` Gender and friendship: follow-up file — imaginary family values

Last update on .

In a posting last year, I remarked that women and men have remarkably different relationships with their same-sex platonic friends, but biographies of transsexuals don’t reveal much about their platonic friendships. I was intrigued, therefore, to come across a certain passage in As Nature Made Him, John Colapinto’s book about Bruce a.k.a. Brenda a.k.a. David Reimer.

For those unfamiliar with the case: when Bruce Reimer was eight months old, most of his penis was burned off in a botched circumcision. Following the advice of the famed psychologist John Money, they renamed the child Brenda and tried to raise her as a girl. Brenda had emotional problems throughout her childhood, rebelling against everything associated with girlhood, and when she found out about her medical history as a teenager, she insisted on being reassigned as male.

During her childhood as Brenda, one of Reimer’s few friends was a classmate named Heather Legarry. Colapinto reports:

Heather…valued Brenda as a girl devoid of the duplicity and backstabbing that had poisoned so many of her relations with girls in the past and that even threatened the harmony of her current clique of tomboys. “Brenda didn’t speak much,” Heather says, “but when she did she was never vindictive or false. She was very honest. If she told me something was black or white, it was.” (p. 125; link added)

As transsexuals go, Reimer is hardly typical, but I’ll take my data points wherever I can get them.

see also these comments from lyonesse, who worked in Prof. Money’s lab, on Reimer

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