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As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised As A Girl

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  5,552 Ratings  ·  640 Reviews
Once you begin reading As Nature Made Him, a mesmerizing story of a medical tragedy and its traumatic results, you absolutely won't want to put it down. Following a botched circumcision, a family is convinced to raise their infant son, Bruce, as a girl. They rename the child Brenda and spend the next 14 years trying to transform him into a her. Brenda's childhood reads as ...more
Paperback, 285 pages
Published 2001 by HarperCollins (first published January 13th 2000)
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Eric_W
This book will make you very angry; that a child could be so maltreated by an "expert," who clearly was in need of help himself, but who was so intent on proving a theory that he disregarded substantial evidence to the contrary. You'll be angry, too, with other professionals who were reluctant to challenge the "great" man even when their own evidence pointed in an opposite direction. But you'll be astonished and satisfied by the incredible fortitude of a young child who realized that something w ...more
Petra X
I was reading a review of this book and realised I'd read it, I even remember buying it. But where is the review? Gone.... Yet another review deleted by GR. There are numerous threads in Feedback about this problem, but GR mods are always, 'Wow, like this is news to us, better write to Support with all the details." Support is no better, they always pretend it is a one-off.

GR Support is annoying me right now. If you write to them and they reply in a way they think has solved the problem they se
...more
Amy
What an account! I am very thankful to say this is not the state of pediatric urology today. I am a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Urology SEction, and remember very clearly when Milton Diamond spoke in San Francisco at the AAP conference. Out in the streets, we were being picketed by a group called "HErmaphrodites with an Attitude". What the group failed to realize is that the majority of the pediatric urologists were genuinely trying to understand what was best for the patient.

I
...more
Tracey
Dec 19, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A recommendation from hells_librarian, I checked this book out and read it last Sunday afternoon. I didn't take as many notes as I might have normally, as the story just sucked me in.

A gripping story of Bruce, an infant boy who, after a botched circumcision, was surgically altered and raised as a girl, upon the recommendation of an expert in gender identity & sexual reassignment. This expert, Dr. John Money, had been looking for proof that nurture was more important than nature in gender id
...more
Steven Matview
Dec 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nf
So while I was a middle school student, I ended up stuck at an airport in Texas for an entire day. My mom gave me $5 and I spent it on a bag of Reese’s Pieces and a copy of Rolling Stone Magazine.

Life was a lot harder in the 90s without mobile internet.
amish

The issue had an article on The Dead Kennedys, which as a young punk I thought was incredibly rad, and I think there was an article on some new band called Foo Fighters, though I’m sure that with a ridiculous name like the band simply faded into o
...more
Jennifer
Mar 11, 2015 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Bon, 1 étoile, ça peut paraître fort sévère mais selon le barème Goodreads, ça veut dire avec justesse "Je n'ai pas aimé". Il y a plusieurs raisons pour ça. D'abord l'horrible préface de Marcel Rufo qui tient des propos essentialisants, qui semble croire que la non-hétérosexualité tient à la théorie douteuse de l'inversion des genres et que l'ambiguïté sexuelle est automatiquement "un traumatisme majeur pour les familles".

Ensuite, je ne sais pas trop comment situer les propos du journaliste. On
...more
Kelly H. (Maybedog)
It is not often I can say a book turned my world view on edge but this one did. This is the story of a boy, David, who, because of a surgical accident as an infant, lost his penis and was raised a girl until he was 13 or 14. The gender reassignment never worked on him: he was always aggressive, butch, eschewed "feminine" things, etc. He never felt like a girl and when he finally found out the truth, he felt like everything finally made sense.

The book is well written and very interesting. It doe
...more
Susanna
Mar 18, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the tragic true account of a little boy, who after a botched circumcision that destroyed his penis, was taken to Johns Hopkins for help. His poor and uneducated parents were convinced by a research scientist, one who was considered the expert in his field, to castrate the child and to raise him as a girl. This man's completely untested theory was that gender is malleable in babies and that "nurture beats nature". This man was not a doctor, had done no preliminary research on animals, and ...more
Larisa
May 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lgbtqia, non-fiction
I think that this book could be an excellent read for those in the world still under the unfortunate misconception that gender identity and sexual orientation are a choice. This accident, though devastating and traumatic for David, ought to have a hand in changing the way this country, and perhaps even this world thinks about gender. We are who we are, simple as that. No amount of knives, porn, or dresses will change that. I really do admire the Reimer family for sharing their story. It must hav ...more
J.M.
May 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoirs, nonfiction, glbt
I stuck this on my GLBT shelf, but only because the book talks about intersexual children who are more with ambiguous genitalia. The main thrust of the book is about David Reimer, who was born as a natural male (one of a pair of identical male twins) whose penis was destroyed during a botched circumcision (which is scary in and of itself). Under the suggestion of a sex psychologist, David was raised as a girl named Brenda, but always knew he was not female.

