New York: HarperCollins, 2002
This would qualify as one of the saddest, most appalling stories I have ever come across concerning the whole issue of transgenderism. It tells of twin boy, Bruce Reimer, who was born along with his brother Brian on 22 August 1965 in Winnipeg. Due to some troubles in passing urine, it was decided to circumcise both boys, at the age of about eight months. The disastrous operation took place on 27 April 1966 at St Boniface Hospital, but only Bruce was actually circumcised – or mutilated, as it turned out. The distraught parents, Ron and Janet Reimer, made their first trip to Johns Hopkins University in early 1967, and on 3 July 1967 Bruce was operated on, and supposedly transformed into Brenda.
The man behind this so-called solution was Dr John Money who as the medical psychologist who oversaw the sex change wrote it up as an outstanding success. It was nothing of the kind. Brenda lived through a childhood beset by what he called ‘brainwashing’ and ‘torture’ (pp.xii-xiii). Finally, on 14 March 1980, Ron told Brenda the truth about her birth and subsequent upbringing. A week after his fifteenth birthday, Bruce/Brenda made his public debut as a male, renamed David, at a family wedding. Life did not suddenly become straightforward after that, but on 22 September 1990 David Peter Reimer married Jane Anne Fontane. The book thus finishes on a happier note than it started, but it is not quite a straightforward story of Christian truth triumphing over humanist delusion. None of the Reimers give any indication of being a Christian, or even being interested in becoming one.
Some obvious lessons can be drawn, but let us restrict ourselves to three:
1. Expert advice may have a foundation in wickedness.
There is no way to sugar-coat this. John Money was no objective scientist. He was a decided opponent of the Christian faith, one who endorsed practices such open marriage, nudism, and bisexual group sex. In his view, sexual relation were to be casual and eclectic – friendly, not permanent. His language was deliberately coarse, and he publicly espoused paedophilia (pp.33-34, 286). In April 1980 he explained to Time magazine: ‘A childhood sexual experience such as being the partner of a relative or of an older person, need not necessarily affect the child adversely’ (pp.33-34). He defended the morality of a ‘mutual’ relationship between an eleven-year old boy and a sixty-year old man (p.34).
As a highly respected psychologist, Money showed pornography to children, and demanded that they see each other naked and inspect each other’s genitals (pp.103-104). This was done without the parents’ knowledge. When the twins turned six, Money forced them to engage in simulated sex (p.105). His ‘enlightened’ view was that ‘The only thing wrong about these activities is not to enjoy them.’ (p.105) The twins, however, did not enjoy this ‘therapy’ at all.
Occasionally, Money would let his guard down. Before the media he could be calm and judicious; before his colleagues he was renowned for his angry, even violent, responses to anyone who challenged his views (p.44).
2. Experts can be dangerously wrong.
Not surprisingly, Money wrote his doctorate on hermaphroditism. He believed that newborns were total psychosexual blank slates (p.39) – i.e. nurture triumphs completely over nature. The National Institutes of Health gave him generous grants, and in 1966 he was awarded the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Medal ‘for contributions to the study of the psychological development of children’ (p.41).
In growing up as a manufactured girl, Brenda was more than a tomboy. In fact, Brian remembered that there was nothing feminine about Brenda (pp.68-69). Money never faced reality, and only conceded that Brenda displayed ‘tomboyish traits’ (p.82). But Brenda even attempted to urinate like a male. The feminist, Kate Millet, had asserted that the differences between men and women were not so much biological as the result of societal expectations and prejudices. Money did his best to publicise a similar version of events, and academia and the media were willing accomplices (pp.84-85). On television, including on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Money extolled the benefits of childhood sexual activity (pp.108-110). He cited what he claimed were the practices of the Yolngu people in northern Australia as evidence – an indication that Money and reality were not on speaking terms.
At standing room only lectures, Money told medical students at Winnipeg that group sex was healthy, incest ought not to be criminal, and mothers were often happy when a stepfather slept with his stepdaughter (p.184). There were suitable slides which accompanied this desensitizing program.
3. Interference can be perilous.
Money was oblivious to the suffering of the Reimers. Family relations became difficult, and Ron decided to have as little contact with his parents (Brenda’s grandparents) as possible (p.120). The other twin, Brian, felt neglected as Brenda absorbed all of the parents’ energies. Yet Ron knew that from about the time that Brenda was seven, the whole experiment was not working (p.120). In 1975 the family moved from Winnipeg to British Columbia. At the same time Money claimed that Brenda was ‘sailing contentedly through childhood as a genuine girl’ (p.130). For encouragement, she was introduced to a transexual who was obviously a man dressed up as a woman. All this did was alarm Brenda, to the point of threats of suicide (pp.164-167).
When Brenda was operated upon to become David, that was not the end of his woes. He became so bitter that he came close to gunning down the doctor who had performed the original operation that was meant to be a circumcision (pp.217-218). The thought of sexual relations with a female also made him suicidal (p.222). Meanwhile, Money continued to maintain that the whole operation had been a wonderful success when to those involved, it had been a lamentable failure (pp.240-241).
One of the most moving comments comes near the end of the book when David laments: ‘I never had any kind of a childhood’ (p.315). The result is a raw and appallingly sad story of what happens when social engineers take over society. The present fad for transgenderism and the like has a long and ignoble history. Since the book was published, and since I first reviewed it, I have learned that David, struggling in his home and with his marriage, committed suicide. This is a story of grief upon grief. Nature takes a terrible revenge when she is defied. More accurately, God is not to be mocked.