Brian Reimer had a difficult life, having fallen victim to a litany of unfortunate events and circumstances throughout his time alive.

Tragically, Brian passed away in 2002, having battled with Schizophrenia for much of his adult life. His story is tragic, and features some terrible events.

The Reimer twins – Copyright of Colin Davey

Brian Reimer’s early life

Brian Reimer was born in Manitoba, Canada, in 1965. He had an identical twin brother named Bruce.

After struggling to urinate, both twins were diagnosed with phimosis – a condition that involves difficulty in retracting the penis. In events like this, a circumcision can be used to solve the issue.

Bruce was first to receive the circumcision. But inexplicably, the urologist conducting the treatment botched the procedure. He used the unorthodox method of electrocauterization – which involves burning parts of the penis to induce removal.

The treatment went horribly, and resulted in Bruce’s penis being burned to the extent where it was impossible to repair it. Therefore, Brian did not receive a circumcision, with the Reimer twins’ parents leaving.

The impact on Brian

For the next few years, a range of things would happen to Bruce, which would impact Brian.

The parents of the twins were young, and had little idea about what to do with Bruce – believing that his lack of penis would impact him negatively in many walks of life.

After seeing psychologist John Money on TV, the parents travelled to Maryland, USA, to visit Money. They hoped that Money could help Bruce.

Money had the theory that gender identity is developed through observing others as a young child. Moreover, he believed that with certain interventions, a child’s natural gender identity could be changed – with him calling this theory “gender neutrality”.

Overall, Money believed that if Bruce was treated as a girl growing up, that he would turn out to be more feminine. Money believed this to be the chance to show nurture is more powerful than nature. However, Money hadn’t ever tested this theory out.

Bruce went through a gender reassignment, with him having a female private area surgically constructed, resulting in him being considered a female, now called Brenda.

Events in the years that followed would traumatise Brian. Money the psychologist forced the twins

 to engage in “thrusting movements” with one another. The two were put in compromising positions that are only normally seen in sexual relations between two adults.

For Brian and Brenda, being exposed to these positions – especially with one another – was deeply traumatisng. Furthermore, Money also made the duo take off their clothes, rehearse sexual acts on top of one another – while photographing the events.

Money defended these experiments as being required for “healthy adult gender identity”. These experiments would last for years, and developed to the point where Money was showing Brenda graphic pictures of birth – in an effort to persuade Brenda to have a constructed female private area.

Brenda however was more masculine, suggesting Money’s experiments had failed. But with a lot of focus placed on Brenda, Brian also faced problems.

Mental health problems

Both Brian and Brenda Reimer developed mental health problems. The duo were told by their parents about what had happened, which strained relations.

Brenda then changed back to being a male, and changed his name to David. He had his breasts removed and underwent surgery to give him a penis.

In the mean time, Brian was also struggling to come to terms with the past. While David had been the main victim of events, Brian was also affected deeply. Brian became annoyed at the difference in attention between the two twins.

Brian was diagnosed with Schizophrenia. Given all of the trauma that Brian was exposed to, it was unsurprising that a condition of this severity developed.

Brian had two marriages which unfortunately both ended in divorce. Brian also turned to crime and had drug problems.


Brian Reimer tragically died in 2002, following an antidepressant overdose. Brian was just 37 at the time.

His death was ruled as a suicide. The trauma he experienced growing up clearly had a profound impact on him.

His brother David died just two years later. David also took his own life – by shooting himself. This brought a tragic end to his life.

Money died in 2006, having been harshly criticised for his actions in the case. When the Reimer twins case became public knowledge, there was widespread outcry over events.


For many that knew the Reimer twins, the fact that they managed to last so long despite their cruel experiences was testament to their tenacity and strong-willed nature.

Brian had a lot to contend with throughout his life, with trauma impacting him too. Hopefully, he is finally at peace.


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