Have you ever wondered why we are the people we are? What shapes us to be the people we end up being in the future? Is it the way our parents raise us, the nurture they give us, is it solely our nature that shapes us, the events that we are faced with, or even the people we meet? Or, could it be a combination of all four? In the Bruce’s case, we can see that his parents, the people he met and the situations him and his younger twin brother, Brian were put while growing up, shaped them into the adults they grew up to be, which left them an emotional and psychological trauma. While we are kids, more than one thing shapes us into being the adults we eventually end up being. It’s a mixture of the situations we’re put in, the people we meet, and our nature as well as how our parents nurture us. Some turn out to be “normal” while others; on the other have an unfortunate event.
Ron and Janet had a normal life when their twin baby boys, Bruce and Brian were born. But because of some health issues that the twin baby boys needed to get a circumcision. That is where everything changed for the Reimer’s. The doctor, who was to do the procedure on the twin boys, used an incorrect tool for the circumcision. The first who was to be circumcised was baby boy Bruce, the oldest twin, it was supposed to be a quick and simple procedure. But what happened was anything but quick and simple. The tool that was used to cut off the foreskin on the baby’s penis led to Bruce’s penis to be burned off. Because of this the doctors decided not to do this to the other twin boy, Brian. This event changed the Reimer’s lives forever. Ron and Janet had gone to doctors to see what could be done about their baby boy, but it had seemed that everything was just hopeless. Until one day, while Ron and Janet were watching T.V, they saw Dr. John Money, a well-known psychologist at Johns Hopkins being interviewed and talking about sex change, gave the Reimer’s hope. Immediately, Janet contacted Money and soon, the couple was on their way to Boston to meet John Money. There, Dr. Money had given assurance to the young couple that if they did decide in giving their boy a sex-reassignment that the boy would live like a normal woman and function as well, the only thing is that she wouldn’t be able to conceive. Dr. Money convinced them that they could nurture their boy to be a girl. But before the sex-reassignment, Money told the young couple to takes some steps, like changing the baby’s name, “Within days of their return from Baltimore, Ron and Janet stopped cutting the baby’s hair, allowing the soft, light brown locks to curl down past the ears. Janet used her sewing machine to turn his pajamas in to girlish granny gowns. Their son had become, for Ron and Janet, their daughter. Dr. Money had counseled them, when deciding what to call their new daughter…. Janet, following Dr. Money’s instructions, called her new baby daughter Brenda Lee” (Colapinto, 53). After consulting with Dr. John Money, the parents eventually slowly, but surely changed their boy into a girl. Believing they could nurture their now daughter, into being a girl, ignoring that genetically speaking, she was a boy and hoping that the boy in her didn’t come out. This could lead to a lot of psychological problems.
Because Ron and Janet tried their best to nurture baby girl Brenda into a girl, ignoring the fact that nature played a big role into molding Brenda as an adult. They did what ever they thought a girl should do and what a boy shouldn’t do, “Ron and Janet tried their best to do just that. They furnished her with dolls to play with; they tried to teach her to be neat and tidy; and they tried, whenever possible to reinforce her identity as a girl. So when, for instance, the twins had just turned four, and Brian was watching Ron shave and asked if he could shave, too, Ron gave him an empty razor and some shaving cream to play with. When Brenda also clamored for a razor, Ron refused. “I told her that girls don’t shave”, Ron says. “ I told her girls don’t have to.”(Colpinto 56). Brenda at a young age showed interest in more manly things and Ron and Janet just ignored it, and forced her into more girly things. But the more they tried to steer her, the more they failed, “Brian says that the episode was typical of the way their parents tried to steer him and his sister Brenda into opposite sexes—and how such efforts were inevitably doomed to failure. “ I recognized Brenda as my sister,” Brian says. “But she never, ever acted the part.” (Colapinto 57). Nature played a big role in the Bruce’s development. He was just trying to act how he genetically was made.
Because you’re constantly told that you’re a specific way, your whole life, you tend to be confused and it plays with you psychologically. When talking about his past, David mentions how he just wishes that that part of his life was completely erased, “It was like brainwashing, “ he was saying as if he lit the first in an unbroken chain of cigarettes. “I’d give just about anything to go to a hypnotist to black out my whole past. Because it’s torture. What they did to you in the body is sometimes not as near as bad as what they did to you in the mind-- with the psychological warfare in your head.”” (Colapinto, xiii). This could be dangerous, being told you’re one thing and feeling something else. According to child and adolescent development, when one reaches adolescent, one goes through 4 stages of identity: 1) Identity Achievement, 2) Identity foreclosure, 3) identity diffusion, 4) Identity moratorium. Identity achievement is the status in which an adolescent has experienced and worked through the crises and has made a commitment. Identity foreclosure is when the adolescent has experienced very little crises but has a made a commitment based on what other have said he is and what should be. The adolescent has take on an identity without much self-examination or questioning. At one point, while he was an adolescent, David recalls that he tried his best to comply with being a girl. It worked for a while, but he wasn’t happy. David, was just angry and upset.
Another thing that vastly affects the development and shapes us as adults is the people we meet and the situations we are put in. After the sex reassignment, Dr. John Money requested to meet up annually with the twins and Brenda alone. During these sessions, Money would make the twins do things that would get him fired, “But the children did not enjoy these enforced activities—particularly those involving “play at thrusting movements and copulation,” which Brian recalls that Dr. Money first introduced when the twins were six years old. Money, he says, would make Brenda assume a position on all fours on his office sofa and make Brian come up behind her on his knees and place his crotch against her buttock” (Colapinto 87). This is a traumatizing experience for 6 year olds to go through. Because Money wanted to be right in his experiment, he did what ever it took to get the results he wanted. Even if it meant hurting someone else. This part of the counseling left a deep scar on both twins, “ Today David is still unwilling to speak about it. “There are some things I don’t want to remember,” he says. In 19898 he did describe the sessions to Jane Fontane, the woman who would become his wife. The tow had just watched a TV documentary on CIA torture involving electro shock to people’s genitals. “He cried hysterical,” Jane told me. He was crying about John Money. I’d never seen him like that.” (Colapinto 87). Here we see that that those specific counseling sessions left David traumatized, but not only David, but Brian as well. Since this is a form of abuse, it highly affected them. In Jane and Greg Cook’s book , “the world of children”, Childhood abuse may also have a permanent effect on the brain structure. The limbic system, important for regulating emotion and memory, seems to be especially affected. Stress is a toxic agent that can disrupt normal brain development”(Teicher, 2002). We don’t know how much the twins’ cognitive development was affected by this, but after wards they refused to go and refused to see Dr. Money. When he went to their house, they were stubborn and refused to see him.
Ultimately, situations we are put in also leave a scar and traumatize us. Because David didn’t fit in with the other students since he first started going to school, he would get made fun of so much. Being bullied severely affects one. The type of bullying that David had gone through was verbal and rational. Verbally, people would call him things such as “ape”, rational; he would be excluded from many groups within the school. According to Guadalupe Espinoza, kids who are bullied are more likely to be depressed, have suicidal thoughts and have social anxiety. In the book, David tells John Colapinto that he’s tried committing suicide as when he was older after having the sex change.
As we grow up, the events that we end up going through shapes us, as well as the people we meet and how our parents decide to raise us. It could be a bad thing or a good thing; some unfortunately have such a difficult child hood that when they are adults, most of them have a depressing life. The Reimer twins died tragically – they both committed suicide. Of course, they had many reasons why they had committed suicide, but what they went through in their childhood, had vastly affected them. Even if you try, the memory of what you went through will always stick around. And the twins had gone through so much.