Free As Nature Made Him the Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl Essay Sample
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Told by John Colapinto, As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl is a story set in the 1960s of an unfortunate boy whose sexual identity was experimented with in his early years of life that transformed what otherwise would have been a normal life to a life of torment and distress. It is a true story of David Reimer, who, at the age of 8 months went through a botched accident in a surgery to fix his urination problem that resulted in the destruction of his penis. The story depicts reflections and ideas related with gender and sexual identity, social acceptance, ego, masculinity and psychology.
In 1966, David Reimer was born (then named Bruce) as part of a pair of twins. Due to a medical condition that prevented him from urinating properly, his parents put him through a minor surgery. The surgery turned into an accident wherein David Reimer lost his penis. The parents were told by the doctors that they should keep their child away from socializing and attempting to marry and create a family of his own. They were told that their son would no longer have a normal social life. According to the mindset and social thinking of the day, without a normal penis, the boy had no chance of pulling off as a male as losing his penis translated into losing his masculinity forever. This was devastating news for the parents who wanted their son to be happy. However, there was a route available to fix the child’s problem in the form of phalloplasty, which called for using the other twin’s thigh tissue to allow the baby to retain his masculinity and grow as a normal boy. But this offered no assurance of the boy ever having to see his penis function properly.
The parents assumed this problem to be a lost cause when they stumbled upon a television interview of the then famous American sexologist, Dr John Money. He ran a Gender Identity Clinic at the Johns Hopkins University. He held the view that males and females are not born but made and took the little boy as an opportunity to prove this hypothesis scientifically. He offered his services to the boy’s parents to transform his sexual identity. According to him, he would fail as a boy since he does not have a penis and his surgery and treatments would allow him to live as a normal girl which is the only viable solution for him. He based his opinion and route to surgery upon the fact that personality is formed after the age of two and a half which would offer the boy a chance, after having gone through surgery, to frame his mind and personality as a girl. He assured the parents that the outcome of the surgery and sexual transformation would spell happiness for the boy. However, this was his hidden attempt to test his hypothesis that sexual identity and gender can be made and are not innate. This was an opportunity for him to conduct a controlled experiment where David was the experiment and the twin brother was a “control variable.” He regularly called the two as they grew up after the surgery of David to review their performances as a boy and a girl. David was made to go through rigorous training sessions, interviewing sessions and forceful interrogations to pursue him to take on girl habits and traits as well as regularly medications and treatments that would allow him to grow breasts at the appropriate age.
However, the outcome was an utterly disgusting contrast of what the doctor had predicted for the boy. Where, Dr Money spread his fame across the country on account of a successful operation on the boy, giving him a new life, the boy suffered from constant pain and misery. At the age of 11, he, who was then named, Brenda, suffered from lack of a social identity, personality disorder, and a serious problem of self-esteem. He was laid back in class, held back in school and grew severely aggressive in nature. The boy got involved in alcohol abuse and attempted suicide several times as he was unable to find a meaning to his life and unable to define himself. The boy hated how he was forced to become a girl when his body was growing s a boy, with muscular broad shoulders and strong jaw line and thick neck. Eventually, his voice also grew stronger and more masculine. The irony in this situation was the record of the outcome of the experiment that was misconstrued by Dr John Money who was unable to accept his failure.
When the situation went out of control for David’s parents, they informed him of the reality and David finally took the breath of relief upon hearing this and knew exactly what he was and what he was supposed to be. At the age of 15, the boy changed his name from Brenda to David, and went through another surgery to retain his natural gender. He found peace then, translating into the fact that what Dr John Money had suggested and believed was the case, was false and incorrect. The boy lived on to be a normal man who later married a mother of three.
The outcome was inevitable owing to the fact that the scientists played with the nature’s rules and were unable to win. The story portrays the lifelong battle of the scientists against the nature’s giving. This story pertains to the 1960s movement towards pro-reassignment, where feminism was on the rise and people were challenging the nature’s rule. The society was very much influenced with Sigmund Freud’s theory relating to sex and gender and psychology which signified that having a penis is integral to a successful and happy life. The parents of the child were forced to devastation because of this very belief. Rather than accepting what the fate had instored for the boy, the parents forced him towards forming a personality that was artificially handed out to him. But as much as the efforts and treatments were forced onto the boy, nature took its course on him and eventually led him to become what he was born as, a man.
The author portrays a sympathetic tone towards the narration of the events in the story of David Reimer that reflect his beliefs to be tied closely with the acceptance of the natural state of being and the fact that masculinity and feminism are innate features that are embedded in the personalities of the babies as they are born. He makes the story unforgettable and effective. Upon reading the story, it is hard to not reflect upon a scientific crime that Dr John Money committed and defended it as a scientific revolution. It can be concluded and established upon reading the story, that the penis does not define the social identity of a male. Psychologies and scientists later proved how the brains of the children are programmed to be male or female before they are born, which ultimately renders Dr John Money’s philosophy irrelevant and false.
Dr John Money throughout the story retains a role of an egoist and adamant scientist who perceives gender identity to be a social construct rather than a natural construct and attempts to continually prove that gender can be recreated, changed and made successfully. The parents of the child and the child himself became prey to his unproven and unnatural theories that were single-handedly perceived to be true. The parents’ condition is also something to be sympathized with and clearly understandable as they fall into the hands of the wrong mind with wrong ideas. At the time, it seemed like the perfect solution to them. They only followed what the doctors told them and advised them. Dr John Money was a renowned psychologist and scientist of the time and held honorary credentials. It was only after the failure of his experiment on David that his theory was taken negatively by the public.
John Colapinto’s story, As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl that starts with the misery and butchery a boy of 8 months faced, moves to his transformation as a girl and then concludes with the re-orientation of the natural gender of the boy, proves that the natural order of people, genders and personalities cannot be played with. Happiness was associated with social belongingness and acceptance which were ultimately linked with having a penis. The irony and the sadness in the story is that the boy never got the peace he deserved and happiness that every human yearns for because of the mistakes that people made in his infancy. David Reimer eventually dies by committing suicide even after living a normal adult life with a woman and her children. This proves how wrong the quest to fight against nature is and how devastating the outcomes are when humans indulge in changing what the nature has given to them.