When Andrew Sullivan took testosterone injections for a health problem, he discovered something weird: “Mere hours after a T shot,” the British-born New York Times Magazine columnist wrote in an article headlined “The He Hormone,” “my dog ran off the leash to forage for a chicken bone left in my local park. The more I chased her, the more she ran. By the time I retrieved her, the bone had been consumed, and I gave her a sharp tap on her rear end. ‘Don’t smack your dog!’ yelled a burly guy a few yards away. What I found myself yelling back at him is not printable in this magazine, but I have never used that language in public before, let alone bellow it at the top of my voice. He shouted back, and within seconds I was actually close to hitting him. He backed down and slunk off. I strutted home, chest puffed up, contrite beagle dragged sheepishly behind me. It wasn’t until half an hour later that I realized that I had been a complete jerk and had nearly gotten into the first public brawl of my life.”

Journalist John Colapinto also offers evidence that human sexual identity is not a social construct. Indeed, Tom Wolfe has said that Colapinto’s shocking book, As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who was Raised as a Girl (HarperCollins), “stands as exhibit A” against the idea that nurture is more important than nature. It is the heartbreaking story of a baby boy whom an ambitious doctor changed into a girl.

While Colapinto’s book is about a truly bizarre experiment in human sexuality, philosopher and W. H. Brady Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, Christina Hoff Sommers, shows in her compelling new book, The War Against Boys (Simon & Schuster), how society at large now tries to make boys act more like girls.

The Independent Women’s Forum invited all three to share their insights at a symposium in Washington, D.C.

John Colapinto
Bruce, Brenda, and David
My book, As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl, is the story of an extraordinary and unrepeatable experiment in human sexual and gender identity. It is about a boy who was born developmentally normal in the mid-1960s and who, when he was eight months old, underwent circumcision because of a minor problem with his foreskin. During the circumcision, the doctor used the wrong instrument, an electrocautery needle instead of a scalpel, and the penis was badly burned and eventually sloughed off. Left with a baby who had a pair of normal testicles but no penis, the parents searched everywhere for help in their community of Winnipeg, Canada.

Eventually they saw Dr. John Money, a world famous sexologist from Johns Hopkins University, on television. Money was talking about his new clinic for sex changes. He had a theory that we are born psychosexually neutral, that we are, in fact, blank slates. Money believed that our gender identity is written upon us by society, by parental influences, and societal pressures. That viewpoint was popular in the 1960s, largely because of Money’s writings from the 1950s.

Like everyone who has ever heard John Money speak, the young parents were enthralled. He was charismatic. He was smooth, and he never stumbled over a word. They wrote him and asked if he could help. When Money read about this penis-less boy, he replied, “Indeed I can help. Get down here to Baltimore immediately and let’s get to work.” So they went to Baltimore, and Money assured them that? sex easily could be reassigned up until three years of age.

Money had worked with hermaphroditic children, children born with anatomical anomalies of the sex organs. He had never tested his theory with a developmentally normal child. So, this was a big moment for him. And there was another amazing wrinkle: The baby in question was born an identical twin. The other twin, who had not been injured, was being raised as a boy, Brian. That meant that Money had a perfectly matched control for an experiment to show that it is nurture, as opposed to nature, that defines us sexually. At the age of twenty-two months, the boy’s two testicles were surgically removed, and a rudimentary vagina, which was to be completed later, was fashioned; Bruce Reimer became Brenda Reimer.

When the twins were about six years old, Money, who was already quite famous for his theories about gender identity, said, “It’s going marvelously.” He continued to say that through the 1970s, and then, interestingly enough, when the child was around the age of puberty, Money mysteriously stopped writing about the twins case. One scientist, however, Dr. Milton Diamond, remained interested in it. Diamond suspected puberty would be the moment when we would know for sure, but Money seemed disinclined to speak about how it was going. He put Diamond off.

Through his own investigative methods, Diamond, in the early 1990s, found the twin who had been raised as Brenda, now an adult, living in Winnipeg. He did not find Brenda living with a white picket fence and a husband and children by adoption — the picture Money had painted. Instead, he found a man, thirty-two at the time, married with three children by adoption. He was employed as a slaughterhouse sanitation worker, a really rather ghastly environment where no women worked. Diamond wrote a scientific paper that explained that this world famous, and supposedly successful, sex change had, in fact, been an abject flop.

