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Although many neo-Marxists attribute to Simone de Beauvoir the beginnings of gender studies, which they now call gender science – trying to neutralize their detractors’ labeling them as gender ideology – the father of this dubious science was John Money.
John Money, a New Zealand psychologist with master’s degrees in Psychology and Education from the University of Wellington, emigrated to the United States in 1947, studied psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh and in 1952 received his doctorate from Harvard. From 1951 until his death in 2006, he was professor of pediatrics and psychology at Johns Hopkins University.
As a sexologist, Money claimed that sexual identity–which he called gender identity–was independent of genetics and determined by upbringing. It was he who, in the English language, moved the term gender from the study of language to the health sciences, while studying hermaphroditism in the Department of Psychiatry and Pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Hospital. Money argued that social gender is encoded in infancy for either female or male. Each infant assimilates both halves of the code, identifying with one and complementing the other. For Money, parents transmit to their children an intimate sense of male or female being, which he called a gender identity. This process, Money said, occurred during the first three years of the child’s upbringing. Money’s gender identity was the opposite of biological sex determinism.
He conducted sexological studies on intersexual children, sexual fantasies, paraphilias and especially pedophilia, defending what he called ‘affective’ pedophilia. He was objected to for attempting to normalize pedophilia. And he was singled out for allegedly pedophilic practices in experiments on children. He created the terms gender dysphoria, chronophilia, lovemap and gendermap, sexosophy, gender crossover, gynemimesis and andromimesis, among others. His positions on the exercise of sexuality, paraphilias and especially pedophilia were very controversial. But he enjoyed enormous prestige for his gender theory.
The Reimer tragedy
In his most famous case, with which he had supposedly proved his theory, the opposite was proven. But Money falsified the results. In 1966, an 8-month-old baby boy was diagnosed with fibrosis and scheduled for circumcision. A surgeon performed the operation with a novel electric scalpel that cauterizes while cutting. While using an electrical metal clamp to perform the surgery, the surgeon irreparably burned David Reimer’s penis.
The frightened parents desist from circumcising David’s twin brother and eventually consult the famous Dr. Money, who saw the opportunity for the clinical experiment that would prove his gender theory. He had two babies, identical twins. These desperate parents were willing to do whatever he recommended. A toddler Reimer, a victim of bad surgery, was reassigned female, had his testicles removed, a vulva surgically created, and his name changed to Brenda. Questioning his own theory, Money soon prescribed hormone treatment. Brenda was regularly given female hormones.
Money instructed the family never to reveal her sex change to Brenda and to raise her as a normal child. And both children went to medical appointments for years with Money, who published a series of articles reporting the reassignment as indisputably successful. Showcasing the case as proof of his theory. But it was all false.
During medical appointments Money forced Brenda and her brother Brian to perform sexual acts, with Brenda passively submitting to her brother pressing his crotch against her buttocks. Money also forced the two children to undress in order to perform genital inspections on them. And he took photographs. He justified it by claiming that childhood sex play was important for healthy gender identity in adulthood.
For years, Money reported the alleged success as his “John/Joan case.” He reported supposedly successful female gender development. And he touted the case as proof of the feasibility of sex reassignment with surgical reconstruction in non-intersex people. In reality, Brenda could never feel or behave like a normal girl; from an early age she had difficulty socializing with other girls because of her masculine attitudes in play and her disinterest in girly things. But Money caused her parents to lie to the hospital at annual visits about the success of her treatment.
In 1997, Milton Diamond revealed that Money’s “John/Joan case” reassignment had been a failure. Brenda had never identified as a girl or behaved in a typically female manner, despite having had her sex changed to female, been raised as a girl, treated with female hormones, and subjected to Money’s therapy of “childhood sex play” all her life.
At age 14 and after several suicide attempts, her parents finally decide to tell Brenda everything. They stopped seeing Money — who continued to publish about the supposed success in scientific journals — and Brenda (David), finally knowing who he really was, requested to undergo male hormone treatments, get his name back and finally undergo surgeries to regain his penis. Although the ability to reproduce had been removed by Money’s order.
In 2002, Brian Reimer, who had developed schizophrenia, died of a drug overdose. And on May 5, 2004, David Reimer committed suicide. Unable to bear the guilt, Reimer’s father committed suicided. Money felt no guilt, nor did he care about the family tragedy. In fact, he claimed until the end of his days that the experiment was a success and the media reports of its failure a conspiracy of the political right.
Money retained his position and much of his prestige by successfully leaning on the academic left–and the radicalized feminist movement–by claiming that his detractors claimed that “masculinity and femininity were in the genes for women to return to bed and the kitchen.” This is the real beginning of “gender science.”.
Guillermo Rodríguez is a professor of Political Economy in the extension area of the Faculty of Economic and Administrative Sciences at Universidad Monteávila, in Caracas. A researcher at the Juan de Mariana Center and author of several books // Guillermo es profesor de Economía Política en el área de extensión de la Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Administrativas de la Universidad Monteávila, en Caracas, investigador en el Centro Juan de Mariana y autor de varios libros