Vital Signs

The Death of David Reimer: A Case Study in Psychiatric Politics

David Reimer, the 38-year-old man who was raised as a girl (“Brenda”) following a botched circumcision in infancy, committed suicide on May 4, 2004.

As the left rushes to validate sodomy by judicial fiat and “homosexual marriage,” perhaps now is an appropriate time to revisit his case.  It reveals more about the public-policy effect of psychiatry and psychology on individual citizens than it does about the purported roots of sexual orientation.

Just who gave renowned sex researcher/psychologist Dr. John Money (even Freud might have appreciated the irony of the man’s name) the right to change a two-year-old boy into a girl?  Why did David undergo castration, female reconstructive surgery, and years of dangerous hormone therapy and psychotherapy in order to become “Brenda”?

David Reimer’s parents approved the “sex change,” based on the prevailing psychiatric theory that sexual identity is imposed by parents and society rather than determined by biology.  Mr. Money, who was not a medical doctor, obtained some four million dollars in federal research grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).  He later alluded to the case in several of his writings, including a 1975 book, Sexual Signatures, alleging that his experimental subject, David Rei-mer, was “sailing contentedly through childhood as a genuine girl,”...

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