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You are here: BBC > Science & Nature > TV & Radio Follow-up > Programmes > Horizon
School photo of David (Brenda) Reimer
Dr Money and the Boy with No Penis

Programme transcript.

Programme summary

Questions and answers about sexology

NARRATOR (DILLY BARLOW): This is the story of a boy whose penis was burnt off. As a result, David Reimer was raised as a girl for. the first fourteen years of his life.

JANET REIMER: She looked feminine in the face, so I grew her hair long, she was very pretty. I made her the fanciest dresses of any of the girls in the school.

NARRATOR: It is also the story of the psychologist who treated him. A man with a radical theory about what makes us male and female, masculine and feminine.

PROF RICHARD GREEN: He's brilliant, I think John is a brilliant man, I think he's. One of the handful of the most brilliant people I've ever met.

NARRATOR: Together they helped form one of the most famous theories in the history of modern psychology, that a boy, any boy could be raised as a girl, but the experiment went terribly wrong.

DAVID REIMER: I was told I was a girl, I didn't like dressing like a girl, I didn't like behaving like a girl, I didn't like acting like a girl. I'm not a professor in anything but you know you don't wake up one morning deciding that you're a boy or a girl, you just know.

NARRATOR: In the end, the scientists' reputation would be shattered and David Reimer and his twin brother would die tragically. Tonight Horizon tells a cautionary tale about how science, in a bid to prove a beautiful theory, can at times ignore the ugly facts, at dreadful human cost. On May 4th 2004, thirty eight year old David Reimer drove in to a supermarket car park.

JANET REIMER: At ten thirty at night the police came to the door, I think I was screaming no, no, no.

NARRATOR: As he sat in his car he put a shot gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

JANET REIMER: Then they asked us to sit down and they said they had some bad news. That David was dead. And, I just cried.

NARRATOR: David's death was a shocking close to one of the most extraordinary sagas in modern science. Born a boy he'd been turned in to a girl called Brenda. But when she was fourteen she changed herself back in to a man and later married and raised a family. David's suicide was more than just a human tragedy, it was also a devastating blow to the reputation of the psychologist whose ground breaking research on David had influenced a whole generation of scientists. Because some say that it was his unflinching belief in his theories that may ultimately have led to David's death. Horizon has been following the story of David Reimer for years, it all began on the 22nd August 1965 in Winnipeg, Canada. For it was then that Janet Reimer was granted her dearest wish.

JANET REIMER: I was so proud, I was so pleased, you know when I was a little girl I used to dream about having twins and I always thought I would never be lucky enough to have twins, I wasn't the lucky kind.

NARRATOR: Janet gave birth to two twin boys, Bruce and Brian, all went well until the boys went for a routine circumcision operation when they were seven months old. On the 27th April 1966, Bruce was operated on before his brother Brian.

JANET REIMER: When we first heard that there had been an accident we thought well, what kind of accident could there be? But we went to the hospital not suspecting a thing, they wouldn't tell us anything over the telephone, and then the doctor said there has been a slight accident. The penis has been burnt off from cic, circumcision and I could not comprehend what he was talking about because you see I thought they were going to use a knife. I didn't know there was electricity involved.

NARRATOR: The electrical equipment had malfunctioned and burnt off baby Bruce's entire penis. Brian was not operated on.

JANET REIMER: It was like a little burnt piece of string, right up to the crotch was burnt off. I said oh my god, what are we going to do now? Boys put such great store in their penises, he doesn't have one.

NARRATOR: Janet and her husband Ron didn't know where to turn, at the time plastic surgery was not advanced enough to help Bruce Reimer.

NEWS REPORT: Only a few weeks ago John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore announced that it was opening a gender identity clinic, expressly for people who wanted to change their sex.

NARRATOR: Then several months later the Reimer family saw something on television that made them feel hopeful for the first time since the accident. Dr John Money, originally from New Zealand, was a pioneer in the astonishing new field of sex change surgery.

ALVIN DAVIES: Dr Money, it's still a pretty drastic procedure isn't it?

DR JOHN MONEY: Well it's a drastic procedure by your standards and mine, but for the people who are living in desperation perhaps the best way to understand it is that it seems no more drastic to them than circumcision.

JANET REIMER: We just happened to be watching TV, and Dr Money was on there and he was very charismatic, he was very, he seemed highly intelligent and very confident of what he was saying.

NARRATOR: Dr Money had brought a transsexual with him, a man who had been changed in to a woman.

