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Told to Act Like a Girl
May 19, 2004
by Carey Roberts

The death certificate listed suicide as the official cause of death. But the real cause of his demise was a controversial gender experiment led by one of the most influential sex researchers of the 20th century.

Bruce Reimer was born in 1965 to a blue-collar family in Winnipeg, Canada. Eight months later, he was victimized by a botched circumcision, and baby Bruce ended up without his sex organ.

The distraught family eventually contacted John Money, a charismatic psychologist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. Dr. Money was a leading advocate of the idea that sex-role identification is determined by one's environment, not one's genetic make-up.

Money recommended sex re-assignment surgery, a dubious procedure that had never been performed on a boy born with normal genitalia. Bruce would be given a vagina, his name would be changed to Brenda, and he would be raised as a girl. It would be as easy as that.

So one month before his second birthday, little Bruce was wheeled into the operating room as a boy, and came out as a girl.

But back in Winnipeg, Brenda had other plans. When her mom put a dress on her, little Brenda tried to tear it off. Later she informed her startled parents she wanted to become a garbage man when she grew up.

Enrolled in school, she was more competitive than her female classmates. When girls got into fights, they used their open hands. But Brenda used her fists. Then Brenda's girlfriends discovered that she urinated standing up.

Dr. Money was apprised of all this, and more.

But when Money released his book, Man and Woman, Boy and Girl in 1972, he portrayed Brenda's sex-change operation as a resounding success. The book reviewer at the liberal New York Times wrote approvingly: "if you tell a boy he is a girl, and raise him as one, he will want to do feminine things."

Feminists were elated. They needed to prove that women were just as determined as men to ascend the corporate ladder. Women just needed to overcome the oppressive conditioning of patriarchal society. And Money's research was just the ticket.

Meanwhile things in Winnipeg went from bad to worse. When Brenda reached puberty and her voice deepened, the folly of the charade could no longer be denied. About to undergo her annual breast exam one day, Brenda refused to disrobe. When asked by the doctor, "Do you want to be a girl or not?," she defiantly answered "No!"

Brenda's parents knew the time had come to tell her the truth.

Brenda immediately reverted to her male identity. Choosing the name David, he underwent penile reconstructive surgery. In 1990, David put the past behind him when he and Jane Anne Fontane tied the knot.

During all these years, John Money was the toast of the town. He was hailed as the world's leading expert on sex reassignment. Media interviews, professional awards, and NIH grants - all were showered on him. After all, he had proven that gender identity is a product of nurture, not nature.

He just didn't bother to tell anyone that Brenda was no longer a she.

John Money's world began to collapse in 1997 when a journal article finally revealed the truth of his ill-fated experiment. Money could only sputter, "It's part of the anti-feminist movement."

Money's demise was sealed three years later by the book, As Nature Made Him, which revealed the psychologist to be a charlatan, tireless self-promoter, and intellectual fraud.

Two years ago, David's life began to unravel when his brother unexpectedly died. Then he separated from his wife. After 38 years of indignity and torment, David Reimer took his own life on May 4.

The feminist dogma that gender is socially constructed is still widespread in our society. Boys receive constant messages that they should start acting more like girls. The sad tale of David Reimer should make us pause to reconsider our mass experiment in gender re-education.

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