As it turned out, Brenda had been miserable from day one. The first minute she was put in a dress, she pulled it off. She seemed to have had an instinctual aversion to frilly clothing. Nor did she want to play with dolls. She wanted to play with her brother’s trucks and cars. She was ridiculed in the schoolyard. She had a kind of pressing, aggressive need to dominate.

When I spoke with Brenda’s kindergarten and elementary school teachers, I asked what was it about Brenda that was so different? And really all they could say was, “Well, we just knew Brenda was somehow not a girl.” Well, how did you know? “Well, she was more aggressive.” Or, “she wanted to dominate.”

We don’t possess good language for speaking about sex-behavior differences. But there were indefinable things that people were picking up about Brenda, and that Brenda was picking up about herself.

She had been put on a course of female hormones and had grown breasts. She was finally told the truth at the urging of a compassionate? psychiatrist, who said to her parents, “You must tell her or she will kill herself.”

Brenda then, at the age of fifteen, embarked on the remarkable journey of undergoing a sex change from girl to boy, which required a double mastectomy, a course of testosterone, and obviously a name change. He rechristened himself David, after David and Goliath. He felt he had done something similar to the biblical hero in slaying the Goliath of the medical establishment and society: the teachers, parents, psychiatrists and psycholo-gists, the endocrinologists and sur-geons, and everyone else who had been trying to press him into girlhood.

His decision and his ability to make that sexual change spoke to me more clearly and dramatically and movingly about his emphatic need to live in the gender that he felt himself to be more than any other aspect of this story. What was outrageous about the whole story was how readily Money’s theories have been accepted, first of all, by the medical establishment, and then by the social sciences and the media.

To hear David speak about sexuality is to feel that you’re in the presence of an oracle. His words have a kind of horse sense. What I found so compelling about David’s story is how incredibly stupid smart people can be.

Christina Hoff Sommers

Boy Bashing
When Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine came out, David Letterman leafed through it on the air, trying to decide whether he was included in its targeted audience. In the magazine, readers were advised to “keep a courage journal, write down every brave or surprising thing you’ve ever done,” and to “peel back layers and excavate the real you.” There were tips on candlelight bubble baths and five romantic things to do with strawberries. Finally, Letterman looked up, bewildered and confused, and said: “What’s the deal here? Not a single picture of a race car.”

This illustrates a point often made by the iconoclastic feminist Camille Paglia: that men are happy in what Paglia calls “People Free Zones.” Paglia speaks of the object-loving male mind. Males, young and old, are less interested in talking about their feelings and personal relationships than are women and girls. In an experiment at Northeastern University, the conversations of college students in the cafeteria were secretly recorded. Women were found to be vastly more likely to talk about intimates, close friends, boyfriends, and family members than boys were.

In another study, researchers presented male and female students with two images simultaneously through a stereoscope and asked them to say what they saw. The male subjects saw objects far more often than they saw people; the reverse was true for the female students. Dozens of experiments confirm that women are much better than men at judging emotions in a stranger’s face. Men are slightly better at spatial reasoning. Females are better at verbal skills. Well, why should this be the case?

A growing body of evidence confirms the experience of parents and the wisdom of the ages that there are basic differences between the sexes, partic-ularly in preferences and behavior, which are innate, hard-wired, and not the result of social conditioning. In the past few years, there have been some exciting developments in neuroscience, genetics, endocrinology, and even evolutionary psychology, pinpointing the biological correlates of some typical gender differences.

A recent issue of Scientific American reviewed this literature. An article by Doreen Kimura, a psychologist from Vancouver’s Simon Fraser University, looked at children’s play preferences. And, of course, she documented, again and again, that males are more aggressive, while females are more nurturing. She answers the question, “Why does this come about?” by saying that the level of exposure to various sex hormones in early life appears to be the most important factor differentiating males and females.

There are a group of girls that have been studied for several years at UCLA by Melissa Hines. These are girls with a congenital disorder — congenital adrenal hyperplasia, or CAH, a genetic defect that comes about when a female fetus is subjected to abnormally large quantities of male hormones. The CAH girls tend to grow up to be more aggressive than their non-CAH sisters. Hines did various experiments with toys. She put the standard array of toys, the glittering things the girls play with, the dolls, the nurturing animals, and on the other side the trucks, the Legos. The CAH girls go right for the trucks. They are also better than other girls at spatial reasoning.

This kind of information is rarely discussed or taken seriously in schools of education, women’s studies classes, and women’s advocacy groups. If you talk to gender experts at universities, they will tell you with complete confidence that gender is social construction, an artifact of culture. Sandra Lee Bartkey, a colleague in my field of philosophy, says that we’re all born bisexual and then transformed into male and female-gender human beings. According to Bartkey, we are psychosexually neutral.

