As Nature Made Him

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Ronna Pearson Sociology 3337-70 July 12, 2012 As Nature Made Him The boy who was raised as a girl John Colapinto In 1967, after a baby boy -- one of a set of identical twins -- suffered a botched circumcision, a radical treatment option was agreed to by his desperate and grieving family. Encouraged by renowned medical psychologist Dr. John Money, an expert in the field of gender identity and sexual reassignment, the anonymous child was surgically altered to live life as a girl. The case would prove to be precedent-setting, becoming "proof" for the feminist movement that gender gap was purely a result of cultural conditioning. But all was not as it seemed. Initially proclaimed a resounding success, the devastating psychological cost of the procedure has only recently become known. Now living as an adult male, married and with a family of his own, this patient has granted John Colapinto unprecedented access to his story. As Nature Made Him is at once a fascinating exploration of the elusive nature of sexual identity and an examination of the ever-intensifying struggle between what medical science can do and what doctors should do. It is also a story of courage and survival that sheds light on the murkiest areas human sexuality. (Amazon.com)

Note to reader: David Reimer was born as Bruce Reimer, twin to Brian Reimer, on August 22, 1965. After his accident on April 27, 1966 and then his surgical castration on July 3, 1967, Bruce was renamed Brenda Lee Reimer. Later after finding out the truth of his birth and life, Brenda decided to transition back to male and on his fifteenth birthday in 1980 he renamed himself David, taken from the story of David and Goliath in the Bible. For the sake of this paper I will only use the name David, to reflect who he always thought he was to be.

John Colapinto chronicles the heart rending story of David Reimer, born male only to be raised as a female, in his book As Nature Made Him. This true story stands as a testament to how powerful ideologies can influence and direct the scientific process. Throughout the book we recognize how Dr. John Money's portrayal of the “John/Joan” case, as it came to be known, contrasted drastically to the actual experience of David, as Brenda. This contradiction between the doctors’ perception of the situation and the suffering of David and his family drives the book to present a compelling story that strikes to the heart of the nature versus nurture debate. At the heart of each experience we can observe how beliefs and theories of childhood development drove the actions of John Money, and could be used to describe David's own experience. The nature versus nurture clash in David's story can be analyzed and understood through three prominent theories. First we can examine the influence that Sigmund Freud had on the prevailing attitudes at the time of David's birth. This aids us in our comprehension of how and why a medical and scientific community would consider an attempt to reassign gender. With the belief that gender was learned, Dr. 1

John Money embarked on an enterprise to prove the power of nurturance in the development of gender identity. Dr. John Money's theory, that gender was learned, resides in the essence of Social Learning Theory. It is important to understand the strong social learning influence in order to discern how doctors, surgeons and even David's parents willingly participated in such an experiment and how they believed it could succeed. Dr. John Money and his ideas became the Goliath in which David encountered numerous times and in various forms. David's own experience resembled many of the ideas being developed at the time by Jean Piaget. Cognitive Development Theory helps us to provide some explanation for David's own actions and resistance to his socialization as female. David's experience, growing up as Brenda, illustrates how children are active participants in their own socialization and not just blank slates in which we imprint...
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