As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl

John Colapinto, Author HarperCollins Publishers $26 (279p) ISBN 978-0-06-019211-2
Forget sugar, spice, snails and puppy dog tails: discussions of how little boys and little girls are made have become quite complicated over the past three decades, as scientists, feminists and social theorists debate the relative impact of ""nature"" and ""nurture"" on gender and sexual identity. Focusing on the real-life story behind sexologist Dr. John Money's famous sexual reassignment case of 1965, Colapinto, an award-winning journalist, has penned a gripping medical melodrama. After Bruce Thiessen, one of two identical male twins, lost his penis during a botched circumcision, he underwent surgery that made him anatomically female, later received estrogen injections and was raised as a girl under Money's supervision at the Psychohormonal Research Unit at Johns Hopkins. All of Money's reports of the case--which quickly appeared in textbooks as a prime example of environment trumping biology--portrayed Bruce (now Brenda) as a well-adjusted girl, although the reality was quite different. Angry, sullen and having always insisted that ""she"" was a boy, Brenda finally decided at age 15--after ""she"" finally learned of the surgery-to revert to her original sex and take the name David. Drawing on extensive interviews with the Thiessen family, ""Brenda""'s therapists and friends, Colapinto has written a wrenching personal narrative and a scathing indictment of Money's methods and theories, including instances of what Colapinto and David Thiessen see as extraordinarily invasive behavior and sexual abuse in his examinations of ""Brenda"" and her twin brother. Although Colapinto runs into trouble when he tries to generalize about nature vs. nurture from this single case, his book is illuminating, frightening and moving. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/28/2000
Release date: 03/01/2000
Genre: Nonfiction
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-671-04792-4
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-06-092959-6
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7927-2432-2
Paperback - 289 pages - 978-0-06-112056-5
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-7435-4174-9
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