John Money

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John Money
It's a social construct
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Spectra and binaries

John Money (1921–2006)[1] was a New Zealand-American psychologist and sexologist who is most well known, and infamous, for his involuntary sex-reassignment of the child David Reimer. He has become a bludgeon that transphobes use against the transgender community in spite of the fact that he "has become such a negative figure for transsexuals".[2]:89

The David Reimer case[edit]

David Reimer

Easily the thing Money is most infamous for is the medical experiment he ran on David Reimer.

In his infancy, Reimer was diagnosed with phimosis and underwent a botched circumcision causing his penis to be damaged beyond the point it could function. His parents contacted John Money, who told them the solution was to give the child a sex change operation and have him live as a girl.[3]

Throughout his childhood, Reimer developed gender dysphoria and did not feel comfortable with the idea of being a girl.[3] John Colapinto, the author of the first biography on Reimer, wrote the following regarding what it was like for David growing up, when he was called Brenda:

At age 2, Brenda angrily tore off her dresses. She refused to play with dolls and would beat up her brother and seize his toy cars and guns. In school, she was relentlessly teased for her masculine gait, tastes, and behaviors. She complained to her parents and teachers that she felt like a boy; the adults—on Dr. Money’s strict orders of secrecy—insisted that she was only going through a phase.[4]

In a long term followup with Dr Milton Diamond, Reimer looked back at his childhood retrospectively, saying:

There were little things from early on. I began to see how different I felt and was, from what I was supposed to be. But I didn’t know what it meant. I thought I was a freak or something; … I looked at myself and said I don’t like this type of clothing, I don’t like the types of toys I was always being given, I like hanging around with the guys and climbing trees and stuff like that and girls don’t like any of that stuff. I looked in the mirror and sees my shoulders are so wide, I mean there is nothing feminine about me. I’m skinny, but other than that, nothing. But that is how I figured it out. [I figured I was a guy] but I didn’t want to admit it, I figured I didn’t want to wind up opening a can of worms.[5]

As puberty hit, David was also expected to undergo estrogen treatment in order to appear more feminine, which he flatly refused to do.[6][5] It was also at this point a local psychiatrist had convinced his parents to tell him what happened. From this point forward, David did everything in his power to reconstruct his male identity, including undergoing testosterone injections and getting a double mastectomy.[4]

Sadly, this experience lead David with a large amount of trauma and several mental health issues, which would result in him taking his own life in 2004.[4]

Sexual abuse[edit]

Money also engaged in sexual abuse of both David and his twin brother, with David recalling:

He told me to take my clothes off, and I just did not do it. I just stood there. And he screamed, "Now!" Louder than that. I thought he was going to give me a whupping. So I took my clothes off and stood there, shaking.[7]

One source said that the two "were directed to inspect one another’s genitals and engage in behavior resembling sexual intercourse… which Money justified as the rehearsal of healthy childhood sexual exploration."[3]

Both Brian and David reported a large amount of trauma from this experience, with Brain talking about it "only with the greatest emotional turmoil" and David downright refusing to speak about this publicly, although his wife did say that David told her the full story.[8] After both the twins died of suicide, their parents specifically blamed this treatment for their deaths.[9]

Nature vs nurture[edit]

Transphobes have latched onto this story in hopes of proving that transgender people are unnatural. Writing in 2020, Matt Walsh said the following while discussing the case:

As David Reimer’s parents discovered, you cannot “reassign” someone’s genetically and biologically hardwired sex. You can dress them in different clothes and conduct irreversible surgeries, but none of that can change their DNA. You can alter a person’s looks. You cannot alter their biological nature.[10]

The core argument made here is that, in the context of the nature vs. nurture discussion, people are not naturally wired to be transgender, and it's impossible to "nurture" someone into being trans. There is an inkling of truth here in that you can't force a cis person to be trans, and vice versa. However, this does not reflect the modern trans experience because modern-day trans people are not forced to transition, they do so entirely voluntarily. Reimer was forced into a girl’s gender roles at a young age and was given hormones basically at birth, unlike cases nowadays where trans people actively want to transition rather than being forced into it. Reimer’s case applies best to the edge case of people who are forced into transitioning despite not wanting it.

