The idea that gender is little more than a social construct and that male and female are fundamentally interchangeable was pioneered in 1955 by a sexologist named Dr. John Money. Dr. Money coined the modern usage of the term “gender”, referring to it as not your biological sex, but the sex you identify with as a result of social and cultural constructs, pressures, and expectations. To show you where such an idea gets you, allow me to enlighten you with the story of a two young boys.
On August 22, 1965, two twin boys by the names of Bruce and Brian Reimer were born to Janet and Ronald Reimer in Winnipeg, Manitoba. After they were both diagnosed with phimosis (when the foreskin cannot be pulled all the way past the head of the penis), when they were seven months old, the two were to be circumcised. Unfortunately, the operation was performed using a highly unconventional method of cauterization, and Bruce’s penis was burned beyond surgical repair. Brian was not operated on, and his phimosis eventually fixed itself without surgery.
Bruce’s parents, knowing that his future happiness and sexual function were in serious jeopardy, took him to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland in 1967 to see a sexologist by the name of Dr. John Money. He was a pioneer of sorts in sexual development and gender identity. He believed that a person’s gender was not necessarily his/her biological sex, but the sex they identified as a result of social learning and cultural pressure. He believed that if a boy was raised as a girl and socialized enough to be a girl, then that boy could fundamentally be a girl, as Money believed that there were no innate differences between male and female, despite the entire field of human biology proving him wrong. Money and the few physicians he could get to take his theories seriously believed that though a penis could not be replaced, an artificial vagina could be surgically constructed.
Dr. Money told Bruce’s parents that Bruce would be more likely to achieve sexual maturation as a girl than as a boy, and suggested that Bruce undergo sex reassignment surgery and regular hormone treatment. For Money, this would be the perfect opportunity for him to test his theories, as this was a case in which two identical twin boys were involved with one being raised as a girl. Brian would make for the ideal control because the brothers shared the same genes, family environment, and intrauterine (inside mother’s uterus) environment. Bruce would make for a perfect test subject, as he had no abnormality of prenatal or postnatal differentiation. The parents consented, and Bruce underwent a bilateral orchidectomy. His testes and what remained of his penis were removed and a very basic vulva was constructed. He would urinate out of a hole in his abdomen. In his preteen years, he would undergo estrogen injections to induce breast development. Bruce was reassigned as female and renamed Brenda.
Over the next decade, Dr. Money would annually see the Reimers in Baltimore to consult them, assess the overall outcome, and psychologically support them. But what these visits truly entailed was something I still can hardly believe. Under the guise of believing that “childhood sexual rehearsal play” was imperative to the development of a “healthy adult gender identity”, Dr. Money would have the twins imitate sex acts involving “thrusting movements” with “Brenda” performing the role of Bottom. “Brenda” would get “down on all fours” with Brian coming “up behind his butt” with “his crotch against” his “buttocks”. Another time, “Brenda” would have his “legs spread” with Brian on top. Dr. Money would also force “Brenda” and Brian to remove their clothing and engage in “genital inspections”. On at least one occasion, Dr. Money took photos of the two performing these activities.
Though Dr. Money touted this experiment as successful, “Brenda” never truly ended up identifying as a girl, and described his visits with Dr. Money as traumatic. Brian even ended up becoming schizophrenic. Not only were these sessions with Money highly unpleasant for both “Brenda” and Brian, but Money was either ignoring or concealing evidence that “Brenda’s” gender reassignment was not going well. Their parents even routinely lied to Money and his lab staff that the gender reassignment was going splendidly. After Money started pressuring the family to bring “Brenda” in for surgery in which a supposedly fully functional vagina would be constructed, the family discontinued the visits.
Contrary to Dr. Money’s reports, “Brenda” never did identify as a girl. He was the target of severe ostracization and bullying by his peers, and neither the frilly dresses nor female hormones ever made him feel female. By the time he was 13, “Brenda” was going through severe depression to the point of being suicidal, saying that he would kill himself if his parents ever took him to see Dr. Money again. Following advice from his endocrinologist and psychiatrist, “Brenda’s” parents told him about his gender reassignment in 1980, and “Brenda” accepted his male sexuality when he was 14, renaming himself David.
By 1987, David had undergone nearly enough treatment to reverse his reassignment, including regular testosterone injections, a double mastectomy (removing whatever breast material he had), and two phalioplasty (penis reconstruction) operations. On September 22, 1990, he married Jane Fontaine and adopted her three children.
In 1997, he told his story to Milton Diamond, an academic sexologist who convinced David to tell his story in an attempt to dissuade other physicians from treating other infants similarly to how Dr. Money treated him. David went public with his story, and journalist John Colapinto published a Rolling Stone article and eventually a full-length book about David’s story, titled As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl.
Dr. Money responded to this exposé in the way that you would expect: he blamed the media response on “right-wing media bias” and “the antifeminist movement”, claiming that his detractors believed “masculinity and femininity are built into the genes so women should get back to the mattress and the kitchen”.
I know that this seems like it’s going to end happily. I wish it did. I wish I could be shaking David Reimer’s hand right now. But David Reimer never truly recovered from Dr. Money’s experiments. After years of a difficult relationship with his parents, debilitating depression, unemployment, financial instability, marital troubles, and even Brian’s suicide in 2002, David, at the age of 38, killed himself with a shotgun on May 4, 2004. David and Brian’s parents both stated that Dr. Money’s methodology is what killed their sons.
Dr. Money eventually died on July 7, 2006 from Parkinson’s disease.
Dr. Money is still seen as an innovative pioneer of the idea of sexual fluidity and “gender” being a social construct. He published over 2000 articles, books, chapters, and reviews, nearly all of which were positively received and are still referred to as scientific gospel. He received over 65 worldwide honors, awards, and honorary degrees. He is still lauded as a progenitor of the gender fluidity movement.
And despite leagues of blind believers in this idea, to this day, there is not, has never been, and never will be even the slightest shred of evidence for the existence of “gender” (as Dr. Money defined it) in humans, or the entire animal kingdom for that matter.
So remember, kids: when you use the term “gender”, you’re using the speculative-at-best terminology of an insane scientist who committed human experimentation, psychologically, emotionally, and sexually tortured a pair of twin boys, drove them both to suicide, and not only got away with it, but is still lauded as one of the pioneers of the ideas of 1) sexual identity being only a state of mind and not a biological constant and 2) sex reassignment, to this day.
There’s a special place in Hell for people like him.
As for David and Brian Reimer, may they rest in peace.