The Sad and Bizarre Story of David Reimer


Quite often on That is Bizarre!, the stories are funny. Sometimes they are even tragic, but it is rare for a horrible, personal tragedy to be pointed out as bizarre here. I would like to think that is because, despite the inherent flaws of humanity, it is rare for bizarre treatment to be carried out on an individual. I could be wrong. It could be quite common. In fact, one could argue that it is, depending on what you think is bizarre. Whatever the case may be, it is certain that what happened to David Reimer was bizarre. It was a case of taking a tragedy and making it significantly worse by allegedly trying to "help."

David Reimer and his twin brother Brian were born on August 22, 1965. They were both healthy boys. When they were eight months old, their parents noticed that they were having trouble urinating properly. It was decided by doctors that the twins needed circumcisions. David went first, and the surgery went horribly wrong. His penis was destroyed. Doctors held off on Brian's circumcision, and he wound up not requiring it.

Worried that their son would be confused, Janet and Jon Reimer went to John Money, a doctor specializing in gender identity. It can easily be said that John Money did more to ruin David's life than even the doctor(s) who botched his surgery. Money and his colleagues thought that Reimer should have gender reassignment. He did not have surgery, but over time, he underwent estrogen therapy, was treated like a girl, dressed like a girl and underwent an arguably abusive form of therapy with John Money.

Reimer's parents renamed him Brenda and dressed him in dresses, even in the cold Canadian weather. He was increasingly confused, scared and angry as he got older, but his parents and doctors turned a blind eye to his suffering. His parents may have feared they had no other choice, but his doctors were certainly neglectful. Some workers later tried to blame the parents for not reporting David's progress correctly, but his issues most certainly came forward during what John was doing to him and John reported that David was turning into Brenda quite nicely. He was wrong.

John Money used Brian to aid in his "treatment" of David. He had the twins come in and take up sexual positions to reinforce gender roles with David. He had David spread his legs and Brian lay between them. He also had David bend over and had Brian press his groin against David's rear end. On at least one occasion, Money took pictures. They were also made to be naked during some of these treatments. Later, David became increasingly depressed and threatened suicide as a teen. Brian developed schizophrenia.

Money suggested that the Reimers have a sex change done on David. David stopped going, whether because he refused or his parents realized what they were doing is unclear. Reimer eventually reversed the damage done by estrogen and had two operations to give him a penis. He got married, as well. Sadly, Brian died of an antidepressant overdose in 2002. In 2004, David's wife said she wanted to separate. Days later, David killed himself with a shotgun blast to the head.