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As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl [Paperback]

John Colapinto
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
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Book Description

July 27 2006 P.S.

In 1967, after a twin baby boy suffered a botched circumcision, his family agreed to a radical treatment that would alter his gender. The case would become one of the most famous in modern medicine—and a total failure. As Nature Made Him tells the extraordinary story of David Reimer, who, when finally informed of his medical history, made the decision to live as a male. A macabre tale of medical arrogance, it is first and foremost a human drama of one man's—and one family's—amazing survival in the face of terrible odds.


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Product Description

From Amazon

Once you begin reading As Nature Made Him, a mesmerizing story of a medical tragedy and its traumatic results, you absolutely won't want to put it down. Following a botched circumcision, a family is convinced to raise their infant son, Bruce, as a girl. They rename the child Brenda and spend the next 14 years trying to transform him into a her. Brenda's childhood reads as one filled with anxiety and loneliness, and her fear and confusion are present on nearly every page concerning her early childhood. Much of her pain is caused by Dr. Money, who is presented as a villainous medical man attempting to coerce an unwilling child to submit to numerous unpleasant treatments.

Reading over interviews and reports of decisions made by this doctor, it's difficult to contain anger at the widespread results of his insistence that natural-born gender can be altered with little more than willpower and hormone treatments. The attempts of his parents, twin brother, and extended family to assist Brenda to be happily female are touching--the sense is overwhelmingly of a family wanting to do "right" while being terribly mislead as to what "right" is for her. 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. Equally fascinating is the latest segment of the longtime nature/nurture controversy, and the interviews of various psychological researchers and practitioners form a larger framework around David's struggle to live as the gender he was meant to be. --Jill Lightner --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Forget sugar, spice, snails and puppy dog tails: discussions of how little boys and little girls are made have become quite complicated over the past three decades, as scientists, feminists and social theorists debate the relative impact of "nature" and "nurture" on gender and sexual identity. Focusing on the real-life story behind sexologist Dr. John Money's famous sexual reassignment case of 1965, Colapinto, an award-winning journalist, has penned a gripping medical melodrama. After Bruce Thiessen, one of two identical male twins, lost his penis during a botched circumcision, he underwent surgery that made him anatomically female, later received estrogen injections and was raised as a girl under Money's supervision at the Psychohormonal Research Unit at Johns Hopkins. All of Money's reports of the case--which quickly appeared in textbooks as a prime example of environment trumping biology--portrayed Bruce (now Brenda) as a well-adjusted girl, although the reality was quite different. Angry, sullen and having always insisted that "she" was a boy, Brenda finally decided at age 15--after "she" finally learned of the surgery-to revert to her original sex and take the name David. Drawing on extensive interviews with the Thiessen family, "Brenda"'s therapists and friends, Colapinto has written a wrenching personal narrative and a scathing indictment of Money's methods and theories, including instances of what Colapinto and David Thiessen see as extraordinarily invasive behavior and sexual abuse in his examinations of "Brenda" and her twin brother. Although Colapinto runs into trouble when he tries to generalize about nature vs. nurture from this single case, his book is illuminating, frightening and moving. (Feb.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most helpful customer reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars IT'S NATURE...NOT NURTURE... July 19 2006
By Lawyeraau TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This is a wonderfully written book and a fascinating look into the debate of nature versus nurture in the area of gender assignment. Intelligent and insightful, the author draws a compassionate portrait of a family who, faced with a decision in the wake of a tragedy, relies upon the advice of a well-respected doctor, which reliance turned out to be misplaced. The book details the aftermath of the family's fateful decision and the impact it was to have on them all.

In August 1965, Canadians Janet and Ron Reimer gave birth to identical twin boys, whom they named Brian and Bruce. When they were about eight months old, they arranged to have them circumcised due to a medical condition that caused them pain during urination. Circumcision was to remedy the problem. Little did they know that the circumcision for Bruce would be botched, resulting in the loss of his penis.

A plastic surgeon with whom the Reimers had consulted in connection with the catastrophe that had struck Bruce had spoken to a sex researcher who had recommended that they raise Bruce as a girl. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic had suggested that they ought to get a second opinion with regards to that suggestion. The parents then consulted with a doctor affiliated with John Hopkins Hospital, Dr. John Money, a renowned doctor in the area of gender transformation, who had been the driving force behind the then controversial surgical gender re-assignment procedure for which the hospital was becoming known.

