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Award winning article from 1997 on David Reimer

(61 Posts)
WTFSeriously Sat 18-Apr-20 21:06:30

Tweet from Helen Joyce links to article here

This was an award winning article when posted back in 1997 and is very long but well worth a read to understand the case of David Reimer and how he was basically abused by John Money along with his twin brother as part of his experiment to prove that gender identity could be imposed on an unknowing child simply by early surgical intervention and socialising the child until further surgery & hormone treatment would be necessary to stop natural puberty undoing all the work put into making the theory he had work.

It's a shocking & heartbreaking read, and although I had been aware of the controversy surrounding David Reimer's experiences at the hands of this abusive man, reading this article is well worth reading because most here will recognise some key issues ( not least the screaming matches that ensued by 'experts' after the follow up study "Archives of Adolescent and Pediatric Medicine. Authors Milton Diamond, a biologist at the University of Hawaii, and Keith Sigmundson, a psychiatrist from Victoria, British Columbia" was published in 1997.

Both brothers killed themselves, Brian, in 2002 following an overdose of anti depressants & then David shot himself in 2004 following the breakdown of his marriage. Reading the article, you realise how devastating that event would have been for someone who was effectively written off as being unloveable and incapable of having a family of his own (by a therapist treating him). He'd twice previously tried to kill himself when John Money was losing his grip on him and trying to force further sex reassignment surgery to 'complete' the transition he advocated for him.

OP’s posts: |
nauticant Sat 18-Apr-20 21:38:06

I see Helen Joyce is researching deeply into this. Her book is going to be a blinder.

WTFSeriously Sat 18-Apr-20 21:41:40

I agree. She posted this & I was glued to it til I got to the end which took quite a while. It's a huge part of the history behind the movement we are facing & I hadn't realised quite how significant this case was til I read this. I also can't wait to read her book.

OP’s posts: |
OhHolyJesus Sat 18-Apr-20 21:56:53

As excited as I am to read Helen Joyce's I fear I may have to take regular breaks, I will read this OP but I will have to mentally prepare.

I've heard of the twins and Money before, it's such a harrowing and heartbreaking story.

Goosefoot Sat 18-Apr-20 22:55:59

That's a very interesting article.

I wonder, without that case and it's profile, what would have been the effect on the development of feminist theory about maleness and femaleness?

JellySlice Sun 19-Apr-20 10:02:18

David and Brian would have been a couple of years older than me. I remember learning about them at university, obviously not using these names. We were told that the person was not followed up after 18, because they were now an adult, and, as the reassignment was successful, there was no need for further intrusion into their life.

But we students, mostly in our early 20s, felt that so much had changed in our lives between 18 and now, both sexually and socially, that many of us were very different to how we had been at 18. It didn't make any sense to us that X's reassignment to the opposite sex could be claimed a success without finding out whether he could function as an adult woman.

And that's another thing - we didn't use feminine pronouns when discussing X. Neither staff nor students. We didn't mock. We were appalled at this horrific thing that had happened to him. We had nothing but compassion for him. But we all saw X as a male forced into living as a female.

That only struck me much later. Recently, in fact. Now that we are expected to lie.

What struck me at the time was how the students discussed this. The male students predominantly supported what had been done to David, the female students generally disagreed with it or were neutral. The male attitude was that without a penis you cannot be a man. He had to be changed because otherwise his life would be unbearable. The female attitude was that a woman was not a man without a penis. His privacy could have been protected and his mental health supported, and there would have been no reason for anyone else to know about his injury until reconstructive surgery was available and he was ready for it.

nauticant Sun 19-Apr-20 12:29:54

Anyone interested in where a major strand of gender identity ideology has come from needs to read the article linked to above (repeated here):

Two things leap out. That much of the basis for "changing sex" is made up shit. If unchecked the damage this can do to a family, not just the targeted child.

R0wantrees Sun 19-Apr-20 13:28:14

NYTimes obituary:

John William Money, 84, Sexual Identity Researcher, Dies
By Benedict Carey
July 11, 2006

John William Money, who helped found the field of sexual identity studies, died Friday in Towson, Md. He was 84.
“He was the first scientist to provide a language to describe the psychological dimensions of human sexual identity; no such language had existed before,” said Dr. Kenneth J. Zucker, psychologist in chief at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.

Early in his career, Dr. Money coined the terms “gender identity,” to describe the internal experience of sexuality, and “gender role,” to refer to social expectations of male and female behavior. The two concepts still drive much research into sexual identity.

