Non-Fiction, Biography, Canadian, Gender Identity, Historical, Journalism, Mental Health, Science, Social Commentary
In 1967, following a baby boy’s botched circumcision, his family agrees to surgically alter the boy to live as a girl. From there, Bruce became Brenda and under the vigilance of renowned doctor John Money, Brenda was nurtured to enjoy feminine things, such as wearing frilly dresses and helping her mom in the kitchen. Lauded as an indisputable success by the influential Money, Brenda’s case was revered in the medical community and became the impetus for future infant sex re-assignments.
But everything didn’t turn out perfectly for Brenda. Knowing that something was not quite right with her body, Brenda struggled to fit in with her peers at school. She was rough and tumble and never truly identified with girls. She would beat up her twin brother and play with her brother’s toys rather than her own dolls. Brenda turned into a despondent, angry child. Her grades slipped and she became increasingly wary of medical professionals, especially Money.
Finally at the age of fourteen, Brenda reverted back to the gender that she always felt at her core: boy. Narrowly evading suicide, Brenda became David, and went on to face corrective surgery, get married and raise three children.
The experiment that inspired generations of medical professionals was suddenly a failure. David, determined to save other children from the same fate, was finally able to face the world and share his sad story and his indomitable will to survive.
Fascinating topic for a book! You might remember David Reimer’s amazing story from a late 1990s episode of Oprah. Reimer’s life will make you think twice about gender identity politics. Following the debate surrounding nature vs. nurture, David’s case and others like him reveal that boys and girls are not always “made.”
Colapinto’s novel is at times less of a biography of Reimer, and more of a broader ethical discussion of infant sex-reassignment surgery. His journalism is painstakingly detailed and his stance is clear. At times, Colapinto’s portrayal of Money can be a little one-dimensional. Money is vilified as a staunchly stubborn and even perverse doctor. But after all the facts are revealed, you can’t help but feel that Colapinto is quite justified in his conclusions.
Borrow As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl from your local Vaughan library today!