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In a sad coda to a story we just discussed on the radio last Saturday, the subject of a socio-medical experiment in the supposed irrelevance of biology in gender has committed suicide at age 38:
David Reimer, a man who was born a boy but raised as a girl in a famous medical experiment, only to reassert his male identity in the last 20 years of his life, died on May 4. He was 38. His family says he committed suicide. ...
After a botched circumcision operation when he was a toddler, David Reimer became the subject of a study that became known as the John/Joan case in the 60's and 70's. His mother said she was still angry with the Baltimore doctor who persuaded her and her husband, Ron, to give female hormones to their son and raise him as a daughter.
After removing his genitalia, the doctors gave David female hormones in order to give him the physical characteristics of a girl, and his parents raised him as such. Sociologists who pushed the notion that gender roles were entirely determined by environment made Reimer their poster child for their arguments. But as Steven Rhoads, the author of Taking Sex Differences Seriously, told us on Saturday, David never felt comfortable at all as a female. David acted out in what we would consider traditionally masculine ways -- rough play, aggression, and refusal to wear female clothing.
John Colapinto wrote more about Reimer's life in As Nature Made Him. Reimer wanted Colapinto's book to speak out against the arrogance of supposed scientists who would use small children as experimental laboratories for their crackpot theories. One review reprinted on Amazon says this about Reimer:
As Brenda makes the decision to live life as a male (at age 14), she takes the name David and begins the process of reversing the effects of estrogen treatments. David's ultimately successful life--a solid marriage, honest and close family relationships, and his bravery in making his childhood public--bring an uplifting end to his story.
Unfortunately, the end turned out a great deal less uplifting than supposed at the publication of Colapinto's book. As Reimer's mother tells the New York Times, her son might still be alive today had it not been for the unimaginable interference and arrogance of the doctors to whom the family turned after the disastrous circumcision. As it stands, Reimer's life and tragic death should serve as a reminder to anyone who uses utopian social ideals to carve up children just to prove a point. Those physicians who participated in this travesty carry the moral guilt of a pain-filled life, a burden all would-be tinpot Gods should consider.Sphere It View blog reactions
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