JANET REIMER: The transsexual certainly made an impact because she was a very feminine seeming woman. And I thought here's our answer, here's our salvation, here's our hope.

NARRATOR: Janet wrote to Dr Money after the show ended, he replied promptly. When they met Dr Money suggested that the Reimers' could turn their baby son in to a baby girl. It looked as if Ron and Janet had solved the problem. But it wasn't just that Dr Money was the answer to the Reimer's prayers. They were the answer to his. Dr Money had developed a radical new theory about nature versus nurture, and how these twin forces affect whether we think of ourselves as a girl or a boy. He thought that while genes are important, as far as its gender is concerned a baby is essentially neutral for the first two years of life. During these critical two years the child's upbringing, how it is nurtured, will determine whether it feels masculine or feminine. Dr Money had developed this theory from his research with hermaphrodites, people now known as intersex, who are physically both male and female.

NARRATOR: But intersex children and not necessarily the same as other children. They receive different amounts of hormones in the womb, so some argued that Dr Money's hypothesis might not be true for all children. To prove that nurture is more important than nature would require an extraordinary experiment. Dr Money needed two ordinary boys, one would be raised as a girl, the other would remain a boy. Dr Money now had the perfect opportunity, the Reimer Twins. Professor Richard Green was one of Dr Money's students.

PROF RICHARD GREEN: This was an opportunity to apply what was learned about intersex children, to a child who was not intersexed at birth, but who had a traumatic loss of a major variable contributing to whether you're a male or a female, the penis.

NARRATOR: On July 3rd, 1967, when Bruce Reimer was almost two, he was castrated by a surgeon at Johns Hopkins Medical hospital, without his testicles Bruce could no longer produce male hormones. The surgeon also created a rudimentary vulva for him.

JANET REIMER: It made sense at the time that he became a maybe it is a matter of nurture over nature. And I thought if it was simply a matter of nurture I could nurture my child in to being feminine.

NARRATOR: As Dr Money suggested the Reimers' changed Bruce's name to Brenda and dressed her as a girl. Dr Money also gave Janet and Ron very strict instructions. He said that if they ever revealed the truth to their daughter the sex change would fail.

JANET REIMER: John Money's main advice to us was don't let her think that she was ever a boy, keep that a secret.

NARRATOR: Brenda, as Bruce was now called, grew up to be a very pretty little girl.

JANET REIMER: I dressed Brenda as a girl. I tried to interest her in feminine pursuits such as playing with dolls, helping me make cookies, wearing makeup, all those things that girls do.

NARRATOR: Janet wrote to Dr Money of Brenda's progress, and once a year the Reimers' visited the psychologist. This is a dramatic reconstruction of an interview between money and the twins when they were six years old. Horizon has used the original transcripts of these interviews. This is what really happened, and these are the actual words Dr Money and the children used. In this session Dr Money's theory seemed to be working.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: Tell me, which one of you is the boss?

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: Brian's the boss because he's a boy.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: Brian are you the boss?

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRIAN REIMER: I don't know.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: If boys start to fight do you fight back or do you run away?

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRIAN REIMER: I fight back.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: I guess Brenda fights back too sometimes, do you Brenda?

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: No because I'm a girl.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: You're a girl.

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: I'm not a boy, girls don't fight back do they.

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRIAN REIMER: Girls can't hit very hard but boys can.

NARRATOR: In 1972 when Brenda Reimer was seven years old Dr Money announced to the world how successful his theory was, that a boy if given the correct upbringing could be turned in to a girl.

VOICE OVER AS DR MONEY: Her behaviour as a little girl is a remarkable contrast to the little boy behaviour of her identical twin brother.

NARRATOR: Dr Money's book 'Man and Boy, Woman and Girl', was reviewed all over the world.

VOICE OVER AS DR MONEY: The girl wanted and received for Christmas dolls, a dollhouse and a doll carriage, clearly related to the maternal aspect of the female/adult role.

NARRATOR: Dr Money's idea became known as the theory of gender neutrality. It seemed to be proof of one of the great issues in science. As far as gender identity was concerned nurture was more important than nature.

DR JOHN MONEY: It makes it very exciting don't you think to live in an age of, of discovery of human personality this way?

NARRATOR: But back in Canada the Reimer family were unaware that Dr Money was triumphantly describing their daughter's sex change as a success. Life was rather different for the Reimers. Brenda was behaving in a distinctly masculine manner.

