Milton Diamond, sexologist and advocate for intersex children, dies at 90

Academic conferences are usually serious affairs, but the 1973 International Symposium on Gender Identity, held in Dubrovnik, Yugoslavia, was an exception. All was quiet until a psychologist named John Money stood up and shouted, “Mickey Diamond, I hate your guts!”

Milton Diamond, a sexologist who had been called Mickey since childhood, was sitting across the room. Dr. Money and Dr. Diamond were bitter rivals: Dr. Money, a nationally recognized researcher at Johns Hopkins University, had long argued that sexual and gender identities are neutral at birth and shaped primarily by one's environment. the child is found.

Dr. Diamond, who had just begun his career at the University of Hawaii, strongly disagreed, and had said so repeatedly, including in a widely read critique of Dr. Money's work from 1965. He particularly criticized Dr. Money's recommendation. Money to subject intersex children to surgery to “correct” their genitals.

Dr. Money rushed to Dr. Diamond, clashing with him, furiously insisting that he was right.

Dr. Diamond simply replied: “The data is not there.”

At one point, eyewitnesses reported that Dr. Money had beaten Dr. Diamond, although Dr. Diamond later said he did not remember it.

The incident, reported by journalist John Colapinto in Rolling Stone magazine and in a subsequent book, “As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl” (2000), was particularly heated because of a recent announcement by Dr. . Money .

She had worked with a boy who in 1965, after his penis was damaged beyond repair during a circumcision, underwent further surgery to remove the male genitalia. The child was then raised as a female, taking on all the conventional physical and emotional characteristics of a teenager – happily, Dr. Money said.

Although the child was not born intersex, Dr. Money stated that the case demonstrated that gender and sexual identity were malleable and that intersex children should indeed undergo surgery.

Dr. Money and an associate, Anke A. Ehrhardt, now a researcher in the field, presented their findings in a 1972 book, “Man and Woman, Boy and Girl.” Journalist James Lincoln Collier, writing in the New York Times, called it “the most important volume in the social sciences to appear since the Kinsey Reports.”

But Dr. Diamond was not convinced and said so, a position that inflamed Dr. Money in Dubrovnik. The case study was inconclusive, he said, adding that the boy, who was about 7 when the book was published, had not even reached puberty.

It wasn't until the early 1990s that Dr. Diamond was able to track down the child and the psychiatrist who had treated them, H. Keith Sigmundson.

What he found demolished all of Dr. Money's claims.

The child, born Bruce Reimer but later raised as Brenda, had rebelled against his forced upbringing, tearing his clothes and threatening suicide. At 14, the boy's parents agreed to stop hormone treatment and allow him to live as a boy, now with a different name, David.

Worse, Dr. Diamond discovered that Dr. Money, who met with David and his twin brother every year, had been abusing the children, forcing them to simulate sexual activity and yelling at them when they refused. (Dr. Money has denied the allegations.)

Dr. Diamond's findings, which he and Dr. Sigmundson published in 1997, rewrote not only Dr. Money's case study, but how the medical community approached intersex children in general.

Under Dr. Money's influence, it had long been standard practice for doctors to choose the sex for a child with ambiguous genitalia. Dr. Diamond argues the opposite: identity cannot be forced, intersex people deserve a place on the spectrum of human sexuality, and the decision to make changes to one's body should be left up to the individual.

Dr. Diamond remained in contact with David, who eventually married and adopted his wife's children. He committed suicide in 2004.

Today, while many doctors follow Dr. Diamond's recommendations, other doctors and many parents still opt for infant surgery, according to Bo Laurent, founder and former executive director of the Intersex Society of North America.

“Perhaps we really need to think,” Dr Diamond told the BBC in 1980, “that we do not come into this world neutrally; that we come to this world with a certain degree of masculinity and femininity that will transcend whatever society wants to insert into it.

Dr. Diamond died March 20 at his home in Honolulu. He was 90 years old. His wife, Constance Brinton-Diamond, confirmed his death.

Milton Diamond was born on March 6, 1934, in the Bronx to Aaron and Jennie (Arber) Diamond, Jewish immigrants from Ukraine. They owned grocery stores in the neighborhood and the family moved frequently. He spent part of his childhood in an Irish neighborhood, where some children, having never met a Milton before him, gave him a more familiar name, Mickey. He froze.

In 1955, Milton became the first City College of New York student to earn a bachelor's degree in biophysics. After three years in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of Kansas and earned a doctorate in anatomy and psychology in 1962, writing a thesis on the effects of testosterone in the womb.

He and his wife leave behind four children from his first marriage, Hinda, Irene, Sara and Leah Diamond; three stepchildren, Maia James Tidwell, Kristina Brinton and Andrew Brinton; and 14 grandchildren.

Dr. Diamond taught for a few years at the University of Louisville, then moved to the University of Hawaii in 1967 to join the founding faculty of its new medical school. He assumed emeritus status in 2009.

After publishing his article in 1997 on Dr. Money's work, Dr. Diamond spent several years developing guidelines for the care of intersex individuals. He also opposed the idea that intersexuality was a disorder and supported its acceptance as a normal part of human sexuality.

Nature loves variety, he liked to say.

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