If anything, the Reimer case undermines anti-trans activists insofar that it shows the harmful impacts of being forced to live under a gender identity you didn’t choose for yourself. In this case, we see Reimer, a cis man, suffer from being forced into a trans identity against his will. This exact same situation could apply to a trans person being forced into a cis identity against their will - you just swap “cis” and “trans” with each other. This is a pro-affirmation and pro-trans argument.

Anna Slatz, writing for the TERF website Reduxx, summarizes this idea with the following:

While proponents of trans ideology sometimes misappropriate Money’s abusive experiments on Reimer as “proof” that a person cannot be forced to live as a “gender” they are not — they gloss over the critical reality that Reimer’s experience demonstrates a person cannot be something they are not, full stop.[11]

Anna Munsey-Kano, writing for the blog Queer Guess Code, expands further on this point and makes note of numerous similarities between the experience of Reimer and that of those in the transgender community.[12]

Gender-sex distinction[edit]

S.G. Cheah, writing in Evie Magazine, said this in an article talking about Money:

Dr. Money theorized that “gender is just a social construct,” and if the boy’s parents raised him as a girl, he would grow up and be a normal, mentally healthy girl.[13]

A lot of conservatives believe that the David Reimer case debunks gender as a concept, or the gender-sex distinction as a concept. They argue that because Money theorized gender as being a social construct, and because he abused Reimer, that this must debunk gender conceptually. However, Money's experiment was never really meant to prove or disprove that gender was a concept. Rather, Money's experiment sought to answer questions about the nature and nurture of transgender identity - he was asking if a person could be nurtured into a transgender identity, or if that identity was determined naturally. Just because Money, a bad person, introduced the distinction, that does not automatically make the distinction useless or bad.

The gender-sex distinction is actually helpful for analyzing the Reimer experiment. Here, we see that he has a male biological sex, yet is forced into the gender identity of a woman. The gender-sex distinction is pretty clearly in play with this analysis, proving itself to be useful.

Medical community[edit]

The true nature of the Reimer experiment was covered up by Money for years. John Money boasted that his experiment had been a success and the medical community accepted what he said as true for years,[14] until David Reimer collaborated with Dr. Milton Diamond and, in 1997, published a long-term follow-up for Money’s earlier experiments which rebutted Money’s research and got worldwide attention.[5] Only then was the truth about Money’s experiment actually available to the medical community for them to respond to and learn from.

Once the medical community was aware of the truth, some changes were made in medical practice. This case reopened the discussion about "nature vs. nurture" while severely undermining the "nurture" side of the aisle. It also led to medical reforms on the issue of sex reassignment surgery for infants with certain defects (e.g. micropenis).[15]

Relationship with the LGBT community[edit]

It is rather common for transphobes to mention Money as a point against those advocating for transgender rights. In a 2023 tweet, Walsh said that "the movement began" with Money, for example.[16] A few years before that, Walsh published an article for The Daily Wire with the headline "The Horrifying Origins Of Left-Wing Gender Ideology."[10]

What is ironic about this is that not only was Money a transphobe by modern standards, but he actually began his fight against gender roles out of a fear that they were creating transgender people. In one article from 1977, for example, Money wrote while arguing against the gender roles:

Thus a tomboyish girl, prenatally androgenized, grows up to be a career-minded woman, not a transsexual who claims to need sex reassignment.[2]:181-182

In his other writings, Money claimed that transgender people are “devious, demanding and manipulative” and “possibly also incapable of love.”[17] Many of his ideas about gender, specifically his view that gender identity is not something people are born with, have also been used to justify conversion therapy against transgender people.[18]

Those who are intersex also have little nice to say about Money, given his belief that "without obviously male or female genitalia, the child could not function well socially."[19] Although the North American Intersex Society tells people not to blame Money for all the problems intersex people face, they also note that "a lot of doctors justified their work via Money’s own work," with said work involving doing "'normalizing' surgeries in an attempt to make intersex go away."[20]

Funnily enough, Milton Diamond, the man responsible for exposing just how abusive Money was during the David Reimer case,[3] has not only expressed support for transgender people and their rights[21] but has also written against the unnecessary surgery on intersex people.[22]

Creator of gender?[edit]

