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Dr. John Money, pioneer in sexual identity, dies

/ Source: The Associated Press

Dr. John Money, a psychologist and sex researcher who coined the terms “gender identity” and “gender role” and was a pioneer in studies of sexual identity, has died. He was 84.

Money died Friday at St. Joseph Medical Center in Towson, said Vivienne Stearns-Elliott, a hospital spokeswoman. Money’s niece, Sally Hopkins, said Sunday her uncle died of complications from Parkinson’s disease.

Money was born in New Zealand and immigrated to the United States in 1947. He conducted research for about 50 years at Johns Hopkins University, where he was a professor of medical psychology.

Money believed a person’s gender identity was determined by an interaction between biological factors and upbringing. That represented a break from past thinking, in which gender identity was largely believed to be caused only by biological factors.

“He really developed that entire field of study,” said Dr. Gregory K. Lehne, a Money protege and an assistant professor of medical psychology at Johns Hopkins. “Without him, that whole field of study might not have existed.”

Money advised parents on what sex they should raise hermaphrodites — people born with characteristics of both sexes — to be. He also worked with people who were born with normal sex organs but did not identify with the gender they had been raised to be.

“He pioneered the concepts related to this and the psychological aspects of sex reassignment,” Lehne said.

Lehne said Money appeared to enjoy the controversy his work raised because it provoked people to think in different ways about gender.

Money was involved in a highly publicized case of a boy who was raised as a girl after suffering a seared penis while being circumcised in 1966.

David Reimer was raised as “Brenda” after Money advised his parents to remove the rest of his male genitalia and recommended female hormone treatment.

Reimer was 15 when he learned his true identity and rejected further treatment as a girl. He committed suicide in 2004 at the age of 38 after failed investments drove him into poverty.

Lehne said Money did not talk publicly about the case and Hopkins said her uncle did so out of respect for the family.

“He had total sympathy and distress over the situation the family was in,” she said.

Money was married but quickly divorced in the 1950s. He had no children and is survived by eight nieces and nephews and other relatives, Hopkins said.