Sociology of Gender
Sociology of gender
A description of how Reimer and Billy were different from their peers and how traditional definitions of gender shaped their lives
“As nature made him: The Boy who was Raised as a Girl” by Colapinto is a fascinating, heart-wrenching story about David Reimer. Reimer was brought up as a girl by the name of Brenda because of a botched and subsequent castration until the age of fifteen. This differentiates Reiner from other peers who never had to change their gender identity since their childhood thus had a normal life. It is noted that Reiner was initially born as a male; however, his gender was later changed and raised as a girl after the destruction of his male organ during circumcision. The transformation process was successful and it was realized that Reiner had a hard time to identify himself as a female since the age of nine to eleven (Colapinto, 2000). This made him to refuse the new identity and began to live like a male. He later announced his status publicly and discouraged such medical activities to any other person. Unfortunately, due to severe stress, depression, and financial insufficiency, Reiner committed suicide. Because of traditional gender definition, Reiner’s life was put to an end when the parents thought they were helping him have a happy and functional sex life as other peers.
On the other hand, Billy Tipton in the “Suits Me: Double life o Billy Tipton” shows that Billy was born a female by the Dorothy Lucille. However, because of her talent in music especially in playing piano and the saxophone, she developed a desire of becoming a jazz player. Nevertheless, because it was rare to find white women in jazz, Billy decided to change into a male figure. Thus with time, Billy began to live a man hiding his female identity from friends and relatives until during his death. Therefore, this two people Reimer and Billy were different from their peers in terms of sexuality and sexual identity. In the case of Reiner, he was forced into being a female after losing his male organ during circumcision, while Billy changed his gender identity from a female to a male because of his desire to suit in the Jazz music since white women were not allowed to play jazz accept as vocalists. Therefore, they were supped to act as each gender demanded although it became hard for Reiner to adopt fully the new female identity and this led to his suicidal death.
Most of the time people think of sexuality as heavily integrated with biology, although in some ways it is and do not think beyond the physical mechanics of sex. However, sexuality is more about cultural moves and habits as it is about genetics according to Colapinto`s As Nature Made Him: The Boy who was revised as a Girl. The story demonstrates clearly how people come to view themselves as possessed of sexual identities and the process through which every person learns to negotiate his or her identify as an amalgam of personal and social needs. Sexuality and sexual identity are at the extreme side of the scale in defining the personality attained in adulthood.
How their lives would have been if gender roles were defined differently
The lives of these two people would have been different if gender roles had been defined differently. For instance, Reimer’s life would have been successful if the doctor did not convince his parents about changing his gender identity into a female character after his male organ having been destructed during circumcision. Dr. John Money manipulated Reimer`s parents by informing them how gender identity developed basically as a result of social learning starting from early childhood and thus could be changed using appropriate behavioral interventions. Even though the doctor explained the idea that gender was created through learning, Reiner never experienced a happy life as child. This was because all his life was marked by social difficulties and competition with her twin brother and the frequent therapeutic sessions. Reimer`s gender role was not identified well because he was committed to gender reassignment before he was old enough to claim gender identity. As a result, it was difficult for him to accept his new gender identity as a female. Therefore, the truth is that if had doctors had been more open-minded concerning what constitutes a man, and then Reimer would not have been led into castration.
In addition, he would not have undergone therapy sessions where he was forced to pose naked with his brother as a way of being taught gender role, and would not have encountered the hardships of acting or behaving like a girl both at school and at home. However, with Billy’s case, he would not have made it through with his talent and desire in playing jazz music if his gender identity were recognized. This was because jazz music was not permitted to women. Therefore, his gender role would have been different if he was a male because he would not have stayed in secrecy hiding his real sexual identity.
Gender issues of how women are defined as the “other” category in many aspects of the society: medicine, law, popular culture, love.
Generally, women are being considered as not being inferior, superior or the same as men. This has resulted into terming men as being normal and women as abnormal because they are assumed not to well physically, mentally, and emotionally. This is because in most cases, women lack confidence and the courage to stand up strong and declare their positions. For instance, it is noted that women always try to measure up in most cases after men have already made a great step. Women are defined as the “other” category because they tend to feel insecure and vulnerable most of the time especially when they are out competed with their male counterparts in various aspects. Therefore, because of these insecurities, they are not given an opportunity to participate in fields such as medicine, law among others. For instance, men are known to withstand relationship issues more than women do. In most cases, men do not express their grief over a relationship through crying or staying in bed as women do.
How Reimer and Billy ended up living their lives as they did
Gender roles and sexual identity made Reimer and Billy to live their lives as they did. Reimer went through the most difficult moments in his life as a child until when he turned fifteen years old. After loosing his male organ, Reimer underwent a transformation process that would make him become a girl. However, it was hard and he never accepted the idea of taking his new gender and thus at fifteen, he took another surgery and various hormonal treatments that made him to become a man again. His family and some of his friends suffered in various ways under the effect of his problem, which involved many attempts of suicide, too much involvement in alcoholism, and equally grave dysfunction that almost tore the family apart. However, Reimer later was able to marry and led a happy married life although he could not father children of his own.
The reason behind Tipton’s transformation into a male is not really known because his actual gender was revealed after “her” death. No one including his closest friends and family members knew about it. However, research shows that Reimer may have changed his status into a male because he wanted to venture into the field of Jazz music. This was because he had a talent and the desire in music since his childhood. Billy concealed the body of a woman and during his death, his sex was revealed by paramedics and other reporters. The revelation left many of his friends and other people who knew him and heard the news very perplexed. This made different groups of people to claim his memory as a symbol of their own cause (Middlebrook, 1998). For instance, the lesbians held it that he lived like a man in order to fall in love with women safely. The feminist claimed that he lived like a man in order to pursue his career as a jazz musician. Nevertheless, Billy declared himself any of these claims he just portrayed himself as a man. Therefore, his revelation was a shock to everyone accepts one his cousin whom he had confined that he would resume his female figure once the adopted children had grown up and become independent.
The larger society was not into the idea especially in the case of Reimer who was raised up a girl just because he had lost his male organ during circumcision. The medical practice performed on him was not accepted by a good number of people who though Reimer was manipulated because he was young and did not have the voice to save himself from the ordeal. Lack of acceptance of Reimer as a girl mostly in school affected him emotionally and it affected his family at large since he made many suicidal attempts. On the other hand, Billy’s revelation left many people surprised and therefore they had their own claims against him. Thus, if his gender was recognized before he died, the society would not have accepted him and this could have affected his career as a jazz musician.
The issue illustrated by the two lives of Riemer and Billy
Reimer and Billy illustrate the issue of gender identity, which is known to be the individual conception of oneself as a male, or female. Reiner identified himself from childhood as a male thus it become hard for him to accept the idea of being raised as a girl after losing his male organ during circumcision. Billy had to change his gender identity because of his musical career as jazz artiste, although he was a woman.
Middlebrook, D. (1998). Suits me: Double life of Billy Tipton. Kennesaw, GA: Houghton Mifflin co.
Colapinto, J. (2000). As nature made him. New York, NY: Harper Collins