In May, David Reimer committed suicide. I was pretty much under a rock at the time, and I'm not the most energetic consumer of the news at the best of times, so I didn't find this out until today, while I was pursuing random links across the web.
I don't think I'm going to say this well, but I have to say something, even badly, about how sad this news makes me. I have shown the Nova documentary about David's life a number of times, as part of student workshops on multiculturalism/diversity. Reading about David's death made me realize how important it had been to me that despite the horrific events of his early life (some of which the documentary doesn't address, including Money's insistence that David and his brother be exposed to graphic representations of male and female genitalia, as a way to establish gender identity), David had finally achieved happiness. The documentary ends showing David surrounded by his wife and stepchildren (manning the backyard barbecue - the ultimate in masculine activities), accepted and loved. The message is that sure, his early life was awful, but the truth had been revealed, and now David was going to be okay. (I'm not faulting the documentary - at the time it was made, that was what everyone thought.) The process of discovery and truth-telling could heal even the worst abuses. I think one of the reasons that I was able to show the video at all was because I knew everything turned out okay.
But now I can't think that. And I can't imagine being able to show that documentary to students again without weeping.
One of the reasons this upsets me, I think, is that I presented this film jointly with a transgender student (J). I liked the message that that David was okay because then I could feel confident that J. was going to be okay. He's a great person, and in the process of becoming who he is, he's gone through more shit in his life than I can imagine ever going through. And I think he is going to be okay. But I can no longer just facilely assume that ultimately openness, acceptance and love will make everything okay. So, J., wherever you are right now, I hope that you are okay. You have my best wishes and my love. I wish they could be enough.