In the two books, As Nature Made Him: The Boy who was Raised as a Girl and She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders, gender means it means different things to be a boy/girl/man/woman to both authors. Also the issue of whether, all these are as a result of nurture or nature comes up. Further, this treatise also addresses the issue of what signaled gender to Jennifer Boylan and David Reimer in consideration to factors such as clothing, toys, lover or friends. Therefore, it is evident that both Jennifer and David define and redefine their gender. An explanation of how this work both within and against complex social and cultural forces is vividly given.

 In both books, it is clear that men and women who view gender differences in certain key areas have a tendency of having different views of the roles that society and biology plays in shaping gender differences. A couple of women who view gender differences in the manner that people express their feelings, excel in their respective works and approach parenting different say such differences are highly based on expectations of the society on what feminine and masculine genders should be. Men that view differences in such areas have a tendency of believing that biology or rather nature is the key driver.


Question 1 Response

According to David Reimer, being a boy/girl/man/woman means quite different things but basically it tries to prove that gender and sexual identity are solely as a result of nurturing, that is being products of the environment. The main argument here is that, until a child becomes older, one is usually informed of what his sex had been right at the time of birth, and immediately starts to live as a boy once again. Investigation carried out by Colapinto in the story is a clear revelation that the experiments utter failure as well as the trauma of living life as the wrong gender. Further, David Reimer was (Bruce Reimer) was born a male unknowingly, but raised as a female which clearly shows that it is all about how one is nurture but not the natural make of an individual that brings about the gender differences. Further, nurturing is seen to play a key role where an infant that was biologically a male was raised as a female after an injury that took out his male genitalia. However, in 1967, he was reassigned a female gender, and his case became one that appeared to prove that gender as well as sexual identity are only as a product of the environment but not the natural biological make up of any individual. Until the child grew older, information was provided on what hi sex had been at birth and immediately started life afresh as a boy. This vividly shows that, had this information not been provided, the character would continue living as a girl, all due to the state of nurturing and environment that one is brought up in (Colapinto, 2018)   

In Jennifer Boylan’s case, she believes that gender is as a result of nurturing. This is because, even though she was born a biological male, she had the feelings of her natural body not fitting her real personality. This feeling was quite gnawing and she endured all through her adolescence. However, the urge of undergoing a gender transition met strong criticism by her peers. Upon graduating high school, she went ahead to attend John Hopkins University for her graduate degree. Still, the underlying feeling of gender dysmorphia still persisted (Boylan, 2013). Finally, she underwent a surgery for gender transition in 2000, and fully embodied her true selves’ nature. This clearly shows that gender is all about how one is nurtured and not really a natural thing.

Later on in 2003, she published a memoir entitled She’s not there. It tells a story of transition in a manner that is lighthearted and humorous. Even though the topic’s nature is more personal, the author somehow manages to do balancing of the life’s drama with its joy. Any moments of her transition are not censored, as everything is documents right from her relationships that keep changing with the family the hassles of taking estrogen pill to change the gender hormones so that she could develop feminine characteristics.

Question 2 Response

Various gender signals are seen in David Reimer’s case. These include clothing, friends and lovers all included. Also health plays a key role. To begin with, the twin boys, both Bruce and Brian Reimer were in good health at first, but a few months later and many boys crying bouts, Janet their mother made the discovery that they suffered from phimosis, which is a condition that involved a foreskin that is too tight and made uncomfortable urinating. Circumcision, also other environmental factors as recommended by the hospital (Colapinto, 2018)   Surgery was first done to Bruce with the doctors using and device of electrocauiting in slicing away the foreskin. Through an accident that was quite terrible, Bruce’s penis got burned. 

School and friends played a key role where, Money for 30 years made report of the case as being a success despite the clear uncomfortable state of Brenda as well as adaptation that was troubled to the female gender and problems that were quite sever with school and friends. In this case, friends signaled gender. The choices of friends that an individual makes as per this story determine a lot one’s gender, despite one’s biological make up. Also, this further skewed the academic circles belief about the debate on nature versus nurture. Body parts are also considered from the case of losing the penis in the unsuccessful operation which Bruce went through(Colapinto, 2018)    However, this made Money give a supposed presentation of hard evident that gender can be learned from an individual’s environment, then ignoring his ‘experiment’s’ results. Still on body parts as a key factor in determining one’s gender, it is mentioned that “hundreds of similar cases, of boys who are born with small penises or no penises at all, or have conditions that are intersexed usually have a decision on their gender made on the basis of Money’s research. 

In Jennifer Boylan’s case, what signaled gender to her involved a couple of various environmental factors in her environment? All in support of the argument that gender is all about nurturing and not nature, she received support, being the co-chair of the Colby College’s English Department, which was a small liberal-arts school in Maine. The environment highly contributed to her gender because she was even encouraged by the administrators, students and other members of the faculty.

