Is gender nature or nurture?
Gender identity issues are sadly something many of us remain fairly ignorant to due to a lack of understanding and information on the topic. This information black hole unfortunately means that often those who feel they may be struggling from a related issue, do not have the confidence to speak up and seek help.
However, a recent article featured on BBC News recalled a story relating to gender identity which will hopefully contribute to spreading awareness of the topic.
The story begins back in the 1960s when Canadian couple Janet and Ron Reimer began to notice their seven month old twins Bruce and Brian were having difficulty urinating.
After seeking medical advice, the parents took the boys to the hospital for a routine circumcision operation, where sadly a malfunction in the electrical medical equipment meant that Bruce’s penis was completely burned off.
His brother Brian’s operation was cancelled and the Reimers took their children home.
One evening when the Reimers were watching TV, sex change psychologist Dr John Money was featured on a show commenting on how he believed it is how we are raised which determines if we are male or female.
The Reimers made an appointment with Dr Money, who saw the situation as an opportunity to conduct an experiment and bring up Bruce as the opposite sex, resulting in a 17 month old Bruce becoming Brenda.
Four months later Bruce underwent his first surgical step to becoming Brenda, castration. Her parents were then told by Dr Money that in order for the sex change to work completely they should not let Brenda know she had been born a boy.
The family visited Dr Money on a yearly basis, where he tracked the twins progress but kept their identity a secret, instead referring to them in his papers and articles as John/Joan. In 1975 when the children were nine, Dr Money published a paper on his observations which concluded that the experiment had been a total success.
However, by the age of thirteen when reaching puberty, Brenda was feeling depressed and suicidal. Her parents commented that she was extremely rebellious and masculine, pointblank refusing to do anything feminine and growing up with barely any friends.
The Reimers eventually decided to tell Brenda the truth, who within just a few weeks chose to became David and underwent reconstructive surgery.
Eventually David married and a few years later was appalled to discover that his case had found its way into a vast array of medical and physiological textbooks as a ‘successful’ case.
Now well into his thirties, David became depressed, lost his job, separated from his wife and in 2002 received the news that his brother had died from an overdose.
Two years later on 4 May 2004, aged 38, David decided to take his own life.
Though cases such as Bruce/Brenda are extremely rare, there are still decisions being made about whether a child should be brought up as a male or female if they suffer from Disorders of Sex Development.
Polly Carmichael from Great Ormand Street Hospital explains that in order to prevent cases such as the Bruce/Brenda tragedy, they have well-functioning multi-disciplinary teams around the country so that the decision will be taken by a variety of professionals.
“One of the wonderful thing about working with children and their families is that children are amazingly resilient. With support, I’m constantly amazed at what children are able to take on and manage.” She said.
If you would like to read the full story or download as a podcast please visit the original article here.
If you are struggling to come to terms with your sexual identity and would like to talk to a counsellor in confidence, please use the search tool located on the homepage to locate a qualified professional in your local area.