It’s a central tenet of feminist theory that male-female differences are invented by culture. They seem to think that in a just universe, without the dominance of patriarchy, we’d be like the Saturday Night Live character, Pat, who was neither male nor female and actually quite a likeable creature but hardly somebody to inspire Utopian yearnings. Even the so-called “difference feminists,” Deborah Tannen and Carol Gilligan, don’t believe that sexual differences are biological. They believe that men and women are different, but they say that it’s cultural in origin. One of the things that I try to show in The War Against Boys is how successful some hardline feminists have been in obscuring the research that contradicts this social constructionist dogma.

The problem with this dogma is that it gives enormous latitude to educators who want to tamper with children’s gender identities. After all, what is badly constructed by the patriarchal culture can be reconstructed in the right way. Gloria Steinem, for example, is fond of saying that we must raise boys more like we raise girls. She and some of her colleagues are convinced that the male culture is dangerous, that masculinity itself is toxic and that young men must be trained away from it.

This dogma has inspired activist-educators to take on the challenge of resocializing little boys to be more like girls. Notably active on this front are the Wellesley Center for Research on Women, the Harvard School of Education, and the United States Department of Education. At a Wellesley conference on “Gender Equity for Girls and Boys,” teachers — who were there to receive certification credits — were told that there is an “opportunity zone” (when a child is forming a gender schema) when a child’s sexual identity is entirely malleable. Not one of the 200 teachers attending the conference questioned the assumption that masculinity and femininity are learned characteristics!

Although Wellesley is a fairly mainstream institution, this may be rather an extreme case. But, in more and more schools, “boyness” is now treated as a pathology, a disorder, something from which a child must recover. This begins in elementary schools, which are increasingly female-friendly domains — boys are there on sufferance. Today many educators regard the normal rough-and-tumble play of little boys with disapproval. Just to give one example, a Southern California mother of boys was stunned when she was informed that her son was punished for running during recess.

A few weeks ago in New Jersey, three little kindergartners were suspended for three days for using their fingers as guns in a game of cops and robbers. Mothers, too, are growing intolerant of the antics of little boys. This may explain the rapid rise of the number of boys diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder. A school administrator from Bloomfield, Michigan, named Deb Lang, called me one day and told me how out of favor boys are, and she said she gets calls from mothers who are worried because they have an “immature 4-year-old son!”  She tries to explain to them that there is no such thing as a mature 4-year-old.

Young children ages 5 to 11, prefer same-sex groups. Now this, of course, reinforces gender stereotypes. In many schools this is no longer tolerated. “Gender equity experts” encourage integration, as they put it. To give you a couple of examples, a little boy, Alex, a second grader in East Windsor, New Jersey, was not allowed to pass out invitations to his birthday party because he had invited only boys. His teacher and principal deemed this sexist and discriminatory.

There was a story in the New York Times that quoted Elizabeth Krents, the admissions director of the Dalton School, one of New York City’s premiere schools. She was boasting of Dalton’s determination to get rid of conventional girl-boy behavior. She said, “We don’t say, okay boys in the dress-up corner, girls in the block area. We build it into everything we do.” She noted that second graders were studying Grimms Fairy Tales, analyzing the tales for gender stereotypes. This conjures up images of children in China during the Cultural Revolution, analyzing children’s stories for themes of capitalist imperialism.

But boys are not cooperating in these efforts. One of the more amusing cases concerns a very feminist teacher in a San Francisco school who tried to get the boys interested in quilting and celebrating women. She had the sixth-and seventh-grade boys make a quilt. Each child stitched a muslin square to celebrate a “woman we admire.” A little boy, Jimmy, decided that he admired Monica Seles. Because she was the tennis player who got stabbed, he stitched a bloody dagger on his square. This must be an original in the history of quilting. He thought it was cool. And his teacher thought he was a psychopath.

I think what Jimmy was doing — in the oppressive confines of a feminist quilting environment — was asserting his boyness which, as I show in my book, was under direct attack by this teacher.

The corrective is good science, clear thinking, and willingness to accept the philosophy that Mother Nature may not be politically correct. American boys, whose very masculinity is deemed a disorder, need our support. If you are an optimist, as I am, you believe that eventually good sense and fairness will prevail. If you are the mother of boys, as I am, you know that one of the more agreeable facts is that boys, try as you will, simply will be boys.

