he/she

Highly recommended: John Colapinto’s As Nature Made Him. The book tells the story of a Canadian man named David Reimer, who was born a biological boy but was raised as a girl (named Brenda) after a botched circumcision destroyed his penis. For years the medical community, feminists, and the psychiatrist responsible for the sex-reassignment decision touted Reimer as the ultimate triumph of nurture over nature, living proof that gender identity could be created solely through upbringing. But Colapinto argues, with convincing proof, that Reimer never thought of himself as a girl. Colapinto describes the constant struggles David and his family experienced with shocking detail. David, as Brenda, was ceaselessly teased by his schoolmates for acting like a boy, while his parents and relatives just as ceaselessly insisted that he behave like a girl. The psychiatrist persistently questioned him on his sexuality, even going as far as showing him porn and making him and his twin brother act out sexual positions.

David’s story, as described by Colapinto, is a harrowing one, but at the end of the book things seemed to be looking up for the onetime reluctant girl. David had married a caring woman with three children by previous relationships, he was still on good terms with his parents and brother, and was living a fulfilling life as a man. Sadly, this was not to last. In May of this year, four years after Colapinto’s book was published, David Reimer committed suicide. John Colapinto speaks on Reimer’s action here [link broken], citing several possible motives for the suicide besides just his unusual background.

John Colapinto used to write for Rolling Stone, and his style retains that ease of readability. I began the book last night right before bed, thinking that nonfiction wouldn’t be captivating enough to keep me up. Instead, I stayed up late reading the book through almost to the end. Mostly, though, you should read it because David Reimer’s story deserves to be known. For decades, the “success” of his case provided justification for gender reassignment, and many other children went through similarly anguished upbringings. When it became known that the supposedly well-adjusted Brenda had decided to revert back to her biological gender, acceptance was slow in coming. This book stands as a testament to the importance of questioning supposed truths and the vital need to consider the human aspects to any scientific discovery. I would urge everyone to read this book.

[This post was imported on 4/10/14 from my old blog at satsumabug.livejournal.com.]

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