It’s been maybe three or four months since I first heard of the famous David-Brenda case. A boy who was raised as a girl. I was talking through Skype to a lady who had significant experience with LGBTQ Youth and she mentioned that I would find this particular case fascinating.
Canadian David Reimer was born “Bruce” a healthy male on August 22nd 1965. At the age of 7 months, he underwent a circumcision. However, the surgery didn’t go as planned and instead he left the operating room with a penis burnt beyond repair. His mother, desperate for her son to live a normal life, sought the advice of psychologist John Money who suggested David undergo sexual reassignment surgery and have his gender changed. The theory was that gender is learnt and since David was so young, with careful upbringing he can be taught to live as a girl.
So Brenda was created. She received lesson on how to be feminine, how to like the kind of things girls liked, even how to have sex as a girl. And all the while she refused. I think it’s fascinating that Brenda, having never known that she was in fact born male until much later in life, refused to be a female in every sense of the word. Every lesson they taught her was met with resistance and she kept telling them, “I want to be a boy.”
When she grew up, Brenda made the decision to become David, a man again. But needless to say the damage was done. David committed suicide on May 4th 2004, just 38 years old.
If you read the wikipedia page on David Reimer (I’ll link it below) it’s really horrific what kind of educational “lessons” were taught to her. Quite traumatic I would say. And while it one of saddest stories I’ve come across I think it’s an incredible example of how a person’s gender can’t be nesesarility be conditioned. That nurture over nature may not be possible. That you are born the gender you feel, regardless of upbringing and genitalia.
What’s also a little weird is that I found a book on David’s life titled “As Nature Made Him” in a second hand book shop while I was visiting Sydney. Coincidence? I think not. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet but I’ll give it a try soon and let you know what I think. There’s a documentary on David which I’ll also link below.
Here’s the link to the amazon page for the book if you’d like to give it a read: http://www.amazon.com/As-Nature-Made-Him-Raised/dp/0061120561
“As Nature Made Him” Interview with author: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJuHjQ5IlUY
David Reimer Documentary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUTcwqR4Q4Y
David Reimer’s Wikipedia Page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Reimer