JANET REIMER: I had doubts all the time because it was just so obvious to everyone, not just to me, that she was masculine.

DAVID REIMER: I had a sewing machine, toy sewing machine, and I had Barbie dolls, clothing, but my brother was very generous, there was the odd day when he let me borrow his toys, we'd play together, because he knew how unhappy I was, so he let me play with his toys.

NARRATOR: Even at this early stage it was clear that the case was not working as well as Dr Money had claimed. Some argue that Dr Money published only the positive results to make it look as if his theory was true. Others disagree.

PROF RICHARD GREEN: At the time that John reported the initial reports, about how the twins were fairing, I believe that they were based on interviews and observations that John had made, and that they at the time were, were accurate.

NARRATOR: However Dr Money's original transcripts show that as early as 1970, even before he publicised Brenda's case as a success, he was aware that there could be some problems.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: From this evidence and others I would say there's not much chance of talking this girl in to a change of mind. This negativism is the most extreme she displayed on this visit. Last time she was almost vernacular in the way she hit, kicked, and otherwise attacked people in not altogether a playful manner.

NARRATOR: According to Dr Money's theory that it is possible to raise a boy as a girl Brenda needed to believe that she was female. So the year after his book was published Dr Money tried to make her accept her new gender by focussing on the difference between a girls' and a boys' genitalia. He began by asking her a series of intimate questions.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: Now I've got a good question for you.

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: What?

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: How do you tell the difference between a boy and a girl?

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: Well a girl has long hair and a boy has short hair.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: What if I have short hair and you have short hair?

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: Well I have a dress and you have pants.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: Yes that would be a way but there is another way.

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: What?

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: Take their clothes off. What about a baby when it has no clothes on, how can you tell whether it's a boy or a girl?

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: I don't know.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: Well I'll help you, you have a look down here, between the legs right? How is a girl and how is a boy down there? What is the difference?

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: Flat.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: A boy has a penis for peeing through, like a little sausage uh? What does a girl have?

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: I don't know.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: She has it flat, a boy doesn't have that. They're both different, they're both different.

DAVID REIMER: A couple of questions that we were asked were sexual in nature, to the point where it would make me blush if I would think of talking that way to my, to my son, I'd be very embarrassed. It is very explicit, about the sexual parts.

NARRATOR: There is no doubt that Brenda found Dr Money's approach distressing. But his supporters argue that focussing on genitalia was a scientifically correct procedure at the time.

PROF RICHARD GREEN: It's a very important issue with children to know whether they are boys or girls, male or female, by the appearance of their genitalia. I mean this is the insignia if you will that distinguishes boys and girls, and it's very commonly used clinically, certainly I do it as well.

NARRATOR: To try and make Brenda understand that she was a girl Dr Money showed her a book called 'Two Births'. It contained explicit photographs of women giving birth, and was clearly shocking for a young child.

DAVID REIMER: I thought he was perverted. I thought he was a sick man. My parents didn't know a lot that was going on, and if they would have known it never would have happened.

NARRATOR: With Brenda still resisting her female gender Dr Money then had to adopt a more extreme approach. He thought that the only way he could make Brenda accept a feminine identity would be if her rudimentary vulva looked more like a normal girls' genitalia. He therefore tried to persuade her to have a vagina constructed. Brenda however was clearly uncomfortable with the idea of having surgery.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: That reminds me of something else I want to tell you about. You know already the way you were made down there, you're not exactly the same as other girls eh? Well, I have a message for you about that, here at the hospital we can fix it up and make it look like it's supposed to be. Fix it up so that when you sit down to pee it goes straight down the bowl instead of splashing. How old would you be when you're ready for that?

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: I don't know.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: How old are you now?

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: Seven.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: Well, maybe if you feel ok by the time you're eight years old we can let the doctor in the white coat have a look down there, he's the one who'd do the operation to fix it up. Last year a man had a look down there, maybe next year it will be ok to let the other doctor have a look down there, and fix it up.

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: I wouldn't do that.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: You don't have to if you don't want to. When would be a good age for the operation?

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: Thirteen.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: Thirteen, well, we'll see about that, it might be a bit late.

NARRATOR: Although the theory behind the operation made sense Brenda was horrified at the prospect.

DAVID REIMER: I was scared to death, I figured you know I was perfectly fine, my, my heart was fine, there was nothing wrong with kidneys, what would I need surgery for? And I thought deep down inside that if I went through with this surgery it would change me somehow for the worse.

