Boy turns into girl stories

Added: Ranelle Arsenault - Date: 29.03.2022 10:43 - Views: 23042 - Clicks: 4316

s Inan anonymous baby boy was turned into a girl by doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital. But the case was a failure, the truth never reported. Now the man who grew up as a girl tells the story of his life, and a medical controversy erupts. On the front lawn, 's bicycle lies on its side; an eight-year-old secondhand Toyota is parked at the curb. Inside the house, a handmade wooden cabinet in the corner of the living room holds the standard emblems of family life: wedding photos and school portraits, china figurines and souvenirs from family trips.

There is a knockoff-antique coffee table, a well-worn easy chair and a sofa - which is where my host, a wiry young man dressed in a jean jacket and scuffed work boots, seats himself. He is 31 years old but could pass for a decade younger. Partly it's the sparseness of his beard - just a few blond wisps that sprout from his jaw line; partly it's a certain delicacy to his prominent cheekbones and tapering chin.

Otherwise he looks, and sounds, exactly like what he is: a blue-collar factory worker, a man of high school education whose fondest pleasures are to do a little weekend fishing with his dad in the local river and to have a backyard barbecue with his wife and .

Boy turns into girl stories

Ordinarily a rough-edged and affable young man, he stops smiling when conversation turns to his childhood. Then his voice - a burred baritone - takes on a tone of aggrievement and anger, or the pleading edge of someone desperate to communicate emotions that he knows his listener can only dimly understand. How well even he understands these emotions is not clear: When describing events that occurred prior to his 15th birthday, he tends to drop the pronoun I from his speech, replacing it with the distancing you - almost as if he were speaking about someone else altogether.

Which, in a sense, he is. Because it's torture. What they did to you in the body is sometimes not near as bad as what they did to you in the mind - with the psychological warfare Boy turns into girl stories your head. He is referring to the extraordinary medical treatment he received after suffering the complete loss of his penis to a botched circumcision when he was 8 months old.

On the advice of experts at the renowned Johns Hopkins medical center, in Baltimore, a sex-change operation was performed on him, a process that involved clinical castration and other genital surgery when he was a baby, followed by a year program of social, mental and hormonal conditioning to make the transformation take hold in his psyche. The case was reported as an unqualified success, and he became one of the most famous though unnamed patients in the annals of modern medicine. It's a fame that derives not only from the fact that his medical metamorphosis was the first sex reasment ever reported on a developmentally normal child but also from a stunning statistical long shot that lent a special ificance to the case.

Boy turns into girl stories

He was born an identical twin, and his brother provided the experiment with a built-in matched control - a genetic clone who, with penis intact, was raised as a male. That the twins were reported to have grown into happy, well-adjusted children of opposite sex seemed unassailable proof of the primacy of rearing over biology in the differentiation of the sexes and was the basis for the rewriting of textbooks in a wide range of medical disciplines.

Most seriously, the case set a precedent for sex reasment as the standard treatment for thousands of newborns with similarly injured, or irregular, genitals. It also became a touchstone for the feminist movement in the s, when it was cited as living proof that the gender gap is purely a result of cultural conditioning, not biology. For Dr. John Money, the medical psychologist who was the architect of the experiment, this case was to be the most publicly celebrated triumph of a year career that recently earned him the accolade "one of the greatest sex researchers of the century.

But as the mere existence of this young man in front of me would suggest, the experiment was a failure, a fact revealed in a March article in the Archives of Adolescent and Pediatric Medicine. Authors Milton Diamond, a biologist at the University of Hawaii, and Keith Sigmundson, a psychiatrist from Victoria, British Columbia, documented how the twin had struggled against his imposed girlhood from the start. The paper set off shock waves in medical circles around the world, generating furious debate about the ongoing practice of sex reasment a procedure more common than anyone might think.

