Hope of the Hopeless
Graeme Hunter on Tragedy & the Life of David Reimer
In May 2004 the sad life of David Reimer ended where it began, in Winnipeg. He was not quite 40. In his earliest infancy, an unpracticed doctor botched the attempt to circumcise him, destroying his penis. His bewildered parents, not knowing where to turn, fell prey to an ego-driven sex researcher named John Money, employed at the Gender Identity Clinic of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. Money persuaded the Reimers to do something almost inconceivable at that time: to press on with what the doctor had inadvertently begun and make David into a girl.
The Reimers were ordinary working people. They could not have grasped what a windfall their son represented for Money if they followed his advice. He was looking for some way to demonstrate his far-fetched theory that masculinity and femininity are not natural characteristics but acquired ones. If he was right, children could be raised to play either male or female roles in society, provided they were consistently reinforced in whichever role was selected for them.
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Graeme Hunter is a contributing editor to Touchstone and Research Professor of Philosophy at Dominican University College in Ottawa. He is the author of Radical Protestantism in Spinoza's Thought (Ashgate).
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