NARRATOR: It seems that Dr Money may have felt that time was running out. If Brenda did not feel female his theory that a boy can be raised as a girl would fail. It is alleged that he now resorted to drastic measures.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: Now, how do you tell the difference between a girl and a boy.

NARRATOR: This is the one part of the film not based on existing transcriptions, and it is not clear precisely when this interview may have taken place. It is based on accounts given by the twins who were both present.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: Now take your clothes off.

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: No.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: Take your clothes off.

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: No.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: I want to make you understand what I'm getting at, now take your clothes off.

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: No.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: Move come on, move. Take your clothes off now. Good. Now what's the difference? Look down there. What does Brian have? A penis. Right. And what do you have?

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: Flat, it's flat.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: That's right, that's how you know you're a girl. Stay there I'm going to take a couple of photographs, don't move.

DAVID REIMER: When my folks weren't around well then we did what we were told and if we didn't then we got yelled at to the point where we thought we were going to get backhanded. If we were told to take our clothes off, well eventually we took our clothes off and sat on the couch, had photos of us taken.

NARRATOR: If this incident took place it may have been reported in files that Dr Money gave to the Kinsey Institute and which are not allowed to be released.

DAVID REIMER: I have two years of my files that are buried, and those are the same files where I was on the couch, nude, getting photographed in different positions. So he can sit there and paint himself rosy all he wants, I know better.

NARRATOR: If Dr Money did indeed behave like this the family were unaware. The twins only revealed their experiences when they were adults.

JANET REIMER: David told us what Dr Money had done long after we had stopped seeing him. And we were horrified, we thought how could this happen to children.

NARRATOR: But not everyone believes David's testimony.

PROF RICHARD GREEN: I asked John about that, John said that's absolutely false. People remember things that have a sexual meaning to them from earlier years, they very often are not true, so called false memories, or false memory syndrome. Things that happen early on in life that have a sexual meaning to them, ok, sometimes get misremembered, sometimes get elaborated, ok, expanded to things that did not actually happen, that's one possibility.

NARRATOR: Whatever the truth of these allegations it is fair to say that Brenda grew up a troubled and lonely child.

JANET REIMER: Brenda had almost no friends growing up. Girls didn't want to play with her because she wanted to play boy things, and boys of course didn't want a girl in their games.

DAVID REIMER: Well the kids at school were bullying me because I was different, that's what kids do, kids always bully somebody who's different. It's the law.

NARRATOR: One test in particular showed how unhappy Brenda was.

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA (VOICE OVER): Compared with most families mine's a loser. I think most girls aren't very nice. My feeling about married life is rotten. My mother and I have nothing in common. To me the future looks bad. Some day I will see the sun soon.

NARRATOR: Brenda was still refusing to have surgery. She had also become increasingly masculine looking. By 1978, the year of the proposed surgery, when she was almost thirteen, Dr Money made one last attempt to persuade Brenda to have a vagina constructed. The psychologist enlisted the help of a transsexual.

RECONSTRUCTION OF TRANSSEXUAL: Is there anything you'd like to ask me or anything you'd like to say?

NARRATOR: He thought that when Brenda saw someone who had voluntarily submitted to a genital operation, she would be willing to have surgery too. Some experts think that this was a reasonable course of action.

PROF ANNE FAUSTO-STERLING: I could imagine that Money would have asked a transsexual to talk with Brenda to offer a kind of role model, an example of why it would be ok and to give her vision of someone who was happy to have had such surgery and who felt good about herself as an adult woman. Actually it seems like it could be a very smart thing to have done.

NARRATOR: We don't know what the transsexual and Brenda spoke about. But we do have a record of what happened next, as Dr Money concluded their interview.

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: When you talk about your identity, be male or female, boy or girl, man or woman, that's called your gender identity, and that's a very, very tough thing for you to talk about. Now, I've had not just a few but many people come in to this office with exactly the same feelings as you have. There's something you can not talk about yet it's the most important thing in your life.

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: Are we finished?

RECONSTRUCTION OF DR MONEY: Thanks for talking. I want you to know I'm going to be the one person in the world you can tell anything to.

RECONSTRUCTION OF TRANSSEXUAL: It's good to have a run. I'm going to a garage about eight blocks away, you're welcome to come along.

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: I don't want to talk.

RECONSTRUCTION OF TRANSSEXUAL: That's ok, look you need a walk, and I have to go to the garage, so we'll keep each other company, you don't have to say one word unless you'd like.