Andrew Sullivan
Testosterone Power
I believe passionately that greater opportunity for women is probably the most significant gain for human freedom in the last century. But with this advance came a problem: a denial of biological or psychological differences between the sexes. I speak as a homosexual who, as a boy in an all-boys school in England, growing up amid the rough-and-tumble of boys’ play, was both comfortable in my maleness, but also aware that I was different.

I began to understand that I might be gay at about the age of nine. It was never, to my mind, a question of whether I was male or female. I knew that I was male. A gay man is a man before he is gay, and a gay woman is a woman before she is a lesbian. To say this in the gay community, however, is taboo — like much of academia, the gay world is wedded to the notion of social construction.

But anybody who has spent any time in the gay community will be struck by how different the cultures of lesbians and gay men are. All the stereotypes about men show up in gay male society; all the stereotypes about women show up in lesbian society. There is a famous joke: What does a lesbian bring on her second date? A U-Haul. What does a gay man bring on a second date? What second date?

When you read the science about gender differences, you realize there are very few hard cases, with control groups and without cultural bias. But because of a medical condition, I had the almost unique and undeniable experience of having what is literally an injection of manhood in a syringe.

I am HIV positive, and two years ago, when I found myself with no sex drive, little energy, becoming more passive, sleeping half the day, and being depressed, my testosterone was checked — it was found to be below that of an eighty-year-old man. The usual treatment is injections of testosterone.

Testosterone injections dramatically altered the way I felt, the way I behaved, the way I acted, even the way I conceived of myself, which was an eye opener. Because I inject the testosterone into my rump every two weeks, and it leaves the bloodstream quickly, I can actually feel its power on almost a daily basis.

The rush of a T shot is not unlike the rush of going on a first date or speaking before an audience. I feel braced. After one injection, I almost got in a public brawl for the first time in my life. There is always a lust peak — every time it takes me unaware. But afterwards, I realize again that lust is a chemical. It comes, it goes, it waxes and wanes. You are not helpless before it, but you aren’t in total control either.

There were also long-term physical changes: Going from napping during the day, I now rarely sleep during the day. I weighed 165 when I began testosterone injections, and now I weigh 185. I can squat more than 400 pounds.

I started reading up on the subject of testosterone. Testosterone is regarded as the definition of maleness, but both men and women produce it; men, however, produce much, much more of it. The effects of testosterone start early. At conception, every embryo is female. Testosterone turns a fetus with a Y chromosome into a real boy. The Book of Genesis got it backwards — man is created from woman.

Testosterone is clearly correlated in both men and women with psychological dominance, confident physicality, and self-esteem. A 1996 study found that in lesbian couples the one with the higher T level assumes the male role. A 1998 study found that trial lawyers have more testosterone than other lawyers. Put any two men in a room and the one with the higher level of testosterone tends to dominate.

When I was making these larger claims about testosterone, the researchers I spoke to on the subject seemed sort of puzzled and interested and very nervous, as scientists are about creating any controversy at all. One of the problems in this culture is our inability to talk about difference without implying inequality. It should be possible to adhere to strict political and civil equality while recognizing social and cultural differences.

I always have believed and still do in the rights of women to be in any field of activity they want on equal terms with men insofar as they can do the same job as a man can and vice versa. But I don’t want to deny the reality that men and women are different and the data on the subject is enormous and fascinating and utterly ignored.

Many feminists have made tenacious arguments about the lack of any substantive physical or mental differences between men and women. You can understand why, of course — for too long, girls and women were second-class citizens. But a visit to any college campus today will show you how far we have come from those pernicious days. Now, arguably we are seeing the crisis of the male.

If we continue to deny the male identity, we will not be able to provide the proper education for noble and virtuous manhood. The word virtue springs from the latin word vir — man — partly because of the sexism of the ancients, but nevertheless, this etymology shows that virtue meant being a man well, knowing how to be a good man.

Perhaps to some extent we are right to demonize manhood — it’s a very worrying thing, it tends to be often very aggressive, dysfunctional, unable to communicate; we all know the problems that men have. But we must start from understanding that men have problems and advantages and then construct a system of education and virtue which allows us to become better men — what they used to call “gentlemen.”

The essential educational task is to accept one’s nature but to want to improve it, to guide it to the most profitable and fruitful flourishing of that identity. Being a noble woman will not be the same as being a noble man; though we share an enormous amount in common, there are some things that will never be the same. In other words, understanding reality and difference is the beginning, the necessary beginning, for a civilized human society — by denying our basic differences, we deny ourselves the possibility of a more civilized life.