- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 22, 2004

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

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

The distraught family eventually contacted John Money, a charismatic psychologist at Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Money was a leading advocate of the idea sex-role identification environmentally, not genetically, determined.

Money recommended sex re-assignment surgery, a dubious procedure never before done on a boy born with normal genitalia. Bruce would be given a vagina, his name would become Brenda, he would be raised as a girl — as easy as that.

So a month before his second birthday, little Bruce was wheeled into the operating room as a boy and came out 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; Brenda used her fists. Then Brenda’s girlfriends discovered she urinated standing up.

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

But when Dr. 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 women were just as determined as men to ascend the corporate ladder. Women just needed to overcome the oppressive conditioning of patriarchal society. Dr. 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, Brenda 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 National Institutes of Health grants — all were showered on him. After all, he had proven gender identity is a product of nurture, not nature. He just didn’t bother to tell anyone Brenda no longer was a she.

John Money’s world began to collapse when a 1997 journal article revealed the truth of his ill-fated experiment. Dr. Money could only sputter, “It’s part of the anti-feminist movement.”

Dr. 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 unraveling when his brother unexpectedly died. Then David separated from his wife. After 38 years of indignity and torment, David Reimer took his own life May 4.

The feminist dogma that gender is socially constructed remains widespread in our society. Boys receive constant messages they should act more like girls. David Reimer’s sad story should cause us to reconsider our mass experiment in gender re-education.

CAREY ROBERTS

Mr. Roberts is a writer and media analyst.

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