NARRATOR: Dr Money's approach backfired catastrophically. Brenda told her parents that she would kill herself if she had to see John Money again.

DAVID REIMER: It got so bad where you end up having, well I went to having like a breakdown, I'd shake like a baby and cry and huddle in a corner and I didn't know why I was behaving like that.

NARRATOR: Dr Money had stressed that for Brenda's realignment to work she must never be told about her real identity, but finally faced with a suicidal thirteen year old, Brenda's parents decided to tell her and her brother the truth. Ron Reimer took Brenda for an ice cream and told her who she really was.

DAVID REIMER: Oh my dad just wanted to take me out for an ice cream cone, usually when dad takes you out for a cone it usually has to do with bad news of some sort.

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: Dad is there anything wrong with mum?

RECONSTRUCTION OF RON REIMER: No, mum's fine.

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: What about Brian, is he ok?

RECONSTRUCTION OF RON REIMER: Brian's, Brian's good.

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: Then what about my schoolwork, is that ok too?

RECONSTRUCTION OF RON REIMER: We're very proud of your school work Brenda, it's, it's great, yeah.

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRENDA: Then what's wrong?

RECONSTRUCTION OF RON REIMER: Well, you have a right to know something Brenda.

DAVID REIMER: I don't remember ninety percent of what happened in the car. Dad told me that I was, I had a glaze over my eyes and I was staring over the dashboard and I had ice cream all over me that was melting.

RECONSTRUCTION OF RON REIMER: And we brought you up as a girl.

DAVID REIMER: And I thought to myself well I'm not crazy and not turning insane. And I thought I was turning insane.

NARRATOR: At the same time Janet told Brenda's twin Brian.

JANET REIMER: And I told Brian to come and see me, and I said well you know how Brenda was always more of a tomboy than other girls, he said yes, and I said well you know that Brenda was born a boy, you're twin brother.

RECONSTRUCTION OF BRIAN REIMER: No.

JANET REIMER: I think Brian reacted the way he did because now all of a sudden to realise that she was his brother and he wasn't the only boy was a terrible shock to him.

NARRATOR: But for Brenda this was the first time in her life she started to feel happy. She said she wanted to be a boy.

RON REIMER: At that moment she said I do not want to be a girl, I want to be a boy. So I said ok, are you sure, because there's no going back after, and he said yes I, he said yes I'm sure that is what I want to do.

NARRATOR: He decided to call himself David.

JANET REIMER: When Brenda became David, he was very gentle, and I apologised to him. Told him I was sorry, he says mum, I know that you and dad only wanted the best for me. And I love you very much for caring so much about me.

NARRATOR: It was around this time that David started to make some friends.

HAROLD NORMAND: I don't think he was that shy, I think he was more withdrawn from people, he was more scared. It was a very good friendship, he was not asking for much, just for me to be there and be his friend.

NARRATOR: David now decided to undergo painful surgery similar to this, to create a new penis. Life for David was looking up, he had a gender he was comfortable with and money, he'd received compensation for the bodged circumcision. His thoughts now turned to the future.

DAVID REIMER: I got to thinking, you know I mean maybe I was too young to think that, what would I be like if I was a father. You know I could be a good husband.

NARRATOR: But because he'd been castrated David couldn't have children of his own. Then his twin Brian's wife had an idea, she introduced David to Jane, who already had three children but no partner.

DAVID REIMER: And we hit it off ever since, like two peas in a pod.

JANE REIMER: I would say maybe six months in to the relationship I knew that it was meant to be.

NARRATOR: On the 22nd September 1990, David Reimer married Jane Fontayne. Harold Normand was his best man.

HAROLD NORMAND: This was something he never thought he would ever have, and he was simply tickled pink about the whole thing.

NARRATOR: At last David had a normal life.

JANE REIMER: I would have to say he was a great father, and you know a wonderful husband and he was very romantic, David, I had to say we always did little love letters throughout the years and kept them and hid them throughout the house, we had a lot of good times.

NARRATOR: But there was one thing that was still not right in David's life and that was his relationship with his twin brother Brian. They'd always had difficulties, but the real problem began when Brian learnt the truth about his twin.

JANET REIMER: Well once I'd told Brian what the relationship really was between him and his ex-sister, Brian sort of abandoned Brenda.

NARRATOR: For Brian this was the beginning of mental disturbance that would develop in to schizophrenia. Then something happened that would have a terrible effect on both twins. David discovered that Dr Money had continued to publicise his case as a success. Proof that you could raise a boy as a girl.