He was among the first scientists to study the psychological experience of sexual confusion and to grasp possible ways to relieve suffering. He was an early proponent of sex reassignment surgery for men and women who believed that their biologically given sex was at odds with their sexual identity." (continues)

He later went to Harvard for graduate work, and in 1951 arrived at Johns Hopkins, where he spent the rest of his career.

“The forces of antisex cry in moral outrage when confronted with the evidence of sexual disabilities, and blame the new freedom,” he wrote in a 1975 Op-Ed article in The New York Times titled “Recreational — and Procreational — Sex.” (continues)

NY Times
Benefits of Transsexual Surgery Disputed As Leading Hospital Halts the Procedure
By Jane E. Brody
Oct. 2, 1979
AT a time when sex‐change operations are on the increase at major medical centers around the country, Johns Hopkins — the prestigious hospital that started it all — has stopped doing them, using as its justification a study that has been widely attacked by others in the field. The study called into question the benefits of these drastic operations.

The controversy has brought to the surface a growing concern about how to identify transsexuals and select those who are suitable for sex‐change surgery. It has also reopened the possibility that pyschotherapy might play a role in helping many of the thousands of self‐proclaimed transsexuals make a better life adjustment without surgery." (continues)

WrathofFaeKIopp Sun 19-Apr-20 13:44:13

The male attitude was that without a penis you cannot be a man

I find this sentence rather unerving. It often crops up as a passing comment.

In such a statement we have young male adults who seem to believe a man without a penis is not a man?

Its chilling but maybe it is a just a collective show of dominance by young men, not really a true reflection of they actually think.

Women don't seem to think like this yet, their opinions on this are not considered valid.
I dont know why this is.

Goosefoot Sun 19-Apr-20 13:51:06

I think that for a lot of youngish men, having a penis seems pretty central to their maleness. Maybe women don't have an exactly an analogous experience. I think if you asked older men, you'd get a wider range of answers.

R0wantrees Sun 19-Apr-20 13:55:02

The male attitude was that without a penis you cannot be a man

I find this sentence rather unerving. It often crops up as a passing comment.

Its still widespread though isnt it & informs a lot of atitudes towards & of those male TS who have 'sex-change' surgery?

Euphemisms for penis including 'manhood' & 'his sex'

nauticant Sun 19-Apr-20 14:07:50

Look at the first prophet of the gender identity ideology movement and bear in mind that Joan/John and Kevin are young (twin) children:

"Dr. Money would ask me, 'Do you ever dream of having sex with women?' " Kevin recalls. "He'd say, 'Do you ever get an erection?' And the same with Joan. 'Do you think about this? About that?'"

While attempting to probe the twins' sexual psyches, Money also tried his hand at programming Kevin's and Joan's respective sense of themselves as boy and girl. One of his theories of how children form their different "gender schemes" - Money's term - was that they must understand, at an early age, the differences between male and female sex organs. Pornography, he believed, was ideal for this purpose. "Explicit sexual pictures," he wrote in his book Sexual Signatures, "can and should be used as part of a child's sex education"; such pictures, he said, "reinforce his or her own gender identity and gender role."

"He would show us pictures of kids, boys and girls, with no clothes on," Kevin says. John recalls that Dr. Money also showed them pictures of adults engaged in sexual intercourse: "He'd say to us, 'I want to show you pictures of things that moms and dads do.' "

During these visits, the twins discovered that Money had two sides to his personality. "One when mom and dad weren't around," Kevin says, "and another when they were." When their parents were present, they say, Money was avuncular, mild-spoken. But alone with the children, he could be irritable or worse. Especially when they defied him. The children were particularly resistant to Money's request that they remove their clothes and inspect each other's genitals. Though they could not know this, such inspections were central to Money's theory of how children develop a sense of themselves as boy or girl - and thus, in Money's mind, were crucial to the successful outcome of Joan's sex reassignment. As Money stressed in his writings of the period: "The firmest possible foundations for gender schemes are the differences between male and female genitals and reproductive behavior, a foundation our culture strives mightily to withhold from children. All young primates explore their own and each others' genitals . . . and that includes human children everywhere.... The only thing wrong about these activities is not to enjoy them."

If you read the article, you'll see nastier stuff that follows. It's a catalogue of horrible and grotesque child abuse. In the end both John and Kevin committed suicide. I hope, but doubt, that after the story broke (before the article was published) Money was overcome with shame every day for what he did.