The tale of David's path to self-discov
...more
Ana BRMW
May 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Again, my husband recommended me this book and he did not fail me. A heartbreaking tale of a boy who was raised as a girl, due to a freak accident during circumcision.


It is hard for me to talk about this book. While the book does end on an optimistic note, it was shattering for me to learn that David Reimer took his own life in 2004, three years after the book was originally published. The life this man had to endure, the confusion, the sadness, the disappointment… And yet, I will forever recomm
...more
J.
Mar 11, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: gender studies students, those who want to know abt intersex surgeries, or biology of gender
3.5/5
excellently written and exhaustive book but I really didn't enjoy the dehumanizing and transphobic rhetoric towards trans women (i.e. referring to a woman only as "the transsexual").
who else wants to punch John Money in the face (or more)?
Anita George
Aug 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thought this would be interesting, but it really exceeded my expectations. This is a fascinating account of the role of biology in gender identification as well as of academic research and debate, and the tragedy that occurs when lust for scientific fame outweighs care for a patient. What is shocking is how unethical the treatment of the child was--Dr Money leapt at the chance to prove his theory that gender is established by nurture alone, and appears not to have thought about the child's wel ...more
Bridget
Sep 11, 2007 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone in the medical or mental health fields
I highly recommend this book to all my friends in the field of psychology. I first heard about this case when I was an undergraduate in psychology. The subjects were in adolescence at the time, and my professor told us that the prepubertal adjustment of the altered child was healthy but that out of respect for the child's privacy nothing was being published about the case during the period of adolescence. The study was cited in my textbook as Money & Erhardt. Though I couldn't remember the y ...more
Paul
Jan 09, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is about the arrogance of one doctor who pursued his theory that behavior is all culturally engendered rather than inborn. He pursued it despite increasing evidence that it was false and unscientific, and this book is a narrative of the case that exploded his theory--although he hotly and aggressively pushed it far beyond any period that it may have had any credibility.

The story is a fascinating case of identical boy twins, one of whom had his tiny penis accidentally burned off during
...more
Joni
Mar 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: parenting
I didn't find this book to be riveting in the writing style - it can be rather dry and there are parts that drag on a bit. But it is a fascinating true story about identical twin boys who, because of a circumcision gone horribly wrong, are raised as brother and sister.

The ego of Dr. John Money is infuriating and it is frustrating just how he managed to get all these cases of sex reassignment. I find it baffling that all these parents would let their children have these yearly therapy sessions wi
...more
Sarah
Apr 03, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Faith
Sep 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
I was assigned to read this book for a class but despite that handicap I found it utterly captivating. In a "can't look away from the trainwreck" kind of way. The prose is intelligent but clear, free of jargon; the language might show a bit of age (the usage of transsexual vs. transgender, and particularly the usage of adjectival gender identity descriptions as nouns: "a transsexual" "an intersex"), but overall it takes a neutral approach so that the horror of the story speaks for itself.

