Book Review: As Nature Made Him

Synopsis according to Goodreads:
"In 1967, after a twin baby boy suffered a botched circumcision, his family agreed to a radical treatment that would alter his gender. The case would become one of the most famous in modern medicine -- and a total failure. "As Nature Made Him" tells the extraordinary story of David Reimer, who, when finally informed of his medical history, made the decision to live as a male. A macabre tale of medical arrogance, it is first and foremost a human drama of one man's -- and one family's -- amazing survival in the face of terrible odds."

This is a first: me reviewing a nonfiction book here. But I was so very, very affected by this one that I wanted to share it with you.

As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised As a Girl follows the true story of a boy who, after a circumcision accident, underwent a sex reassignment surgery and was consequently raised as a girl. That thought alone is pretty horrifying to me- to have society force you to be the opposite gender role than what you brain and chromosomes are wired to be- but the author does an excellent job of setting context. This was the 60's and 70s', when the Nature vs Nurture debate was huge. The concept of transgender, or gender identity, or even expanded gender roles, was not a common thought among the populace.

This book is approachable, which is an achievement when you consider how many scientists and researchers had a hand in the true history of this child-turned-case-study. It's also deeply disturbing, when you consider the moral implications of the actions taken, especially repugnant for the self-righteousness of many of those involved...then as well as now. And chillingly, I can see this happening today.

I was not well-versed in the issues facing intersex folk, and only just expanding my horizons in terms of gender identity and transsexuals (the issues facing them, not the existence of them). As a fairly typical young American woman, I assume this means most folks have the general blindness to these complex concerns that I had. That's one of the reasons I strongly recommend this book

The other reason is that it's a horizon-opening question about what makes us female, male, and bits of both. It's a question everyone should consider, whether or not you identify strongly with a gender type. This is a relatively quick read, because it's so engaging, but it can be at times disturbing as well (not graphic, at all, though). Check it out- it's worth the read.

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