Between+XX+and+XY:+Intersexuality+and+the+myth+of+two+sexes

Throughout brendas parents made every effort to raise

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Unformatted text preview: hs old, both of the twins began to have trouble urinating. Each time one of them peed, he cried out in pain. Janet made certain it had nothing to do with their diapers, and then she examined both boys carefully. It appeared to her that the boys’ foreskins were stuck closed. So she took both of them to see their pediatrician. When the doctor examined the twins, he explained it was nothing to worry about. Both boys suffered from phimosis, a condition that makes it difficult for boys to retract their foreskins. The doctor told the Reimers that circumcision was the cure, and after some discussion, Janet and Ron made arrangements for the boys to have the surgery. 1 The operations took place at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, a teaching hospital with an excellent reputation. Since Ron Reimer had agreed to work a late shift at the slaughterhouse, the Reimers dropped the boys off at the hospital the night before the surgery. No one imagined that anything could go wrong. But what happened at St. Boniface the next morning was horrendous. Experienced pediatricians nearly always performed the circumcisions at St. Boniface. But the morning of April 27, none was available. So the job fell to Dr. Jean-Marie Huot, a general practitioner. With the toss of a coin, the nurse lifted Bruce from his crib and prepped him for the first surgery. Electrocautery was Dr. Huot’s method of choice. Electrocautery is a technique that uses an electrically heated instrument to simultaneously remove the foreskin and seal the severed blood vessels. When Dr. Huot first touched the electrocautery needle to Bruce’s foreskin, nothing happened. The doctor assumed the instrument wasn’t generating enough electricity to do the job, so he asked the nurse to turn up the power on the machine. She did, and Dr. Huot tried again. Still nothing. Once again someone turned up the power to the electrocautery instrument. This time, when Dr. Huot brought the needle to Bruce’s foreskin, there was “a sound just like a steak being seared.” Someone immediately turned off the machine and sent for a urologist. The urolo- Outcomes 129 gist installed a catheter so urine could flow from Bruce’s bladder, but it was too late to save any of Bruce’s burnt penis. Once a full assessment of the situation revealed to everyone the seriousness of the gaffe, the hospital called the Reimers and told them “there had been a slight accident and they needed to see [the Reimers] right away.”2 For the next ten months, the Reimers and Bruce’s physician agonized over what they should do for the boy. In desperation, Janet finally contacted Dr. John Money at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. Dr. Money was very clear about how much good they could do for Bruce at Johns Hopkins. Janet felt like someone was finally listening. Dr. Money was certain that the only path left to them was to make Bruce into Brenda. So, at twenty-one months of age, the doctors removed Bruce’s testicles along with the very last remnants of his penis and begin his feminization—including crafting a vagina from a piece of intestine and beginning a lifelong course of female hormones. From then on, Brenda dressed as a girl and eventually, thanks to the hormones, developed breasts. Throughout, Brenda’s parents made every effort to raise her as a girl, which couldn’t have been easy after nearly two years of treating Bruce as a boy, not to mention the constant presence of Brenda’s identical twin brother, Brian. Brenda was described as “having many tomboyish traits such as abundant physical energy, a high level of activity, and often being the dominant one in a girls’ group.” Still, the doctors were convinced that she was developing as a normal girl. “Her behavior is so normally that of an active little girl and so clearly different by contrast from the boyish ways of her twin brother, that it offers nothing to stimulate one’s conjecture.” As a result, these authors, especially Dr. John Money, concluded that “gender identity is sufficiently incompletely differentiated at birth to permit successful assignment of a genetic male as a girl.”3 But when interviewed at age thirty, David (born Bruce, then Brenda) claimed that none of that was accurate. He said he had never felt comfortable as a girl. And when they were interviewed, his brother, father, and mother said they had sensed the same thing all along.4 Finally, at age fourteen, Brenda could stand it no longer. 130 Between XX and XY “I[’ve] suspected I was a boy since the second grade,” she told her doctor. After her declaration, Brenda had a mastectomy to remove her hormoneinduced breasts, changed her name to David, and began testosterone therapy. At age fifteen and sixteen David underwent surgeries to reconstruct his ruined penis. And at age twenty-five he married a woman named Jane and adopted her children.5 David’s experiences are among the most widely known and quoted of all the travails of children with assigned sexes. At the outset, perhaps because of the lack of hard facts, the broader implicati...
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