David Reimer Dies at Age 38

(courtesy of Bodies Like Ours)
Over the weekend, we learned of the untimely death last week of David Reimer in Winnipeg. David was the subject of the well-known Joan/John gender experiment in the 1960?s and 1970's by Dr. John Money.  After a botched circumcision, David was given hormones and raised as a girl at the urging of Money, then a sex researcher at Johns Hopkins Hospital. After an awkward childhood and years of teasing, David discovered the truth at age 14, and he took steps to return to his male identity. David took his own life at age 38 o­n Tuesday, May 4, 2004. In 2000, a book about his experiences was published. Written by John Colapinto, ?As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised a Girl? put David's experience and life in the public eye. He subsequently was featured o­n Oprah and in other media. His mother, Janet Reimer was widely quoted in Canadian media today saying that she believes her son would still be here if he had not been subjected to the gender experiment. She also said she still harbors anger towards Dr. Money for convincing her and David's father Ron to allow the gender experiment and blames Money in part for David?s suicide. Dr. John Money has not commented publicly as of early this morning o­n the death of his most famous patient."He managed to have so much courage," Janet told The Winnipeg Sun yesterday. "I think he felt he had no options. It just kept building up and building up." David recently lost his job and was separated from his wife. While David was not intersexed, he contributed much to the movement. His situation illustrated quite well that gender cannot always be surgically or hormonally created. The intersex movement has encouraged physicians to not surgically reinforce gender o­n children with bodies that differ from what society expects male or female appear as. This does not mean raising children in a third gender or without gender but rather, picking the most likely outcome with the understanding that the child will let the parents know what gender he or she is and initial determinations may be wrong. Additionally, the family should be provided with adequate counseling and peer support as necessary. Eliminating the medical trauma that often occurs within the current concealment-centered protocol is core to changing the way children born with bodies that are different aretreated.Betsy Driver of Bodies Like Ours (www.bodieslikeours.org) said, ?David was admired by so many within the intersex movement for his strength to speak out publicly about the injustice that was done to him. Many survivors of similar medical treatment are overwhelmed by intense shame and David rose above that to educate the world?.According to Emi Koyama, Director of the Intersex Initiative (http://www.intersexiniative.org), ?Money was, of course, wrong to do what he did. But what was wrong with his practice is not that he held a theory that turned out to be unreliable, or that he made a wrong assumption about David's gender development, but all the sexually and physically invasive examinations and tests he did o­n David and his twin brother.?David?s twin brother Brian died of an apparent drug overdose two years ago. Janet Reimer said she'll remember her son David as "the most generous, loving soul that ever lived." "He liked music. He liked jokes. He was a very funny guy," said Janet, who spent Mother's Day grieving the loss of her son. "He was so generous. He gave all he had." (*disclosure: Bodies Like Ours initially learned of David?s passing o­n Saturday 5/ 8/04. We chose to wait until after his funeral to comment o­n it and until more information was learned. David?s funeral was Monday afternoon, May 10, 2004)To learn more about Bodies Like Ours, please visit our website at http://www.bodieslikeours.org