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1 Burnside Gender Studies- Transgender

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

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As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl Cover

ISBN13: 9780060192112
ISBN10: 0060192119
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"Harrowing and enthralling, As Nature Made Him makes a convincing case that gender has less to do with the signals we send and receive from the world than with ineradicable messages encoded in every cell of our brains and bodies." Elle

Review:

"[A]n arresting and invaluable narrative of personal tragedy, scientific arrogance, and societal confusion over the source and significance of gender differences." Booklist

Review:

"Colapinto's storytelling, taut and emotive, never plays the grim tale for its sideshow qualities, nor claims the last word on nature versus nurture." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"Riveting, cleanly written, and brilliantly researched." Natalie Angier, New York Times Book Review

Review:

"John Colapinto debunks Money's version of Brenda's childhood in his fascinating, exhaustively researched As Nature Made Him....The result is a detailed and riveting account." Seattle Post Intelligencer

Synopsis:

In 1967, after a baby boy suffered a botched circumcision, his family agreed to a radical treatment. On the advice of a renowned expert in gender identity and sexual reassignment at Johns Hopkins Hospital, the boy was surgically altered to live as a girl. This landmark case, initially reported to be a complete success, seemed all the more remarkable since the child had been born an identical twin: his uninjured brother, raised as a boy, provided to the experiment the perfect matched control.

The so-called twins case would become one of the most famous in modern medicine and the social sciences; cited repeatedly over the past thirty years as living proof that our sense of being male or female is not inborn but primarily the result of how we are raised. A touchstone for the feminist movement, the case also set the precedent for sex reassignment as standard treatment for thousands of newborns with similarly injured, or irregular, genitals.

But the case was a failure from the outset. From the start the famous twin had, in fact, struggled against his imposed girlhood. Since age fourteen, when finally informed of his medical history, he made the decision to live as a male. John Colapinto tells this extraordinary story for the first time in As Nature Made Him. Writing with uncommon intelligence, insight, and compassion, he also sets the historical and medical context for the case, exposing the thirty-year-long scientific feud between Dr. John Money and his fellow sex researcher, Dr. Milton Diamond--a rivalry over the nature/nurture debate whose very bitterness finally brought the truth to light. A macabre tale of medical arrogance, As Nature Made Him is first and foremost a human drama of one man's-and one family's--amazing survival in the face of terrible odds. The human intimacy of the story is all the greater for the subject's courageous decision to step out from behind the pseudonym that has shrouded his identity for the past thirty years.

About the Author

John Colapinto's articles have appeared in Vanity Fair, the New Yorker, Esquire, Mademoiselle, Us, and Rolling Stone. As Nature Made Him is based on a landmark article published in Rolling Stone that won the National Magazine Award. John Colapinto lives in New York City with his wife and son. He is at work on a novel.

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Shoshana, December 28, 2007 (view all comments by Shoshana)
I use this book (and the related NOVA special) to teach my students about poor methodology. It intends (among other things) to discredit John Money's work on gender. I'm no fan of Money's, but this book doesn't use the work it could have to really discredit him. (Milt Diamond's work alone would make a good start but it is not adequately described or cited in this book, which is admittedly not scientific, but an outgrowth of a Rolling Stone article).

Money's work isn't placed in historical context very well, so a lot of energy is wasted focusing on Money's misunderstandings when, in reality, Money's studies contributed (sometimes unintentionally, but importantly) to contemporary gender studies. Money's techniques absolutely should be scrutinized with a contemporary eye, but also they need to be seen within the parameters of contemporaneous social science. I'm not saying I agree with his techniques, or his write-ups, but that he was far from alone in his behavior, thinking, or practices.

In terms of this particular family, the biggest confound to either Money's ideas about gender fluidity or to the counterargument of gender essentialism is that it wasn't blind, and certainly not double-blind. It's really hard to have a blind case study, but what that means is that this issue should figure prominently in the discussion. Numerous family members and doctors knew that the subject had been born male and was reassigned as female. That's a huge methodological problem. We don't know how the family would have behaved if they'd had a girl, so we can't compare outcomes, but my impression is that they pushed "female-gender" dress, possessions, and behaviors pretty hard. This doesn't work well for many biological females, let alone a child for whom it represents a change of behaviors toward and responses to that child. That's not emotionally neutral, nor is a shift toward what appears to be more restriction neutral, especially when the child is old enough to be aware of the difference, which Bruce/Brenda was. He had a sibling he was treated like, then suddenly he wasn't. What's not bizarre about that from a child's point of view?