Goosefoot Sun 19-Apr-20 14:14:05

What really struck me about Money was how much he was a product of the sexual revolution in his thinking.

R0wantrees Sun 19-Apr-20 14:17:54

It's a catalogue of horrible and grotesque child abuse.


See also Dr. Alfred Kinsey, Dr. Harry Benjamin etc

WTFSeriously Sun 19-Apr-20 14:18:15

What really struck me was the fact that Money was abusing 2 boys via his 'therapy' through 12 years of experimentation to try & prove his theory to the point of 2 attempts at suicide for one teenage boy. But I guess we all see different things when reading about this.

OP’s posts: |
R0wantrees Sun 19-Apr-20 14:20:06

What really struck me was the fact that Money was abusing 2 boys via his 'therapy' through 12 years of experimentation to try & prove his theory to the point of 2 attempts at suicide for one teenage boy. But I guess we all see different things when reading about this.

This ^^

nauticant Sun 19-Apr-20 14:21:14

The Sexual Revolution being an umbrella term of course covering lots of different activities and people having different motivations. There will have been plenty of people who didn't believe it meant they were entitled to sexually abuse children.

JellySlice Sun 19-Apr-20 14:27:42

A psychiatrist summarized John's emotional future this way: "He will be unable to consummate marriage or have normal heterosexual relations; he will have to recognize that he is incomplete, physically defective, and that he must live apart...."

*and that he must live apart*

Why? Emotionally, perhaps, as he would be unable - as the knowledge stood at that time - to access one physical aspect of adult life. But medicine moves forward constantly. Reconstructive surgery was developing at incredible speed - could they not imagine the possibilities for him?

That whole sentence is penis-focused. You don't need a penis to have sex. You don't need a penis to sexually satisfy your wife. You don't need a penis to have biological children.

It is almost fear-driven. The speaker's own fear, own horror, presented as 'compassion' for the infant. The same fear and horror that kept anyone different hidden from public view, except as entertainment.

If he had no penis he was an un-man. Either he remained an un-natural, un-human, un-man, or he became the only other human un-man: a woman. Next best thing to being a man, after all. hmm

AnyOldPrion Sun 19-Apr-20 14:32:42

most here will recognise some key issues

Of note for me, was that Money, with no evidence whatsoever, extrapolated from the theory that because patients with DSDs appeared to sometimes feel an identity that was not necessarily in line with their chromosomes or appearance, that those with normal sexual development must be equally able to change between male and female through socialisation.

Gender identity theory/belief stems from exactly the same type of dangerous extrapolation: that because we should listen to and accept the feelings of patients with DSDs, regarding the sex with which they feel the most affinity^’ we should ^therefore listen to and accept the feelings of those with normal sexual development if they claim to feel an affinity to the opposite sex.

Goosefoot Sun 19-Apr-20 14:43:59

There will have been plenty of people who didn't believe it meant they were entitled to sexually abuse children.

I don't think he likely thought that was what he was doing.

That view of sex and sexuality that came out of the sexual revolution had a very particular character. In a lot of ways it saw it as just another bodily function, not more significant than other bodily functions. Sexual problems came out of sexual repression and sexual taboos. Freedom from repressive moralism that places special significance on sexual pleasure was what would make for a healthy adult sexuality. A lot of the writings of the time on sexuality were interested in things like bonobos as a model for human sexuality.

Recommendations for kids, how to rase them, sex education, very much came out of that way of thinking. And yes, lots of normal people didn't go so far, and conservatives opposed it (and were generally thought of as square because of it) but everything that article talks about Mornay's personal life suggests to me that he was completely immersed in that way of thinking.

R0wantrees Sun 19-Apr-20 14:46:23

extract from article in OP

"In an April 14, 1980, article in Time, Money was sharply criticized for what looked dangerously like an endorsement of incest and pedophilia. "A childhood sexual experience, such as being the partner of a relative or of an older person, need not necessarily affect the child adversely," Money told Time. And according to a right-wing group critical of his teachings, Money reportedly told Paidika, a Dutch journal of pedophilia, "If I were to see the case of a boy aged 10 or 12 who's intensely attracted toward a man in his 20s or 30s, if the relationship is totally mutual, and the bonding is genuinely totally mutual, then I would not call it pathological in any way." (continues)

nauticant Sun 19-Apr-20 14:47:03

It concerns me is that one reason the scandal broke is that the outcome for the children often became disastrous once they went through puberty (of their sex). This seemed to lead to crisis and led to lies being uncovered. I'm assuming puberty blockers weren't available then to keep things confused/hidden.

