I want to begin the story with the foundation of Ron and Janet Reimer, a happily married Mennonite like couple living in Winnipeg, excited to start their life with the birth of twin boys, Bruce and Brian. A few months after they were born the twins were circumcised due to the fact that they suffered from phimosis.
Thinking the boys' penis’ would be cut and completed with a simple procedure, their mother Janet Reimer sent the boys in happily. She then got a call and was told that the procedure had complications because the doctors decided to burn the penis instead of cut it. In fear of failure again, they decided not to circumcise the other brother.
The twin who got botched was Bruce, and from this day on began one of the most difficult journeys ever. When Bruce's parents discovered his penis had been botched, they began to wonder what would happen next. Janet Reimer was casually watching a television show and noticed a man named Dr. John Money.
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Money was explaining that he specialized in gender reassignment surgery and was displaying a transgender woman who looked extremely feminine. This was now the beam of hope and light Janet Reimer was looking for. She made an appointment immediately and got the attention of John Money instantly because of the fact that Brian was only one year old.
Because he was so young in age, Dr. Money believed he could define the sex of the child early on and start him on a new life in order to fix the botched circumcision. Although it took some consideration, the Reimers decided to reconstruct the sex and gender of Brian, changing his name to Brenda, and beginning his life as a female at age one.
From this point on the life of Brenda now began. Even though the Reimer family attempted to give Brenda a great life, something was always off. She was given girl toys and had meetings once in a while with Dr. Money. As Brenda grew older, she began to realize she felt like a man and was not at all similar to a girl. Brenda did things such as sit with a wide spread and urinate like a man.
This sense of an identity crisis led Brenda to lack friends in grade school, feeling distant from both the girls and the boys. Seeing that Brenda was struggling with her artificial identity, Dr. Money engaged in one of the most unethical things he could have done which was forcing her to view pornagraphic pictures. The reasoning behind this was to attempt to further transition her into becoming a heterosexual female.
This caused nothing but more damage to the developing mind and body of Brenda Reimer. With this constant pain and suffering, Janet Reimer attempted suicide along with Brenda's brother Brian who felt forgotten about. This set an example for Brenda that suicide was a way out of a stressful situation. On top of the suicide attempts, Ron Reimer became an alcoholic.
All of this piled onto Brenda and, in addition to all of it, found out that she had been born a male and endured a botched circumcision that played a role in determining the fate of her life. With this new knowledge, Brenda decided to leave behind her artificial life as a female and change back into a man who was named David. David reconstructed his penis and began living the life he always wanted and deserved by marrying a woman and having children as a man.
As for Doctor John Money, he ended publications of the Reimer family and never took responsibility for the damage permanently done to David Reimer. A story like this one is not one that should be held from the public. Although the material itself is sensitive and contains some graphic mental images, nothing can be worse than the suffering endured by the individual himself, David Reimer, thus making the publication of this story is a major strength in terms of this book.
The world tends to shy away from things that may contain sensitive material, but if stories and facts like these did not surface into the world, it would be less likely that everyday people would find this knowledge. The unfortunate part about this entire story is the fact that the surgery would highly unethical, but from this awful and unethical event, we were able to gain a great amount of knowledge from the situation on the topic of gender reconstructive surgery.
This poses a great question pondered in science, and it is if unethical studies have value to them. While it is obvious in science that gender cannot be determined, we have learned to further the understanding in sex change surgery through events like David Reimers life. Without his life, questions, studies and even medical discoveries would be left for another unfortunate individual to face on their own.
There are many cons to this, but the only pro is the fact that knowledge is gained from something that otherwise would not have been given. As controversial as it is, I believe there is a small benefit from this, being that the knowledge is gained, and now that is has been understood, it can never be repeated.
But, this does not outweigh the brutal cons. Although it was not mentioned in the book, David Reimer took his own life at the age of 38 in 2004. Seeing that his brother dies just two years prior, David seemed to have a life of pain that only continued into adulthood. Aside from the pain of the inconsistency in his life, David now had the whole world looking at him with the publication of this book which may have led to his decision to end his life.
Although this story was full of valuable life lessons, it could’ve held more scientific value. There were many times where the ideas presented about sex transformation surgery were mentioned and the false claims about it were made to seem negative, but the story itself did not have much of a scientific aspect to it. In relation to the idea that it is important to share this information, sharing the story is only half of that process.
So while it was highly beneficial to share the treacherous story of David Reimer, a story like this without science isn’t fully benefiting the community the way it should. If the world is Reading a treacherous story like this one it is crucial that they get the facts integrated with the story itself, so that while they are empathizing with David in this situation, they can also be gaining crucial knowledge on such a touchy subject.
While the book did mention some aspects of the science around predetermining the gender of a baby and gender reconstructive survey, there was an a lot of dedication to science. Is important to understand the science of something like this so that awful events are not re-created. As learned in class, gender cannot be determined by anybody else other than the individual.
So, the first issue that is encountered in this situation is the fact that Davids parents and Dr. Money attempted to define his gender through early on sex reconstruction surgery. This caused for a huge problem that set David up for a lifetime of pain and confusion. In addition to this, Dr. Money assumed that since David was young at the time that he could easily be manipulated into becoming a woman.
Not only should this predetermination of sex be illegal and considered child abuse, but it is an absurd claim considering that children are able to comprehend their gender at a young age through the way they interact with life and their surroundings. For David, if he was brought up as the man he identified as, he could still be alive today, happy and healthy.
To conclude, it is obvious that the effects of negative sex-change surgery can not only be emotionally scarring but can lead to fatal consequences. The life of David Reimer shines a light on the many cases experienced in America and around the world each year that put people at risk.
While sex change surgery works brilliantly for those who have lived their lives in the shell of someone they don’t identify as, determining the sex for someone who is young or cannot express their identity can lead to a miserable and confusing life. Unfortunately for David, this was a major factor that lead to him taking his own life at the age of 38. I only can hope that cases like David Reimer can cease to exist and that people can be in control of their own bodies and their own futures.
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