Still on Jennifer’s side, gender was signaled right from the early childhood factors and environment when James made entertainment of the girlish fantasies, and further engaged in dressing that was secret-cross, which made him never comfortable within his very own skin. Such feeling did not change upon meeting Grace; with a name that would be far too on-the-nose provided the fictious nature of the book. He was, however, partially redeemed by love, clothing and friends. Further, she felt content with the life that was quiet of being a teacher and a greatly admired novelist in rural Maine. However, her femininity went to an extent where she could no longer live as a man, despite the extent to which the change would upend her other relationships in addition to marriage. In mention of other similar factors, the book’s most powerful section occurs over the rough period of two years when Boylan went on Sabbatical from teaching, and began to take doses of estrogen through such she slowly eased out to the world as a complete woman. In a language that is direct and simple, the description by Boylan is that of a metamorphosis that is extraordinary. This is right from relationships that shaped her gender such as the devastation that had to be dealt with Grace to the actual changes that were both emotional and physical. She makes it clear that, “Just one pill is capable of making one want to talk about relationships and eat salad. Another pill makes one dislike the three stooges” (Boylan, 2013).

Someone from outside Boylan’s life might from a fair perspective see the decision by Boylan as a narcissist at its best due to many social and cultural factors acting against such. So as for her to blossom and have a whole feeling for the very first time, she had to give up a life that was perfectly enviable. “Gypping” Grace from a husband and having to recede from friends who were close such as Russo, who at the first instance responded to the news with an email exchange that was bitter. Russo finally had to come around and contribute to an afterword that is compassionate and touching, however, Boylan did not sugarcoat the reality that there had been total changes to her marriage, with the hitching of Grace to a sacrifice that is involuntary and quite humiliating.          

Question 3 Response

David gives a definition and redefinition of gender which works both within and against complex social and cultural forces. Such forces that supported the whole thing of gender transition included well renowned people in the society, such as John Money, a gender expert in John Hopkins who believes that gender was learned, but not an innate thing. Through such a positive force, Bruce was raised as Brenda. However, other negative social and cultural forces made Brenda grow up depressed, confused and angry. She was also uncomfortable as a girl because a certain portion of the society viewed her different from the rest. Family, which is the most fundamental social structure, also played a key role in redefining of Brenda’s gender as it did not let her know her real gender until the parents revealed it to her when she was 14 and her life was already spiraling out of control. Such complex forces made her transition again back to a male (David) as a teenager, then married. Even though she became more comfortable as a man she later committed suicide due to the societal and cultural pressure that left David more depressed (Colapinto, 2018).

Someone from outside Boylan’s life might from a fair perspective see the decision by Boylan as a narcissist at its best due to many social and cultural factors acting against such. So as for her to blossom and have a whole feeling for the very first time, she had to give up a life that was perfectly enviable. “Gypping” Grace from a husband and having to recede. It is such complex forces that led to Boylan’s suicide. Many other factors such as his twin brother’s suicide due to drug overdose shows how the family plays a major role along other factors such as having marital issues with his wife, constant emotional struggles and financial issues that had to be dealt with after his rather painful childhood all due to gender issues.  

In Jennifer’s case, defining and redefining her gender works both within and against complex social and cultural forces in a couple of ways. There are all seen in the number of people that embraced her decision and supported her as well as others who criticized her step of undergoing gender transition surgery. However, this did not stop her determination from turning into a girl from being a born-boy biologically. However, to counter this criticism, she even makes it clear in her statements that if one is in the market for new genitalia; there is no need to want to shop in the bargain basement. Her immediate family, being the most concerned social force had to stay together through each step that did quite agonizing, with her two young boys have to invent the affectionate “maddy” new hybrid in describing their parent who was androgynous.

Still on the complex social and cultural forces, the gender jumping still left a wreckage that was quite emotional and speaks to the hardships that are incredible and dealt to a large number of transgender, not to mention the poor souls that chose to remain caged within their own bodies that were mismatched. It appeared that the complex social and cultural forces did not stop her from getting the trans-gender surgery to become who she fully felt that she was. Again, this is clear evidence that gender is not all about one’s nature, but rather how one is nurtured by the society and the environment around (Boylan, 2013).

Other forces that could have acted against her are the stories of surgeries that are botched, attempts of suicide as well as interventions that are pained from people that she loved, which are all scattered like landmines throughout She’s Not There. Her memoir is quite exuberantly funny and candid, giving a sense of self-actualization. Further, the professional, medical and emotional risks are also clear from sessions of group therapy as well as adjacent beds in hospital, which made Boylan’s determination to persevere all along the surgery with the needed courage. It was indeed tragically necessary despite all that was happening.              


David’s case clearly shows that gender is instilled, but not necessarily the biological make up or nature of an individual. Individuals who have little knowledge on matters gender can identify and relate with the boy who had to be forced to grow up as a girl (Colapinto, 2018). From Boylan’s case it is evident that the primer is quite superb in understanding the impulse of being a transgender. It feels as a regretful and liberating story which shows honesty throughout all its messy form in effort to show that gender is all about how one is nurtured and not a natural thing (Boylan, 2013).


Boylan, J. F. (2013). She’s not there: A life in two genders.

Colapinto, J. (2018). As nature made him: The boy who was raised as a girl.