conversation and casual comment; content of dreams, daydreams and fantasies; replies to oblique inquiries and projective tests; evidence of erotic practices, and, finally, the person’s own replies to direct inquiry.
For Dr. Money, gender included not only a man-woman decision, but also one’s behavior and attitude that went beyond biology. No longer was a boy who picked up a doll just being curious, expressing interest in the human body, or merely picking up a toy he didn’t understand the sexual and social ramifications of.
No, according to Money, this boy was expressing his feminine side. The John Hopkins Gender Identity Clinic was the first attempt at considering that sex was something that humans had control over.
The Power Of Language
Language is incredibly powerful. As is often said, one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, and the words used to describe a person, idea, or event, strongly shape how that person or idea is seen by society. Dr. Money has altered the American language more than perhaps anyone else in the latter half of the 20th century. Among his successes:
- Advocating the “nurture” in the nature versus nurture argument regarding sexuality
- Creating the word “gender” and making it something fluid and controllable
- Changing “sexual perversions” to ‘sexual paraphilias”
- Changing “sexual preference” to ‘sexual orientation”
- Stated there were two kinds of pedophilia – one based on love and another on harm
- Suggested the name “fuckology” for the scientific study of having sex (I actually like this one)
- Published Gay, Straight, and In-Between: The Sexology of Erotic Orientation
- Changed the discussion on intersex, trans-sex, and sexual psychology from helping those facing horrible problems such as workplace accidents, genetic defects, and deformities to a discussion on how to help narcissists like Bruce Jenner fulfill their dream of becoming a princess.
Some of these are difficult to accept even today. For example, Money said there was “affectional pedophilia” and “sadistic pedophilia” and that “If I were to see the case of a boy aged 10 or 11 who’s intensely erotically attracted towards a man in his twenties or thirties, if the relationship is totally mutual, and the bonding is genuinely totally mutual… then I would not call it pathological in any way.”
Dr. Money saw a great opportunity to test out his theories on the infant David. Not only would Money have a perfect experiment, an infant not even at his first birthday who had not developed any sexuality yet, but his twin brother provided the perfect control subject. Money insisted that he would personally oversee David’s treatment and counsel and monitor him.
At age 22 months, David’s remnant of a penis was surgically castrated, and he was given the name Brenda, and regularly saw Dr. Money, often along with his twin brother Brian, for around 10 years. Keep in mind at all times during treatment the children were prepubescent. Some of the treatment involved David getting on the ground on all fours while his twin brother Brian placed his crotch up against David’s ass and simulated fucking him by making thrusting motions.
Money would also force David to lay down and spread his legs while Brian climbed on top of him. He would make the two twins take off all their clothes and inspect each others genitals, and Money photographed them naked. He showed David graphic photographs of a seven year old girl giving birth.
Money proclaimed his theory was proven correctly, that Brenda acted and behaved as a girl, and that behavior could indeed overcome biology and determine sex. He reported on the case (anonymously, to protect David’s secret) as a success, and said “the child’s behavior is so clearly that of an active little girl and so different from the boyish ways of her twin brother.”
Money’s writings on gender, his new vocabulary, and his theories on nature vs. nurture were celebrated and adopted. He received national awards and honorary degrees, was featured in Time magazine, and included a chapter on the Reimer twins in one of his textbooks.
But the truth was a completely different story. As Money started pressuring the parents around age 10 to have an operation to surgically create a vagina, the parents balked and slowly the truth emerged.
The Reality: You Can’t Alter Sex
David (living as Brenda) was terrified of the visits to Dr. Money. As early as a few months after the initial operation, at age 2, Brenda would angrily tear off her dress, refused to play with dolls, would beat up her twin brother and steal his toy cars and guns. She complained to her teachers and parents that she felt like a boy. She loved running and climbing and fighting and hated playing with dolls. She had no friends, and was constantly teased and ridiculed by classmates for her masculine looks and interests.
Both twins complained they were sexually abused during their treatment sessions with Money. Brenda had to pee through a small hole surgeons had created in her abdomen. She was taking female hormones, but they only caused some physical changes and did not make her feel female.
