Pink or blue baby shower? Is it a boy or a girl?
Biologically, our sex/gender is determined by our sex chromosomes. Females have XX, while males have XY.
One of the big questions regarding gender identity is whether our gender is dictated by nature or nurture. Are we a boy because of our genetic makeup or due to our upbringing?
One scientist attempted to find out.
Twin brothers, Bruce and Brian were born in Canada as two perfectly healthy boys. But at 6 months old, they were both having difficulty in urinating. Acting on doctors’ advice, the boys were taken to the hospital for a circumcision to treat their condition.
Unlike his brother, Bruce was the unlucky one. He suffered an irreversible damage to his penis due to an accident during his circumcision. Devastated, Ron and Janet Reimer, Bruce’s parents went to see Dr. Money for a consultation.
A decision that would drastically change Bruce’s life.
The ideal experiment
As a psychologist who specialized in sex change, Dr. Money met his ideal subjects – a pair of identical twin brothers, Bruce and Brian Reimer in the 1960s.
Dr. Money believed that our gender identities are not determined by biology but rather on how we were raised. The Reimer boys presented to him the perfect experiment to test out his theory.
Here was a boy who Dr. Money believed should be raised as a girl, who also came with his own control group, an identical twin raised in the same environment.
With Dr. Money’s encouragement, Bruce was given sexual reassignment surgery when he was only 17 months old. His parents also secretly fed him female hormones during puberty to encourage breast growth. Throughout his childhood, Bruce was never informed about his male biology.
As far as he knows, he was Brenda Reimer, a girl.
Growing up, Brenda was a lonely girl. She didn’t fit in with the girls and were not welcomed to play with the boys. She didn’t like dressing up as a girl or acting as one.
By the tender age of 13, Brenda was suicidal and depressed. Faced with their daughter’s sadness, Brenda’s parents went against Dr. Money’s advice and told her she was born a boy. Within weeks, Brenda underwent penile reconstructive surgery and stopped taking female hormones.
Brenda transformed herself to David Reimer.
Well into his thirties, David/Bruce struggled through the psychological trauma caused by Dr. Money’s experiment.
Coupled with unemployment, separation from his wife and the death of his brother due to a drug overdose, David committed suicide at the age of 38.
What we learnt
Today, we still don’t have a clear idea on how gender is constructed.
Given the recent awareness on gender dysphoria, transgenderism and gender fluidity, science is now slowly catching up.
But even though we don’t have the answers yet, Bruce’s story showed that there is a strong genetic basis to gender – most of us act like a girl or a boy because we just simply feel that way.
Most importantly, Dr. Money’s ‘experiment’ reminds us that beyond jargons and labels, we are all humans wanting to be accepted for who we are.
So what are your opinions? Do you agree with Dr. Money?