University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
David Reimer Psychology Paper
In the summer of 1965 at a hospital in Winnipeg, Canada. Janet Reimer gave birth to identical twins, Bruce and Brian. The two twin boys were born healthy, but at the age of six months both twin boys had difficulty urinating. At that time the doctors recommended that Bruce and Brian undergo circumcision in order to solve the problem. Unfortunately for Bruce the medical team used an unconventional technique of cauterization involving an electric burning device called electrocautery needle instead of a standard scalpel. During this operation Bruce’s penis was destroyed. The Reimer family was devastated with the mutilation of Bruce’s penis. During the following months they searched for answers through numerous medical specialist, but there was no hope, they assumed Bruce was going to live the rest of his life lacking the male genital organ. The parents then visited John Money, a Johns Hopkins University Psychologists. Dr. Money was a pioneer in the field of sexual development at the time. He then suggested to the Reimer’s that they could turn their baby son into a baby girl. Dr. Money developed a theory on nature vs. nature and how these twin forces affect whether we think of ourselves as a girl or a boy.
He thought that genes are important but as far as gender is concerned the baby is essentially neutral in the first two years of life. Schillo (2011) stated that “He promoted the theory that a child’s gender identity was determined by environmental variables such as the social conditions in which the child is raised. This idea is a form of the “nurture theory” of development. A competing view is the so-called “nature theory”; that is, the idea that a person’s innate qualities are determined solely by biological mechanisms.” Dr. Money fundamentally advocated the view that a feminine identity could be developed by rearing a child as a girl. Money saw this as a perfect experiment. He failed to tell the Janet and Ron Reimer that the true intentions of him convincing them to do a gender change was to prove that nurture, not nature, determined gender identity.
Therefore for his own selfish gain he decided to use Bruce and Brian; two twin boys (one believing they were a girl) raised by the same people and treated in the exact same way. This allowed him to use them for his private case study to experiment on Bruce while using Brian as control. At the age of 21 months Bruce underwent surgery for castration. Bruce was now Brenda, and Janet and Ron Reimer were told to raise her as a female. Money gave strict orders that it was forbidden to tell anyone including the twins that Bruce was a girl. They proceeded to raise her as a girl and not tell her or anyone else about her medical history. The Reimer’s accepted their child as a daughter and continued to give Brenda the hormonal supplements. In spite of their efforts at the age of 7 Brenda began to act in a masculine way. She rejected all types of toys, dolls, dresses. She started to mimic her father’s actions as opposed to her mothers. She felt more and more like a boy physically and mentally, and she wasn’t the only one who felt that way.
Her twin brother Brian stated that “The only difference between him and Brenda was that she had longer hair”. She continued rejecting the fact that she was a female. Eventually she wanted to stand up while urinating and she had no intention in accepting a feminine identity. When Brenda was 14 years old, she continued rejecting the feminine identity that was forced upon her. She also tried multiple suicide attempts and her parents had no other decision but to tell her the truth. She immediately decided to become a boy again therefore she cut her hair and named herself David. David wanted to recapture the masculinity. So he agreed to undergo a double mastectomy to remove breast that were caused by estrogen, and a series of surgeries to get his male gentiles back. He also received injections of testosterone to restore all of his masculine body features. David continued being a teenage boy and he was accepted and had friends and even engaged in young women.
Eventually he even got married and had children. He seemed to be in a good place in his life. In 1997 David decided to go public with his story and Dr. Money would get immense criticism from the scientific community for the impeccable lies he has told. Unfortunately David had suffered from severe depression. In 2002 Brian (David’s twin brother) overdosed on drugs to treat for his schizophrenia. It looks like Dr. Money’s therapy sessions scarred him for life as well. Especially because of the fact that at a young age he was being photographed naked and even Dr. Money acted in a pedophile way and had the twins involved in sexual activities. Two Years later after Brian overdosed, David committed suicide and the reason will forever be unknown if it was the result of John Money’s experiment “The John/Joan Case Study”. In my opinion I believe that this topic is important because this was a major study that was falsely stated as a success in which happened to be a complete failure.
It also proves that whatever gender you were born with is you. You may be able to change that physically to a certain extent but you cannot change you gender completely, you have the feelings, and traits as your se (Schillo, 2011) (Hausman, 2001) (Kate, 2012)x gender would have. This case study was completely unethical. The Reimer’s were unaware of the experiment that was going on therefore they were deceived by John Money. The Reimer’s honestly thought that a sex change was the only option for Bruce instead it was a set up. Although on Money’s behalf they were perfect for the experiment. Although Bruce was a baby he never gave his consent to have a sex change or be involved in Dr. Money’s experiment. This is something that Bruce should have been a part of. The constant decisions of others affected his life.
As a psychologist he should have been ethical and respected the rules of ethics and perhaps found other ways of conducting his research rather than doing something that was completely illegal. This didn’t just ruin the lives of this whole family but it ultimately lead to the death of the twins Bruce (David) and Brian. This had to be the most unethical study in history. I would investigate this issue by using someone who was born as a hermaphrodite and studying their gender roles. Although the findings from the gender roles are biologically innate, with nature overruling nurture.
Hausman, B. (2001). EBSCOHOST. Retrieved from Bellevue College: http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.bellevuecollege.edu/ehost/pdfviewer/pdfviewer?sid=b1aa844a-8347-4385-a6c5-4ca7e48e8bd0%40sessionmgr4002&vid=12&hid=4109 Kate, S. (2012, April 28). David Reimer. Retrieved from Samantha Kate Psychology: http://samanthakatepsychology.wordpress.com/2012/04/28/david-reimer-possibly-the-most-unethical-study-in-psychological-history/ Schillo, K. (2011, November 16). Nature vs Nurture. Retrieved from Science Cases: http://sciencecases.lib.buffalo.edu/cs/files/gender_reassignment.pdf