The mother, overcome with guilt and the pain of hiding this secret, attempted suicide. The father became a serious alcoholic and rarely spoke. Twin brother Brian began using drugs and stealing things. At age 13, Brenda was experiencing suicidal depression, and said she would commit suicide if forced to return to Dr. Money’s office again.
At age 14, a local psychiatrist convinced the parents they had to tell Brenda the truth. That he was really a man. He decided to take the name David. David later recounted: “Suddenly it all made sense why I felt the way I did. I wasn’t some sort of weirdo. I wasn’t crazy.”
It was a long and difficult road to reclaim his masculinity. David had a double mastectomy to remove his breasts grown by the estrogen. He took regular testosterone injections, and had multiple operations to create an artificial penis. David was relieved to hear the truth, but incredibly hurt and damaged by years of experimentation, and depression at the thought that he would never find a woman. He attempted suicide twice in his early 20s
Unbelievably, Dr Money was still taking credit for the experiment as a success. Money’s ideas were just what feminists were looking for–proof that there is no biological reason for boys to be better at math, more productive, or earn more than a woman, and that nurture, not nature, determines whether we feel masculine or feminine.
David’s brother Brian, traumatized by this lie and the sick things he was forced to do to his twin brother, became extremely angry, began using drugs, developed schizophrenia, had two failed marriages and died of an overdose of antidepressants in 2002 at the age of 36.
David, around the age of 30, met Dr. Milton Diamond, a psychologist and critic of Money’s who had followed the case closely in journals until Money mysteriously stopped publishing updates when Brenda became David. Dr. Diamond revealed everything to David, including how Money used the supposed success of David’s operation to legitimize widespread infant sex changes in cases of genital injury. David was horrified and outraged.
In 1997 Dr. Diamond wrote a paper shattering Money’s false story which received national attention, and David was interviewed for Rolling Stone, and the reporter later published a biography of his life “As Nature Made Him.”
David found work as a janitor in a slaughterhouse, married a woman at age 25 and became stepfather to her three children, but was chronically depressed, unemployed, angry, filled with thoughts of his brother’s death, and obsessed with his inability to be a real husband and father. Marital problems spiraled, his wife discussed separating, and two days later David took his shotgun, sawed off the barrel in the garage, drove to the parking lot of a nearby grocery store, and blew his brains out at age 38.
In 1979 the Hopkins clinic closed. It had focused mainly on transsexuals, and this was not the direction Johns Hopkins wanted to go. Dr. Money worked the rest of his career at John’s Hopkins, and died peacefully one day before his 85th birthday in 2006.
He continued to receive international awards for many years, most recently in 2003 when New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark opened a John Money Wing at an art gallery.
It is important to know the history behind feminism, gender, and sexual fluidity. It would be nice to just think that Bruce Jenner is an obscure rare nutball, that feminism is mostly about being nice to women, and that old societal rules and norms, especially concerning sexuality, promiscuity, and marriage, are just outdated bad ideas like slavery, leeching, and believing in a flat earth.
But the truth is, the history behind many of these changes is sickeningly evil. I am personally opposed to male genital mutilation, regardless of horrible tragedies like this. If you are not, I encourage you to think really hard about who advocates for continuing it and why. The history of gender fluidity, third wave feminism, nurture overcoming nature sexually, and pedophilia can be traced back to a horrible story about two twin boys, both of whom died after leading miserable, short lives.
Not all the news is bad. Dr. Paul McHugh, former psychiatrist in chief at Johns Hopkins, and its current Distinguished Service Professor of Psychiatry, exclaimed earlier this year that “transgenderism is a mental disorder that merits treatment, and that sex change is biologically impossible.”
He referenced studies that the suicide rate among transgendered surgical patients is 20 times higher than normal people, as well as studies that of children who expressed transgendered feelings, 70% to 80% spontaneously lost those feelings. We should echo and amplify such truths, and support brave men like Dr. McHugh who have the courage to speak up.
The next time you hear someone use the word gender, think of Dr. Money, who is directly responsible for its usage. And think of David Reimer.
A BBC documentary on David Reimer can be viewed here.
Read More: Why Gender Equality Is So Bothersome