Cartoon credited to Mr. Pumpkin Head claiming John Money coined the term "gender."[23]
1888 Etymological Dictionary which uses the term "gender."[24]

One common right wing claim about John Money is that he was the man behind the terms "gender" or "gender identity" in some way. David Allsopp, while writing on the website Medium, noted many transphobes making this argument, and several reasons as to why its wrong. To put it simply, the term "gender" existed long before Money came about, and people had been discussing the notion of a "gender identity" for quite awhile before Money first used the term.[23]

Of course, even if this were true, it holds no relevance to if the ideas Money proposed held any weight. The fact that Pythagoras was a cult leader who killed one of his followers for proposing irrational numbers doesn't mean The Pythagorean Theorem is incorrect.[25] In the same regard, transgender people being valid and gender identity being real has nothing to do with if John Money was a morally outstanding person. By arguing against these concepts through using the actions of Money, transphobes are quite literally engaging in the definition of an ad hominem, since they are attacking the people who propose an idea as opposed to the idea itself.[26]


Another rather controversial aspect about Money is his opinion regarding pedophilia. Money believed there was a difference between "sadistic pedophilia" and "affectionate pedophilia,"[27] and infamously told the Dutch pro-pedophilia journal Paidika:

If I were to see the case of a boy aged 10 or 12 who's intensely attracted toward a man in his 20s or 30s, if the relationship is totally mutual, and the bonding is genuinely totally mutual, then I would not call it pathological in any way.[7]

Other facts about Money[edit]

  • He coined the term "gender roles."[28]
  • He popularized the term "paraphilia" in the world of psychiatry, using it instead of the more stigmatizing word "perversions."[29]:45
  • He is considered one of the pioneers of chemical castration, or treating sex offenders through using drugs to get rid of their sex drive.[30]


  1. John William Money, 84, Sexual Identity Researcher, Dies
  2. 2.0 2.1 The Man Who Invented Gender: Engaging the Ideas of John Money by Terry Goldie (2014) UBC Press. ISBN 0774827939.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 David Reimer and John Money Gender Reassignment Controversy: The John/Joan Case
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Gender Gap
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Sex Reassignment at Birth: A Long Term Review and Clinical Implications
  6. David Reimer, 38; After Botched Surgery, He Was Raised as a Girl in Gender Experiment
  7. 7.0 7.1 The True Story of John / Joan
  8. As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl
  9. Born a Boy, Raised as a Girl Documentary, The Learning Channel
  10. 10.0 10.1 WALSH: The Horrifying Origins Of Left-Wing Gender Ideology
  11. John Money: The Pro-Pedophile Pervert Who Invented “Gender”
  13. Dr. John Money, Father Of Gender Theory, Was A Pedophilia Apologist
  16. It’s #TransDayOfVisibility and I agree that the trans agenda needs to be made visible. Please use the hashtag to inform the public about the truth of the trans agenda. Like the fact that the movement began with a demented pedophile named John Money: by Matt Walsh (3:32 PM · Mar 31, 2023) Twitter (archived from March 31, 2023).
  17. A History of Transphobia in the Medical Establishment
  18. Conversion Therapy on Transgender and Gender-Diverse Children
  19. The story of John Money: Controversial sexologist grappled with the concept of gender
  20. MYTH #2: John Money is responsible for all of the troubles that have befallen intersexed people
  21. Dr. Milton Diamond Discusses Transgender Research With Truth Wins Out
  22. Management of Intersexuality: Guidelines for dealing with individuals with ambiguous genitalia.
  23. 23.0 23.1 No, Dr Money did not invent gender
  24. Screenshot from Oxford published Etymological Dictionary of the Engle Language (1888). Definition of gender is "kind, breed, sex" - saved for next time a MAGA/Terf tells me John Money invented the word Gender in the 50s/60s as part of his "paedophilic work". by James Billingham (9:11 AM · Dec 9, 2020) Twitter
  25. Three Minute Philosophy: Pythagoras
  26. ad hominem
  27. Pervert or sexual libertarian?: Meet John Money, "the father of f***ology"
  28. What Is Gender Identity? And Other Questions You May Have
  29. Perverse Psychology
  30. Fuckology: Critical Essays on John Money's Diagnostic Concepts Get access Arrow