It also raised troubling questions about the way the case was reported in the first place, why it took almost 20 years for a follow-up to reveal the actual outcome Boy turns into girl stories why that follow-up was conducted not by Dr. Money but by outside researchers. The answers to these questions, fascinating for what they suggest about the mysteries of sexual identity, also bring to light a year rivalry between eminent sex researchers, a rivalry whose very bitterness not only dictated how this most unsettling of medical tragedies was exposed but also may, in fact, have been the impetus behind the experiment in the first place.

But what for medicine has been a highly public scandal involving some of the biggest names in the world of sex research has been for the young man sitting in front of me a purely private catastrophe. Apart from two short television appearances his face obscured, his voice disguisedhe has never spoken on the record to a journalist and has never before told his story in full. For this article, he granted more than 20 hours of candid interviews and ed confidentiality waivers giving me exclusive access to a voluminous array of legal documents, therapists' notes, Child Guidance Clinic reports, IQ tests, medical records and psychological work-ups.

He assisted me in obtaining interviews with his former therapists as well as with all of his family members, including his father, who, because of the painfulness of these events, had not spoken of them to anyone Boy turns into girl stories more than 20 years. The young man's sole condition for talking to me was that I withhold some details of his identity.

Accordingly, I will not reveal the city where he was born and raised and continues to live, and I have agreed to invent pseudonyms for his parents, whom I will call Frank and Linda Thiessen, and his sole sibling, the identical twin brother, whom I will call Kevin. The physicians in his hometown I will identify by initials. The young man himself I will call, variously, John and Joan, the pseudonyms given for him by Diamond and Sigmundson in the journal article describing the macabre double life he has been obliged to live.

No other details have been changed. They did what they did out of kindnessand love and desperation. When you're desperate, you don't necessarily do all the right things. The irony was that Frank and Linda Thiessen's life together had begun with such special promise. A young couple of rural, religious backgrounds, they grew up on farms near each other and met when Linda was just 15, Frank Linda, an exceptionally pretty brunette, had spent much of her teens fighting off guys who were too fresh.

Frank, a tall, shy fair-haired man, was different. Linda remembers Frank's joy soon after, upon learning that he was going to be the father of twins - and his euphoria when the brothers were born, on Aug. I just know there's two of 'em! Shortly before the births, Frank had landed his highest-paying job ever, at a local unionized plant, and the couple now moved with their newborns into a sunny one-bedroom apartment on a quiet side street downtown. But when the twins were 7 months old, Linda noticed that their foreskins were closing, making it hard for them to urinate.

Their pediatrician explained that the condition, called phimosis, was not rare and was easily remedied by circumcision.

Boy turns into girl stories

He referred them to a surgeon. The operations were scheduled for April 27,in the morning. Because Frank needed the family car to get to his job on the late shift, they brought the kids in the night before. But early the next morning, they were jarred from sleep by a ringing phone. It was the hospital. In the children's ward, they were met by the surgeon. Grim-faced, businesslike, he told them that John had suffered a burn to his penis. Linda remembers being shocked into numbness by the news.

It was just like I turned to stone. The doctor seemed reluctant to give a full explanation - and it would, in fact, be months before the Thiessens would learn that the injury had been caused by an electro-cautery needle, a device sometimes used in circumcisions to seal blood vessels as it cuts. Through mechanical malfunction or doctor error, or both, a surge of intense heat had engulfed John's penis. And it went right up to the base, up to his body. John, with a catheter where his penis used to be remained in the hospital for the next several weeks, while Frank and Linda, frantic, watched as a parade of the Boy turns into girl stories top local specialists examined him.

They gave little hope. Phallic reconstruction, a crude and makeshift expedient even today, was in its infancy in the 's - a fact made plain by the plastic surgeon when he described the limitations of a phallus that would be constructed from flesh farmed from John's thigh or abdomen: "Such a penis would not, of course, resemble a normal organ in color, texture or erectile capability," he wrote in a report to the Thiessens' lawyer.

Even that was optimistic, according to a urologist: "Insofar as the future outlook is concerned," he wrote, "restoration of the penis as a functional organ is out of the question. Back home, with nowhere to turn, the couple sank into a state of mute depression. Months passed during which they could not speak of John's injury even to each other.