Nor is the child likely to be unaware of a reasonable amount of ambient tension hinging on his gendered behavior over time. I perceive this family as pretty average, not terrifically sophisticated, and highly self-effacing in relation to authorities. Perhaps a different family would have managed this situation differently. Under the circumstances, I don't think there was a lot of choice at the time.

One family's experience, however tragic it is and however much I empathize with them and am professionally embarassed by Money, is just one case. It raises questions, but it doesn't do much for either side of the argument about whether gender is innate.

I also thought the author couldn't see Bruce/David as a person and was too fascinated by the freakish aspect of the story.

All that said, I'm terrifically sorry for the family's pain and very distressed that David later committed suicide.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780060192112
Subtitle:
The Boy Who Was Raised as A Girl
Author:
Colapinto, John
Publisher:
Harper
Location:
New York :
Subject:
Biography
Subject:
Human Sexuality
Subject:
Gender Studies
Subject:
Specific Groups - Special Needs
Subject:
Sex change
Subject:
Gender identity
Subject:
Identity
Subject:
Nature and nurture
Subject:
Transsexuals
Subject:
General Psychology & Psychiatry
Copyright:
Edition Number:
1st ed.
Edition Description:
Hardcover
Series Volume:
105-216
Publication Date:
20000202
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Yes
Pages:
304
Dimensions:
9.59x6.50x1.01 in. 1.30 lbs.

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Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Gender Studies » General
History and Social Science » Gender Studies » Transgender

As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl Used Hardcover
0 stars - 0 reviews
$6.95 In Stock
Product details 304 pages HarperCollins Publishers - English 9780060192112 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Harrowing and enthralling, As Nature Made Him makes a convincing case that gender has less to do with the signals we send and receive from the world than with ineradicable messages encoded in every cell of our brains and bodies."
"Review" by , "[A]n arresting and invaluable narrative of personal tragedy, scientific arrogance, and societal confusion over the source and significance of gender differences."
"Review" by , "Colapinto's storytelling, taut and emotive, never plays the grim tale for its sideshow qualities, nor claims the last word on nature versus nurture."
"Review" by , "Riveting, cleanly written, and brilliantly researched."
"Review" by , "John Colapinto debunks Money's version of Brenda's childhood in his fascinating, exhaustively researched As Nature Made Him....The result is a detailed and riveting account."
"Synopsis" by , In 1967, after a baby boy suffered a botched circumcision, his family agreed to a radical treatment. On the advice of a renowned expert in gender identity and sexual reassignment at Johns Hopkins Hospital, the boy was surgically altered to live as a girl. This landmark case, initially reported to be a complete success, seemed all the more remarkable since the child had been born an identical twin: his uninjured brother, raised as a boy, provided to the experiment the perfect matched control.

The so-called twins case would become one of the most famous in modern medicine and the social sciences; cited repeatedly over the past thirty years as living proof that our sense of being male or female is not inborn but primarily the result of how we are raised. A touchstone for the feminist movement, the case also set the precedent for sex reassignment as standard treatment for thousands of newborns with similarly injured, or irregular, genitals.

But the case was a failure from the outset. From the start the famous twin had, in fact, struggled against his imposed girlhood. Since age fourteen, when finally informed of his medical history, he made the decision to live as a male. John Colapinto tells this extraordinary story for the first time in As Nature Made Him. Writing with uncommon intelligence, insight, and compassion, he also sets the historical and medical context for the case, exposing the thirty-year-long scientific feud between Dr. John Money and his fellow sex researcher, Dr. Milton Diamond--a rivalry over the nature/nurture debate whose very bitterness finally brought the truth to light. A macabre tale of medical arrogance, As Nature Made Him is first and foremost a human drama of one man's-and one family's--amazing survival in the face of terrible odds. The human intimacy of the story is all the greater for the subject's courageous decision to step out from behind the pseudonym that has shrouded his identity for the past thirty years.

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