Case Study Reflection: Bruce/Brenda
Gabriel R. Boynton
September 24, 2012
Gender Identity Disorder (GID) is defined as: “strong and persistent cross gender identification” and “persistent discomfort with his or her sex or sense of inappropriateness in the gender of that sex (DSM-IV)”. Put simply: it is a painful inner conflict between a person’s physical gender, and the gender he or she identifies as. For example, a person who identifies as a boy may actually feel that he is, and act like a girl. In response to those feelings, people with GID may act and/or present themselves as members of the opposite sex. The disorder may affect things such as their choice of sexual partners, mannerisms, behavior, dress, as well as their own self-concept. Males with GID are often characterized by feminine behaviors such as: “wearing his mother’s clothing, displaying a great interest in girls’ toys, playing with girls, and showing distress over having male genitalia (Gooran)”. In contrast biological females with GID will most likely exhibit typical masculine behaviors such as: “rough (masculine) games, refusing to wear dresses, becoming very athletic and strong, and identifying more with her father (Gooren)”. “True cases of GID are fairly rare and occur in only 3 to 5 percent of the U.S. population (Meyer)”. The exact cause of GID is unclear, however “hormones in the womb, genes, and social and environmental factors (such as parenting) may be involved (NLM)”. Observable symptoms almost always present in early childhood. Case History:
David Reimer was born as a twin on August 22, 1969 to Ron and Janet Reimer. His given birth name was Bruce; his twin brother was named Brian. Both babies were born as healthy males. When the twins were about 7 months old, their mother noticed that “the skin on the tip of her sons’ penises was sealing over, making the act of urination particularly painful and difficult. On the advice of their doctor, Janet took the twins to the local hospital to be circumcised to correct the problem (Meyer)”. On April 27, 1966 a urologist performed the circumcision operation using the unconventional method of cauterization. “The procedure did not go as doctors had planned, and Bruce’s penis was burned beyond surgical repair. The doctors chose not to operate on Brian, who’s phimosis soon cleared without surgical intervention (CBS)”. So botched was the surgical procedure that the sex organ resembled a burned piece of flesh, rendering it useless as well as lifeless. “Eventually Bruce’s penis dried up and flaked away until there was no sign that he had ever had any sort of genital appendage (Meyer)”.The original plan by doctors was to construct an artificial penis for Bruce-a procedure called a “phallic reconstruction” or “phalloplasty”. This reconstructed organ would only serve as a urine conductor, and never be capable of sexual function. Concerned about their sons prospects for future happiness and sexual function without with a penis, Ron and Janet agreed to meet with John Money M.D., at John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore to discuss any and all options. Dr. Money suggested that Bruce be raised as though he had been born a female. “Won over by Dr. Money’s reputation, confidence, and charm the Reimers decided to follow his advice and raise their biological son Bruce- as their daughter, Brenda (Meyer)”. At the age of 22 months old, an orchiectomy was performed to remove Bruce’s’ testis. From that point on the main focus of the Reimer’s life was to try to raise Brenda as a girl. “ She was clothed in dresses, given dolls and other feminine toys to play with, grew her hair long, and was encouraged to spend time and bond with her mother and play with other little girls at school (Meyer)”. This situation, however tragic… seemed to make for a perfect case study. “What does gender mean if one male twin can be raised as a boy, while the other male twin becomes...
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