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Circumcision Damage Leads to More Tragedy

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Published on Feb 2, 2009

David Reimer (August 22, 1965 as Bruce Reimer May 4, 2004) was a Canadian man who was born as a healthy boy, but was sexually reassigned and raised as female after his penis was accidentally destroyed during circumcision. Psychologist John Money oversaw the case and reported the reassignment as successful, as evidence that gender identity is primarily learned. Milton Diamond later reported that Reimer never identified as female, and that he began living as male at age 14. Reimer later went public with his story to discourage similar medical practices.

More: http://www.reason.com/news/show/33586...

Reimer's parents, concerned about his prospects for future happiness and sexual function without a penis, took him to Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Baltimore to see John Money, a psychologist who was developing a reputation as a pioneer in the field of sexual development and gender identity, based on his work with intersex patients. Money was a prominent proponent of the theory that gender identity developed primarily as a result of social learning from early childhood and could be changed with the appropriate behavioral interventions. The Reimers had seen Money being interviewed on the Canadian news program This Hour Has Seven Days, where he discussed his theories about gender. He, and other physicians working with young children born with abnormal genitalia, believed that a penis could not be replaced but that a functional vagina could be constructed surgically, and that Reimer would be more likely to achieve successful, functional sexual maturation as a girl than as a boy.

They persuaded his parents that sex reassignment would be in Reimer's best interest, and, at the age of 22 months, surgery was performed to remove his testes. He was reassigned to be raised as a female and given the name 'Brenda'. Psychological support for the reassignment and surgery was provided by John Money, who continued to see Reimer for years, both for treatment and to assess the outcome. This reassignment was considered an especially valid test case of the social learning concept of gender identity for two reasons. First, Reimer had a twin brother, Brian Reimer, who made an ideal control since the two not only shared genes and family environments, but they had shared the intrauterine environment as well. Second, this was reputed to be the first reassignment and reconstruction performed on a male infant who had no abnormality of prenatal or early postnatal sexual differentiation.

For several years, Money reported on Reimer's progress as the "John/Joan case", describing apparently successful female gender development, and using this case to support the feasibility of sex reassignment and surgical reconstruction even in non-intersex cases. Money wrote: "The child's behavior is so clearly that of an active little girl and so different from the boyish ways of her twin brother." Estrogen was given to Reimer when he reached adolescence to induce breast development. However, Reimer had experienced the visits to Baltimore as traumatic rather than therapeutic, and when Dr. Money started pressuring the family to bring him in for surgery during which a vagina would be created, the family discontinued the follow-up visits. John Money published nothing further about the case to suggest that the reassignment had not been successful.

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