May 16, 2012
Torn Between Two Identities
Being a male or a female becomes a significant part of one’s identity. Sex is determined by genetic makeup. Children are exposed to these roles since they are babies. Girls are given dolls; they wear dresses and play with other girls. They are unconsciously being put to the idea that they have to take care of the house and their children by playing with dolls as little girls. Whereas boys are given cars, video games, they play manly sports like football, soccer, etc., where they have to use their physical strength more thus making them “manly”.
Nature vs. Nurture has been a topic that has cause a lot of controversy for the past 30 years. The case became more popular when “David Reimer” decided to share his personal experience with the world. The case talks about how “David” had to go through a surgery that would change his life and the person he became. This case raised many questions in the science field that at this moment haven’t been answered yet.
“David” had to go through a “sex reassignment surgery” when he was just 22 months old because his penis was destroyed by a surgery when he was 8 months old. “David” had an identical twin brother but didn’t have to face any of the problems that “David” had to face because his penis did not suffer any damage. Since there was nothing doctors could do to save “David’s” penis, they along with his parents decided to change his gender into a girl so he would not feel out of place. Since he was still a baby, he did not have to know the truth and could live a “normal” life.
“David’s” transition from a boy to a girl began when he was 22 months old. The first step was to remove his testes. He also had to take hormones that would “help” him feel like a girl instead of a boy. It would help him grow breast and look more like a girl. What proceeded after this surgery and the intake of hormones was a series of psychological consultations that would help “David” through the whole process. This is how “Brenda” came to be.
Dr. Money was the surgeon in charge of the procedure of “sex reassignment surgery” and the psychological consultations that would help “Brenda” grow up as a normal girl. He believed that children were not born a certain gender but were rather influenced by the environment. The methods that Dr. Money used were clearly not the right way to treat this case. He would use the twins and force them to practice sexual acts. He would make them practice different positions where he would let each know what their gender roles were. He thought that by showing them what the role of the girl and boy were, “Brenda” will adapt easier to his “gender”. Dr. Money's rationale for these various treatments was his belief that "childhood 'sexual rehearsal play'" was important for a "healthy adult gender identity"
Dr. Money reported that this case was going exceptional, everything was going as planned and “Brenda” was acting like the girl he was supposed to be. But as time passed, “Brenda” refused to go visit Dr. Money and fell into depression. His condition kept increasing and got to the point where he attempted to commit suicide many times. His parents decided to tell him the truth about his gender. “David” decided to stop taking the hormones which made him feel like a girl and took the decision to change his gender back to what he was originally, a boy.
“David” had to go through many operations and treatments in order to reverse the reassignment he went through in order to become a girl. “David” revealed that the hormones he took which were supposed to help him “feel” like a girl did not work because he never felt like a “female”. The girl clothes did not help either, he felt he was trapped in a body that did not belong to him. The whole “treatment” he went through, the hormones, the change of gender, the way he was raised, the clothes he would wear and the psychological therapies he attended did not succeed by trying to make him feel like a girl because he admitted that he never felt like a female. The whole “experiment” was a failure.
In the society that we live in there are certain “rules” that each gender has to follow in order to fit in. For example, the roles of a woman include being in charge of the house, the kids, and take care of their husband are a few of the roles a woman has to follow. Whereas a man is supposed to take care of his family by providing them with a roof, food and do take care of the physical work around the house. These are the roles children grow up learning and they are “forced” to think that that is how things work around.
There are many factors that shape people’s identity. For example, TV plays a big role in children’s lives. Children are exposed to cartoons at a very young age. We can see how cartoons and TV shows teach children how to behave. For example,” Dora The Explorer” teaches kids to help others in need. “The Simpsons” taught boys that they have to break rules and behave like the bad-type like “Bart Simpson”. Whereas “Lisa Simpson” was calm and very studious and followed rules like girls should. TV shows shape the way children act at a young age and that is an example they follow during their lives.
Society shapes people to act and be a certain way. People are afraid of what other people are going to say and think about them that they are forced to change their ways. People prefer to be part of the “norm” and follow whatever people think or say is the right thing to do. People need to feel accepted by society that they would change the way they are and think just to please their families and the community where they belong, this is why “Brenda” never said anything about feeling different than most girls. He thought that he just needed to follow what was expected of him and he would eventually fit in.
This case raised many questions whether scientist can cheat nature and change the way people are born. Well clearly the case of “David” turned out a failure. Dr. Money tried playing the role of “God” by thinking that he could change the identity of “David” Dr. Money did not realize there were many factors that prove that his theory would not work. For example, “David” being an identical twin and sharing the same genes, was obviously going to noticed differences on the way he felt. Being a twin myself, I can see how connected my twin and I are, we are not identical twins but we can feel and share many traits with each other. I can only imagine how “David”, being an identical twin, connected with his twin and felt like he could relate more to his gender.
Clearly Dr. Money did not know the difference between being raised in a certain way and actually being born a certain way. You cannot cheat Mother Nature. People are born a certain way and there is nothing that can change that. You can change the way someone looks but cannot change the way they feel. Nature is the identity we are born with and it is impossible to change that identity. However, nurture makes us believe differently, our environment shapes us to be the people we are “suppose” to be and we believe that is who we are and we take that identity to be part of us. If you are raised a certain way, you will behave that way all your life.
Identity is a thing that can easily be confused by experiences and our surroundings. One thing that we can be sure about is that no matter what we go through, the way we feel inside can never be changed. In my opinion, I believe that Nature and Nurture go hand by hand. Yes, we are born with a certain identity but the way we are raised gives us a different identity. We need to learn how to combine these two different identities. That is the only way we can be sure that we are actually the person we are born and believe to be.
Colapinto, John. As Nature Made Him. New York: Harper Perennial, 2001.
Plomin, Robert and Asbury, Kathryn. Nature and Nurture: Genetic and Environmental Influences on Behavior. 2005