Friday, May 13, 2011

As Nature Made Him by John Colapinto

Title: As Nature Made Him

Author: John Colapinto

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Source: Library

What's the Story?:

From "In As Nature Made Him, author John Colapinto offers a powerful true story that may shake beliefs you take for granted -- not least that doctors can be trusted to work in their patients' best interests. In lucid, impassioned prose, Colapinto, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, traces the life of David Thiessen, a boy sex-changed to female during infancy as part of a cruel experiment. In 1965, David (then named Bruce) was one of a pair of male twins. After a catastrophic circumcision accident, Bruce's penis was destroyed, while his brother Brian remained intact. Devastated, the twins' parents turned for help to Dr. John Money, a world-famous Johns Hopkins psychologist. They were searching for a solution. Instead, they found themselves pawns in a test designed to confirm Money's pet theory -- that gender is a purely social phenomenon, a matter of nurture, not nature."

My Two Cents:

I felt horrible for David. His parents were devastated and just wanted to try to make David's life as normal as possible. Dr. John Money promised them that through changing their baby's sex (it seems to be much easier to do a sex change on a natural born male to a natural born female), he could give the baby a normal life and really, who doesn't simply seek for their children to have a normal life?

Dr. Money also had an ulterior motive though. Long outspoken on matters of sexuality and gender, Money wanted to prove that it's nurture and not nature that makes our genders what they are (full disclosure: this is a philosophy that I do not agree with). Money made David's parents promise that they would bring him to see Money every year for psychological study and "counseling" (I use that term loosely as what Money did to poor David should not really be considered couseling). Money tries to instill what it means to be a female in David, who isn't told that he was born a male and the methods he uses are horrendous and stereotypical (David gets good treatment when he acts or does things that fit into a female stereotype and he pretty much get berated when he acts confused about his gender or does things that fit into the male stereotype).

Luckily, David is now able to live as the gender he chooses to be and he's free to be exactly who he feels that he should be. It was heart wrenching to watch him struggle through the book to come to terms why he felt something was off (he doesn't find out that he was actually born male until his pre-teen/teen years). I can't imagine how I would feel going through something like that where I felt like something was wrong with me but I just couldn't pinpoint exactly what was wrong.

This is an incredibly interesting book and I recommend it to anyone who likes psychology or science or even just general human interest stories.

My Review:

4 out of 5 stars


  1. I just thought you should know that your comment that David can now live in the gender he chooses should be in past tense, as he killed himself. You can google a documentary about his troubled life and death through "horizon" as mentioned in the book that they were working on a documentary.


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