DAVID REIMER: I was appalled, disgusted and angry when I heard about it. Because it was nothing further from the truth.

DAVID REIMER: You're a cute little boy.

REPORT: Three decades after this misguided experiment began...

NARRATOR: To prevent others being traumatised in the same way David persuaded Brian to go public with him and speak about their ordeal.

JANET REIMER: David said we have to do this, and stop Dr Money from doing what he's doing, he's ruined our lives we can't let him ruin any more. So Brian agreed.

BRIAN REIMER: The experiments that he made us do, going in to sexual positions with no clothes on, taking pictures of us, how degrading for seven year olds.

NARRATOR: But once the documentary was broadcast Brian's mental health deteriorated. On the 1st July 2002 Brian was found dead in his flat. It is not clear whether his death was due to an accidental overdose or suicide.

RON REIMER: David used to come here quite often, bring flowers and I guess, I don't know exactly what he'd talk about, but he came here and he talked to him quite a few times, it must have been at least four or five times a week.

NARRATOR: Brian's death affected all aspects of David's life, even the parts that he'd been happy about.

HAROLD NORMAND: Dave had a lot of time on his hands, and he'd go in to deep thinking.

NARRATOR: A catalogue of disasters befell him.

JANET REIMER: First his brother died, who he grieved over terribly. Then he made a very bad investment, where a man absconded with the money, that was quite a lot of money. And he couldn't find a job, he was thirty eight years old, who's going to hire you at semi-skilled work?

NARRATOR: Finally all these problems affected his marriage.

JANE REIMER: I needed some separation time, I knew that we needed separation time, and I remember telling him, you know I said I love you, I said I'm not asking for divorce I said but separation time I think we needed it so.

JANET REIMER: He cried on his friend's shoulder for about three or four hours, and he says I can't make my wife happy, my wife just, I just can't make her happy.

NARRATOR: On May 4th 2004, thirty eight year old David Reimer left his parents house for the last time. David took a shotgun with him, and killed himself. After David died there was an outcry. Dr Money did not cause David's death but his family felt that he was partly responsible. Because Dr Money had pursued his theory in the face of convincing evidence that the gender assignment had not worked, they felt that he had traumatised their son in childhood to the extent that he became suicidal as an adult.

RON REIMER: I would like to say to Dr Money, I would like to ask him if he could be man enough to admit to the public and to, even to himself that he made a mistake. He was trying to make history and, and it wasn't working.

PROF ANNE FAUSTO-STERLING: As it became clear that it wasn't working he could not let go of the case, it was too beautiful for him to let go of, and I think that that was unethical behaviour on his part.

NARRATOR: Horizon asked Dr Money to participate in this documentary but he declined. His former student Richard Green argues that Dr Money did the best he could in an era when we knew less.

PROF RICHARD GREEN: With the benefit of hindsight, based on what we knew at the time about how you become male or female or boy or girl, with the advantage of hindsight knowing the difficulties to say the least of creating a penis surgically, the decision that John Money made at the time was the correct one. And I would have made the same one at that time.

NARRATOR: What we do know is that Dr Moneys' theory that it is possible to raise a boy as a girl does not seem to hold true for most children. Nature, as far as gender identity is concerned, can not be overridden by nurture. Above all this is a cautionary tale, this is what can happen when science pursues a beautiful theory with scant regard for the human cost.

DAVID REIMER: You're always going to see people that are going to say well the Dave Reimer case could have been successful. I'm living proof, and if you're not going to take my word as gospel, because I have lived through it, who else are you going to listen to? Who else is there? I've lived through it. Like, is it going to take somebody to wind up killing themselves, shooting themselves in the head for people to listen?

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Neanderthal

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Einstein's Equation of Life and Death

Einstein's Unfinished Symphony

Global Dimming

The Hunt for the Supertwister

Saturn - Lord of the Rings

Making Millions the Easy Way

What Really Killed the Dinosaurs?

Derek Tastes of Earwax

The Truth about Vitamins

King Solomon's Tablet of Stone

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Horizon: The Boy who was Turned into a Girl

Health: Ask the Doctor
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Anne Fausto-Sterling
Professor of Biology and Gender Studies in the Department of Molecular and Cell Biology and Biochemistry at Brown University.

Press for Change
Transsexualism: The Current Medical Viewpoint

The United Kingdom Intersex Association

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