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John Money

Institutional affiliation: 1951-2006

John Money

John Money moved to the United State from New Zealand as a young man, earned a Ph.D. in psychology at Harvard, joined the Hopkins faculty in his 30s, and stayed 50 years—the latter part of it somewhat in exile in a building off campus. He was a controversial figure, and wrong about some things (tragically, in his advocacy of gender reassignment surgery for genitally ambiguous infants), but his ideas about the nature of sex and gender have been broadly influential.

Money came of age at the height of the Freudian focus on sex as the source of all mental disorder, but he did not share the Freudians’ fairly Victorian views about what constitutes “normal” in sex. In true Hopkins form, he saw sexual behavior as a result of biology and conditioning, and saw sexual variation as something to be studied rather than morally judged. The idea that sex (one’s chromosomal and genital configuration) can be differentiated from gender (whether one considers oneself as male or female and acts accordingly) has permeated the modern understanding of sexuality and contributed to the greater social acceptance of homosexuality and transgendered people.

Dean MacKinnon, M.D.