And wha
...more
Aneta
Jun 10, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: booyashakaaaah
As Nature Made Him was a rather disturbing book. I read it at a time where I didn't exaclty feel like I needed any more depressing tales. I also had the revised copy which included the fact that the main character committed suicide in the end. Especially because it's a true story, it made the book a heavy one to carry around in one's understanding. If I maybe read the book at a different time in my life, I would have connected more. It simply did not strike me.
Kate
This was toward the end of my last semester of college, when I had pretty much finished all my projects and I was just waiting to graduate... and I was forced to use the university library to find pleasure reading material. A bit difficult, and this is what I came up with: a nonfiction account of a hermaphrodite raised as a female, who later decided to be male. It was interesting from a psychological perspective with the whole nature vs. nurture debate... but in retrospect, I think Middlesex by ...more
di
Dec 21, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was such an interesting exploration of gender issues. How imperfect science is, & how sometimes the agendas of scientists can destroy people's lives. David's comments at the end about what makes a man and what a father is are tremendous. His reactions to John Money's position about sex and gender are also fascinating. I don't think I could have liked this book any better. It had me hooked from page one. I got into an interesting discussion with Millie about the church, priesthood, and t ...more
SouthWestZippy
Jan 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is about a healthy baby born a boy. On the morning of April 27, 1966 a circumcision goes horribly wrong. Adults and Doctors make a decision to change the boy into a girl. This book is both fascinating and heartbreaking.
Sharon
A tragic but facinating story. Sadly, David Reimer committed suicide in 2004. His twin brother also died .....from a drug overdose.
Talia
Oct 02, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It was a cold day in Winnipeg, Canada, when Janet and Ronald Reimer took their infant child, Bruce, to receive a routine circumcision, but what happened next would change all of their lives. The setting takes place mainly in Canada and at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore. In this book you enter an interesting journey with the Reimer family (parents Janet and Ronald and identical twin Brian Reimer) as well as John Money, the psychologist who fought to establish that it was nurture, not nat ...more
Victor
Aug 20, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very well written and well researched look at a horrifying example of a much too headstrong doctor basically ruining a family irreparably. It's such a tragic story, one that seemed to have a happy ending in the year 2000, when it was published. In fact, if one doesn't turn all the way to the very end, it may seem to have a positive conclusion.

Colapinto does a good job of keeping the people in the book from becoming characters. They're treated with care and empathy (even Dr. Money). Very import
...more
Jess
Sep 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
HOLY HELL.

I’m sorry, I’m just trying to wrap my mind around everything I just read from this book. It was absolutely horrendous. Not the writing, not the book itself, but the content it covers is a crime against thousands of children.

This is going to be a long review, with a preface of a bit about myself so as to draw better conclusions about how this book affected me personally.

I am a cisgendered Lesbian. I am very lucky in that I was born in the body that I associate with mentally. I am and ha
...more
Simone
Nov 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book touched my heart (I cried), made me angry and confused all at the same time. I wondered if there was no other option. I wondered, how would his life, the twins lives have been had there parents made another decision or sought help elsewhere. Quick background... Its a true story of a boy, born with a twin brother, both perfectly natural healthy twins males named Bruce and Brian. This story follows Bruce, later known as Brenda then as David. During a routine circumcision 8 after months t ...more
Chin
During the time of 1965, Ron and Janet Reimer, a young Canadian couple, gave birth to two healthy boy twins. Once Bruce and Brian were about eight months old, the Reimers took them in to the hospital because of difficulties. Baby Bruce Reimer had his penis practically burned off. Then one night in 1967, the Reimers were hopeful when met they Dr. Money, who had success in sex change operations, with new genders. Over a period of time, Bruce turned to Brenda.
As an experiment, Money had a focus on
...more
Mirek Kukla
Apr 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other
This thought-provoking book documents the tragic story of Bruce/Brenda/David - the boy who was raised a girl.

A few decades back, David's case was presented as the definitive answer to the 'Nature vs. Nurture' question: are the sexes socially constructed, or are there inherent differences between the genders? 'Sexual identity is the product of nurture,' the medical community had decided, and David - then Brenda - was the primary piece of evidence.

David was born a boy. However, after a botched cir
...more
Becky Stieb
Nov 21, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As a young child, I remember hearing a news clip about the boy who was raised as a girl. After having my own little boy a year ago, the story popped back into my mind. I searched online and found John Colapinto's biography, "As Nature Made Him". Colapinto clearly did the legwork in his research; what I found was not just one boy's story, but the topic of gender reassignment surgery on an international level. The ethics, politics, and major players appear here without detracting from the heart of ...more
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as nature made him 12 59 Sep 19, 2012 07:02PM  
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25 followers
An award-winning journalist, author and novelist and is currently a staff writer at The New Yorker.

Prior to working at The New Yorker, Colapinto wrote for Vanity Fair, New York magazine and The New York Times Magazine, and in 1995 he became a contributing editor at Rolling Stone,[1] where he published feature stories on a variety of subjects ranging from AIDS, to kids and guns, to heroin in the mu
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