In 1967, the distraught parents met with Dr. Money and shortly after, Bruce became Brenda and clinical castration followed. Thus, their child, who genetically and anatomically had been born a boy, was for all extent and purposes now deemed to be a girl.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Meeting David May 22 2004
Format:Paperback
Just sitting in the diner this morning, leafing through a local (...) newspaper, I saw the obituary for David Reimer, once Brenda, once Bruce. Vaguely familiar with the case, but not having read the book, I was still immediately saddened by his death. An hour later, book in hand, I sat to read a compelling book about the unfounded theories of a doctor that led to the tragic life of Reimer, "As Nature Made Him".
The book, penned by Rolling Stone scribe John Colapinto, recounts the horrific, and I mean horrific, childhood of Bruce Reimer, having survived a botched circumcision, only to be forced to live as a girl by two well-intentioned yet ill-informed parents. Now Brenda, his life bascially becomes a living hell, dressing and acting against his very nature. Even worse, he is forced to undergo bizarre and irrational questioning by supervising doctor John Money that literally made my stomach turn.
Colapinto's book moves fast, very fast, through David's life, making for a quick read. Yet the speed in which you can read this book in no way detracts from its central messages. David comes out of the whole ordeal a wounded survivor, possibly an inspiration to others who might befall the same fate. And yet, his demons caught up with him, causing his recent suicide.
Perhaps none of this would have happened if that one failed circumcision never occured. Or if his mother happened to miss a television special with the notorious Dr. Money on it. But it did, and the tragedy of it all loomed over this work. We simply cannot afford, as a society, to play with people's lives for the sake of advancing careers or prestige or fame. People are much too important for that. Let David's life and death be an example, so that this simply will never, ever happen again.
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Format:Paperback
John Money's asinine theories were taken seriously by thousands of doctors, ruining boys and girls whose sexual organs didn't match some arbitrary standard.
Money dismissed the fact that little Bruce/Brenda was not an infant; although most circumcisions are done at birth or soon after, Bruce was almost two years old. That's a huge amount of time for a child in terms of brain formation and socialization. In that time, he had been completely recognized as male. People react completely differently to children who are identified as female and those identified as male. Several British and American studies dressed an infant in pink, told participants it was a girl, then dressed the same baby in blue and told participants it was a boy. Participants played much differently with the "boy" than with the "girl", and the language they used to describe the baby was radically different. Identical actions are viewed as aggressive in males, nurturing in females. Yet Money believed in cutoff dates; he thought that "as long as you do it before age two" the kid was a blank slate upon which he could work alchemical magic. One wonders about his own personal fantasies.
Money's theories along with John Grey's are partially responsible for today's idiotic "brain sex" notions that are so convenient for post-liberation backlash -- keeping females from pursuing science and mathematics, and boys from the arts and literature, maintaining a tidy little June Cleaver universe. This state of affairs cannot last, nor can the mutilation of intersexed children or those whose genitals are just a bit too small or too large.
But it's too late for David Reimer. On May 4, 2004, he committed suicide.
He's the one we know about.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Shocking
I love this book! I was shocked to find out that all these events transpired so near to my home. The book is very well-written; it's attention-grabbing, very well-researched, and... Read more
Published on May 17 2011 by Sarah MacDonald
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book!!
This book is really informative and is so interesting.
Anyone who is interested should get a copy and read it!
Published on Nov. 26 2009 by Happy Lady
3.0 out of 5 stars Tragic story, indeed...
Incredible book, and one wonders how something like this could happen, but truth is stranger than fiction, they say. Read more
Published on July 3 2004 by K Baumle
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping, Tragic
'As Nature Made Him' is the horrifying true story of David Reimer, who lost his penis as an infant after a botched circumcision. Read more
Published on May 20 2004 by Melissa McCauley
5.0 out of 5 stars great book tragic ending
I loved this book when I read it a couple years ago and was happy to see David on talk shows doing well. This month, May 2004 he committed suicide and I think the blood is on Dr. Read more
Published on May 17 2004 by michigan jean
5.0 out of 5 stars Sadly, things don't always end happily...
David Remer, the subject of this book committed suicide yesterday, 5/12/2004. Weirdly, I was talking about this case
just yesterday with co-workers. Read more
Published on May 13 2004 by JP
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent. Why isn't Dr. John Money in jail
As if the accident that mutilated Bruce Reimer when he was an infant wasn't enough. In my opinion Dr. John Money is a self important, sick pedophil and should be locked away. Read more
Published on April 28 2004 by Emily Braun
5.0 out of 5 stars Humanity Overcomes Hubris and Arrogance of Medical Industry
In 1967, six month old twin boys simultaneously develop inflamation at tip of their foreskins. A physician says it's phimosis. Read more
Published on March 21 2004 by Richard Russell
5.0 out of 5 stars ITS NATURE NOT NURTURE...
This is a wonderfully written book and a fascinating look into the debate of nature versus nurture in the area of gender assignment. Read more
Published on Feb. 8 2004 by Lawyeraau
5.0 out of 5 stars Concrete example of nature vs nurture
Science and religion are often pitted against each other as polar opposites. Science is all that is objective and open to change and revolution; religion is all that is dogmatic... Read more
Published on Dec 27 2003 by Gary Scott
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