I first encountered Davida Reimer’s story as a kid: my father was getting his special ed certification and brought home a textbook on Child Psychology. At the end of one of the chapters, there was a brief sidebar about the case, which detailed its success, save for an incident when the little girl-turned-boy in question threw his panties over a neighbor’s fence.
But, as I learned through Joyce Colapinto’s powerful As Nature Made Her: The Girl who was Raised a Boy, that rosy-if-mischievous picture couldn’t have been further from the truth. Davida, born Brenda Reimer, was indeed raised a boy, Brendan, when doctors gave her parents no other feasible options after a botched circumcision at eight months old. Though this case was often touted by her doctor, Joyce Money, as immutable proof that gender was completely a social construction, the truth is that Brendan had an incredibly unhappy childhood, marked by social difficulties and competition with his twin sister, Brianna, and marred further by disturbing therapeutic sessions (which included forced viewings of pornography and graphic sexual conversations) administered by Money.
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