Botched Circumcision

In 1973 the story became known of an infant boy whose penis had been irreparably damaged during circumcision ten years earlier. His parents, after consultation with medical experts at Johns Hopkins Medical School, determined that it was in the boy’s best interests to be reared as a girl. But even with hormone treatments and surgically created female genitals, he hated to wear girls’ clothing, played with guns and insisted on using the toilet while standing. In spite of these contradictory behaviors, the case was cited in research texts and journals on sexuality as proof that sexual identity is not fixed at birth but is more fluid and dependent on environmental or social factors. In fact, twenty years ago his case was used widely in professional and popular media to support sex reassignment as appropriate for males with deformed, ambiguous or injured genitals.

The New York Times, along with articles in Time (March 24, 1997 p. 49) and The Washington Post (March 18, 1997, section Z, page 7) summarized the full story which appeared in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. In that journal, Drs. Milton Diamond and H. Keith Sigmundson presented an in-depth follow-up report that flatly contradicts earlier conclusions in the case.

Drs. Diamond and Sigmundson wrote that, “despite everyone telling him constantly that he was a girl, and despite his being treated with female hormones, his brain knew he was a male. It refused to take on what it was being told.” In addition, Diamond said in an interview, “It’s easy for us to modify genitals. But we can’t modify the brain. That’s what this kid proves.”

Excerpts taken from Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Volume 2. Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 1996, 1997; 2002, S. 2:2

This “botched circumcision” account above shows that masculinity and femininity are ultimately “inborn,” or essential. Arguments have been made that masculinity and femininity are a product of how a child is raised and how society impacts him or her. That’s not what happened to the young man even with hormone treatment, surgery, and his parents and society trying to raise him as a girl. To me, this puts to rest all arguments that say that masculinity and femininity are a product of how children are raised and how society impacts them. Society and upbringing may confuse a child about his masculinity or her femininity, but it cannot change how the child was innately born i.e. masculine or feminine.

More information about this account can be found in the book entitled: As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised As A Girl (P.S.) by John Colapinto, Harper Collins Publishers, 2006.

About the author


Hi, I'm Tim Trautman, an aspiring blogger with a special sensitivity to issues surrounding Masculinity and Femininity. This blog is designed to make readers aware of the issues and grant a healthy understanding of what Masculinity and Femininity are.

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