It looks like some of the realisations made in the 90s have been lost. I'm wondering what part in this was played by puberty blockers and how they mask the evidence that something wrong is taking place.

MoleSmokes Sun 19-Apr-20 15:29:02

These are well worth a watch.

Quentin van Meter was involved with the Reimer case and discusses it in this video:

"The terrible fraud of 'transgender medicine' "

The BBC seems to have removed several old programmes about the Reimer case.

"BBC - Horizon - 2000 - The Boy Who Was Turned Into a Girl"

Programme Description:


"Case Study: John/Joan - The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl"

Radio 4:

"Dr Money and The Boy with No Penis"
Horizon - 4 Nov 2004

This was on the BBC website until not long ago but not in the same "topic" as everything else in the "transgender" topic - which does not even seem to exist as a topic any more. All that is left on the BBC site now are various radio programmes and archived descriptions. This same video is on YouTube but is blocked by the BBC for viewers in the UK.

Programme Summary:

Questions and answers about sexology and the Reimer case:

Programme transcript:

"BBC Health Check: The boy who was raised a girl"
23 November 2010
Health News:


JellySlice Sun 19-Apr-20 15:45:54

The same problem as with children referred to gender services: lack of follow-up through adulthood.

^By and large, though, the U.S. doctors who dispense Lupron to children are not in a position to see problems that may emerge a decade later, said E. Kirk Neely, a Stanford professor and pediatric endocrinologist. He noted that studies done in Europe haven’t identified long-term joint dysfunction or depression as problems.
“I’m concerned. There’s a very fundamental problem. We treat these kids, they disappear and we never see them again,” Neely said. “We don’t have good follow up, particularly in the U.S.”^

From, an article annoy the effects of Lupron on girls treated with it for precocious puberty or short height. It makes the point that these girls, now women, suffer the same side-effects and life-long consequences as women treated with it during mature adulthood.

The long-term harms on children are ignored in David's case, in the subsequent surgeries on intersex children, and in the medicating of precocious girl children. (Does anything parallel happen to boys with precocious puberty?) It smacks of forcing children into conforming to a very rigid world view.

Oh... sounds familiar.

GCGayDad Sun 19-Apr-20 16:00:49

I’ve not read the whole article yet but I will do - it looks fascinating and illuminating.

Slightly off topic, I was struck by this section quoted by @nauticant above:
‘During these visits, the twins discovered that Money had two sides to his personality. "One when mom and dad weren't around," Kevin says, "and another when they were." When their parents were present, they say, Money was avuncular, mild-spoken. But alone with the children, he could be irritable or worse. Especially when they defied him. ‘

From my experience, this hints at a much wider pattern of concealed abuse by a proportion of psychologists, therapists and psychiatrists towards their clients/ patients.

I have had recent experience of undergoing a psychological assessment by a senior and respected clinical psychologist dealing with parenting matters. In the session with him, he could only be described as an abusive bully, gaslighting me and literally laughing at me as I talked about very emotional experiences as I described how I compassionately cared for my children. I suffered sleepless nights for weeks after. Perhaps the worst aspect though was that when I described his behaviour to some professionals involved with my family - both female and both people I respected - they were both surprised, saying, ooh, I’m really surprised “John” [not his real name] was like that; we worked with him lots of times and relied on his opinion. It was quite clear that this psychologist presented a totally different impression to professional colleagues than to the vulnerable people he was being paid to “assess”. He was an abusive bastard, no ifs, no buts.

A similar thing - but worse - happened to a female friend of mine, who was horrifically abused verbally not also semi-physically, by a male NHS therapist to whom she had been referred for major ptsd and mental health issues as a result of childhood and teenage emotional and sexual abuse. In the end, about two years later, she built up the courage to finally complain, detailing the therapist s abusive behaviour in a 20-page long report and a multi-hour session im front of the complaints body. Some then, the person has been allowed to continue to practise and has actually been given an award by his employers for his work.

So sorry fir the diversion but perhaps this is not off topic after all. Maybe the whole situation of abuse of power with regard to gender matters is part of a wider problem in the mental health field. Fundamentally, Certain professionals in the field of mental health seem to utterly lack normal levels of self-reflection and worse, are seen as “untouchable” by the rest of the professional class.

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