Renowned Sexologist Milton Diamond, Champion for Intersex Rights, Passes Away at 90

Milton Diamond, Sexologist and Advocate for Intersex Babies, Dies at 90

Embarking on a Revolutionary Journey: Milton Diamond’s Early Career

Born on March 6, 1934, in the Bronx, Milton Diamond, more fondly known as Mickey, began his pioneering journey in the field of sexology after becoming the first student at the City College of New York to receive a degree in biophysics in 1955. Following a stint in the U.S. Army, Diamond pursued his doctorate in anatomy and psychology from the University of Kansas in 1962, focusing on the effects of testosterone in utero. Later, he joined the founding faculty of the University of Hawaii’s new medical school in 1967, where he would make ground-breaking contributions to our understanding of gender and sexual identity.

Challenging Prevailing Norms: Diamond’s Clash with Dr. Money

Dr. Diamond gained notoriety in the scientific community early in his career when he publicly disagreed with his contemporary, Dr. John Money of Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Money, a nationally recognized researcher, argued that sexual and gender identity are neutral at birth and are primarily shaped by an infant’s environment. He recommended surgery to “correct” the genitals of intersex infants, a practice that Dr. Diamond vehemently opposed. This ideological difference between the two researchers came to a head at the 1973 International Symposium on Gender Identity, where Dr. Money confronted Dr. Diamond following his critique of Money’s work. However, Diamond stood his ground, asserting that the data supporting Dr. Money’s claims was not sufficient.

Deconstructing a Controversial Case: The Story of Bruce Reimer

The contention between Dr. Diamond and Dr. Money further intensified with the case of Bruce Reimer. After an irreparably damaged penis during a circumcision, Reimer underwent surgery to remove his male genitalia and was raised as a girl. Dr. Money claimed this case as proof that gender and sexual identity were malleable. However, Dr. Diamond contested these claims, stating that the case study was inconclusive. His skepticism was justified when he managed to track down Reimer in the early 1990s and found that Reimer had rebelled against his enforced upbringing, choosing to live as a male named David. This finding, which Diamond published in 1997, revolutionized medical approaches to intersex infants.

Advocating for Change: Diamond’s Impact on Intersex Rights

Dr. Diamond’s research debunked the then prevalent practice of choosing a sex for intersex infants and instead argued for the acceptance of intersex as a normal part of human sexuality. He believed that intersex individuals deserved a place on the spectrum of human sexuality, and any alterations to their bodies should be their decision. His guidelines for the care of intersex individuals, developed after his 1997 publication, have been instrumental in shaping the understanding of intersex rights and the broader discourse around human sexuality.

Remembering Milton Diamond: The End of an Era

Milton Diamond passed away on March 20 at his home in Honolulu at the age of 90. His revolutionary work remains a testament to his commitment to challenging prevailing norms and advocating for the rights of intersex individuals. His scientific rigor and dedication to truth, despite the controversy and opposition he faced, will continue to inspire generations of sexologists and researchers in the field.