Boy turns into girl stories

Then one evening in Decembersome seven months after the accident, they saw a TV program that jolted them from their despondency. On their small black-and-white television screen appeared a man identified as Dr. John Money. A suavely charismatic and handsome individual in his late 40s, bespectacled and with sleekly brushed-back hair, Dr. Money was speaking about the wonders of gender transformation taking place at the Johns Hopkins medical center, where he was a medical psychologist.

Also on the program was a woman - one of the satisfied post-operative transsexuals who had recently been converted at Johns Hopkins. Today, with the subject of transsexualism a staple of daytime talk shows, it's difficult to imagine just how alien the concept seemed on that December evening in Fourteen years earlier, a spate of publicity had attended the announcement by American ex-GI George Jorgensen that he had undergone surgical transformation to become Christine.

But that operation, performed in Denmark, had been roundly criticized by American doctors, who refused to perform such surgeries. The subject had faded Boy turns into girl stories view - until now, when Johns Hopkins announced that it had not only performed two male-to-female sex changes a first in America but also established the world's first Gender Identity Clinic, devoted solely to the practice of converting people from one sex to the other.

Along with gynecologist Howard W. Jones Jr. Something told me that I should get in touch with this Dr. She wrote to him soon after and described what had happened to her. Money responded promptly, she says. In a letter, he expressed great optimism about what could be done for her baby at Johns Hopkins and urged her to bring John to Baltimore without delay.

He also happened to inquire, Linda says, about the twin brother whom she had mentioned in passing. She informed him that they were. Money replied that he would like to run a test on the babies at Johns Hopkins, just to make sure. After so many months of grim predictions, bleak prognoses and hopelessness, Dr.

Money's words, Linda says, felt like a balm.

Boy turns into girl stories

Money was, indeed, listening. But then, Linda's cry for help was one that he might have been waiting for his entire professional life. At the time that the Thiessen family's plight became known to Dr. Money, he was already one of the most respected, if controversial, sex researchers in the world.

Within a decade of ing Hopkins, he was already widely credited as the man who had coined the term "gender identity" to describe a person's inner sense of himself or herself as male or female, and was the world's undisputed authority on the psychological ramifications of ambiguous genitalia. I don't know very many social scientists who could match him in that regard. As a person, he was a little bit. Money's often-overweening confidence actually came to him at some cost.

His childhood and youth in rural New Zealand had been beset by anxieties, personal tragedies and early failure. The son of an Australian father and an English mother, he was a thin, delicate child raised in an atmosphere of strict religious observance - or what he has called "tightly sealed, evangelical religious dogma.

That was easier for me than for most of them. He was 8 years old when his father, after a long illness, died.

Boy turns into girl stories

Three days after watching his father get mysteriously carried off to the hospital, the boy was told that his father had died. His shock was compounded by the trauma of being informed by an uncle that now he would have to be the man of the household.

As an adult, Money would forever avoid the role of "man of the household. Following his father's death, Money was raised by his mother and spinster aunts. A solitary adolescent with passions for astronomy and archaeology, he also harbored ambitions to be a musician. His widowed mother could not afford piano lessons, so Money worked as a gardener on weekends to pay for music classes and used every spare moment to practice.

It was an ambition doomed to disappointment, partly because Money had set the bar so high for himself: "It was difficult for me to have to admit that, irrespective of effort, Boy turns into girl stories could never achieve in music the goal that I wanted to set for myself. I would not even be a good amateur. Upon entering Victoria University, in Wellington, Money discovered a new passion into which he would channel his thwarted creativity: the science of psychology. Like so many drawn to the study of the mind and emotions, Money initially saw the discipline as a means of solving certain gnawing questions about himself.

His first serious work in psychology, the thesis for his master's, concerned "creativity in musicians"; in it, Money writes, "I began to investigate my relative lack of success in comparison with that of other music students.

Boy turns into girl stories

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