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Extraordinary and revealing, yet also missing context,
Rezension bezieht sich auf: As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as A Girl (Gebundene Ausgabe)
This is one of the most revealing books ever written regarding the pure drama of human experience. That's why it has been so popular and prize-winning. But the cost of portraying great drama is often sacrificing other interpretations and historical elements.
Not only does this book chronicle the sad compelling story of a child born male, forced to live as a little girl, and then rising from the ashes as a man, but also the drama of medicine and human foibles in trying to deal with this human life.
However, it is missing the historical context of the story in terms of sex research and the people involved in it. That omission has an effect with two reprecussions: it makes the story much more dramatic because it makes John Money an unambiguous villian, and it misrepresents the doctor's state of mind at the time (in fact, few readers of this story will be inspired to care about the doctor at all because of his portrayed villiany).
Perhaps most revealing of all is our own intense reaction to the villian of the story, Dr. John Money. Carefully portrayed at every instance as a self-obsessed, evil, uncaring demon, Money becomes the "cause" of the child's worst problems as we read the story.
Clearly, the story is partly an expose of Money's attempts to cover up his failure to reassign a boy as a girl through extreme measures. There is no justifying cover-up of scientific data, and the crime surely seems worse when not only "data" but a human life is at stake. Yet if covering up or distorting data to support a theory we are deeply committed to is itself a crime, very few scientists or doctors would avoid prison. The man we love to hate in this book is not so different from the rest of us.
The literary problem is that the historical context of the story is missing, the all-important zeitgeist of sexuality research which existed at the time the story took place. The courage and sheer hardheadedness it took at that time to even admit to being a doctor studying sexuality and trying to address its problems was the background that led John Money to first propose his reassignment theory based on other kinds of cases now known to be very different, and then seek to support it at cost to his patients. Yes, he was completely wrong and he attempted to hide that fact from others, if not from himself as well.
But his story is far more interesting and important than just one an egotist or "pervert." It is also a story of a pioneering doctor and researcher of unusual courage in a wildly unpopular and even frequently demonized field of medicine, caught between the motive to help patients by advancing his theories in spite of overwhelming resistance to his work, and the need to be sensitive to the needs of each individual special child.
There were mistakes of several types made, especially by Money, but the appearance of villiany really seems to arise when Money's dedication and ego meets with a patient who seems to refuse to get better. Money's work on "lovemaps" is still widely considered among the best scientific models of psychosexual development, one of the few that even tries to explain how fetishes arise.
That Money was completly wrong about when and how our sense of sexual identity appears, and how stable it is, would have been an understandable theoretical mistake at the time. He was among the very few who even tried to theorize about it. However, having to act on "theory" and affect the life of a human being put him into the unenviable position of becoming either the unsung hero who helped children adjust to unfortunate circumstances, or the widely publicized villian who convinced parents to let their child be treated to bizarre and unsuccessful attempts to reassign their gender.
I certainly don't consider Money the hero in this story, but my view of him as villian is tempered by the compelling stories that weren't told, as well as the one that was.
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