The discussion of gender roles and their importance in our lives and the lives of others has become a prevalent topic of discussion today.

However, gender relates to biological sex, and the difference between them is somewhat recent. It was coined in the 1950s in a book by John Money, a sexologist and psychologist.

He held a theory that gender identity, the way people identify themselves in a spectrum between man and woman, is learned.

His most famous, or infamous, study came from the experiments performed on David Reimer, whose birth name was Bruce, and whose name after that was Brenda.

David Reimer remains a divisive human topic of discussion, as his entire life was turned into an experiment for the sake of psychological science.

The result of the investigation has also had divisive conclusions, as regardless of how anyone gauges the idea of success can be influenced on whether or not his death impacted the study he was part of, especially concerning why he chose to kill himself.


10 /10 Born Bruce

David was once born Bruce, the twin sibling of Brian to Ron and Janet Reimer in 1965 in Winnipeg, Canada. He was a perfectly ordinary and healthy baby boy up until an accident occurred.

While performing a circumcision, a doctor used a different tool than average and accidentally removed the entire penis from Bruce’s body.

His parents were shocked and didn’t know what to do, but they had to make a fast decision before the process completely scarred and disfigured their still infant son for life.


9 /10 Mr. Money

That was when the family discovered Dr. John Money. The latter at the time was enjoying the success of his scholarly works, which made him one of the world’s leading experts on sex and gender identity and the links to medical conditions.

They saw him talking on TV and thought he would know what to do, so they went to the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore to see him.


8 /10 Raised Brenda

Money’s idea was that gender identity, the way people define themselves in a sexual sense as a man or a woman, is not determined solely by how one is born but, more importantly, how they were raised.

Fearing that the lack of a penis would critically endanger Bruce’s ability to be seen as a “man,” he suggested undergoing surgery to turn his broken male genitalia into a false female set of genitals instead and raise him as a girl.


7 /10 Assignment Complete

Bruce underwent surgery, just under two years old, and emerged as Brenda. Money stuck around and took an interest in the case and offered his assistance to the couple to help guide the proper raising of this most extreme case.

The couple allowed it, seeing no harm in letting a professional psychologist help their child grow the way he thought he, or she, should.


6 /10 Sex Practices

David later recounted his memories of that time when he was Brenda. Money made Brenda and Brian assume sexual positions for “practice” to assert Brian as the physical “top” and Brenda as the sexual “bottom.”

He also made them disrobe and inspect one another’s genitals while he watched and took photographs. This was all part of his theory and method but was disturbing nonetheless.

5 /10 Cavewoman

David attended the same public school as his brother and was harassed and bullied for his appearance.

Despite spending his entire childhood dressing and acting like a girl, in addition to being supplemented with estrogen to help develop more feminine characteristics, his student peers dismissed all notion of him being a girl.

Or at least they called him an ugly one, calling him “cavewoman.” He became suicidal at the age of 13, and his parents told him the truth about his life when he was 14. He decided to leave public school after that.

4 /10 Experiment Failed

The theory of nurture versus nature was declared a success for many, many years even though David, who took that name when he was 14, never identified as the girl he was raised to be.

He immediately underwent several procedures to reverse the changes to his body. He also learned that his parents lied to the lab staff about the procedure’s success, making it a failure in reporting as well.

Despite that, Money declared it a success earlier on, noting that there was no way anyone would tell that Brenda was initially a boy with how she acted.


3 /10 Forced To Live

After reassigning himself through surgeries and therapy, David attempted to go on to live everyday life.

He worked at a slaughterhouse as a young adult and went on to do some odd jobs before finding marriage with Jane Fontane at the age of 25.

Having no working genitals, they adopted three children together. He made his case known through academic sexologist Milton Diamond so that no future children would endure the same fate he did.

2 /10 Chose To Die

In 2002, Brian died from an overdose of antidepressants after suffering from schizophrenia that he developed from a young age.

David was dealing with unemployment and problems of his own at the time. Two years later, his wife Jane wanted to separate from him for reasons unknown.

Two days later, David drove around town in Winnipeg before stopping in a parking lot to kill himself with a shotgun to the head.


1 /10 Scientific Conclusion

David’s case was a landmark for the development and further understanding of intersex and transsexual conditions.

On the one hand, the early results of child-rearing and psychological manipulation through “sex play” made it seem like Brenda was accepting her role as a girl.

But that all fell apart once adolescence began, and David revealed he never once thought of himself as a girl despite all the work done to make that so.

John Money is credited as the one who coined the modern phrase of “gender identity,” but his methods to determine it were inhumane at worst and dubious at best. The conversation continues today with no clear answers.

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