20 septembre 2015 / 23 h 07 / Guevedoces
In every way, Johnny is physically and biologically male. But, astonishingly he did not grow a penis until he hit puberty. He is one of many children who live in Salinas, an isolated village in the southwestern Dominican Republic, who are seemingly born female, only to become men in their teenage years.
Although Johnny’s story may seem extraordinary, cases of little girls turning into boys are so prevalent in the village that it is no longer considered abnormal. The children are simply referred to as the ‘guevedoces’ – which literally translates as ‘penis at 12’*.
[…] The rare genetic disorder occurs because of a missing enzyme which prevents the production of a specific form of the male sex hormone - dihydro-testosterone - in the womb.
All babies in the womb, whether male or female, have internal glands known as gonads and a small bump between their legs called a tubercle. At around eight weeks, male babies who carry the Y chromosome start to produce dihydro-testosterone in large amounts, which turns the tubercle into a penis. For females, the tubercle becomes a clitoris.
But some male babies are missing the enzyme 5-α-reductase which triggers the hormone surge, so they appear to be born female with no testes and what appears to be a vagina. It is not until puberty, when another huge surge of testosterone is produced, that the male reproductive organs emerge. What should have happened in the womb happens around 12 years later. Their voices deepen and they finally grow a penis.
[…] Many decide not to change from their female names, so some men in Salinas have names like Catherine.
The guevedoces were first discovered by a Cornell University endocrinologist Dr Julianne Imperato in the 1970s who travelled to Dominican Republic after hearing strange rumours about girls turning into boys. Further cases have since been seen in the Sambian villages of Papua New Guinea although the Sambians view the children as flawed males and they are often shunned, unlike the Dominicans who welcome the transformation with widespread celebration.
[…] “Guevedoces are also sometimes called “machihembras” meaning “first a woman, then a man”.
[…] Around one in 90 children in Salinas are guevedoces and although they resemble sexually normal males, subtle differences do still exist in adulthood. Most have decreased amounts of facial hair and smaller prostate glands relative to the average male.
The Telegraph, Sarah Knapton: “The astonishing village where little girls turn into boys aged 12.”
(*) In fact, the meaning is “testicles at 12” (“huevos — testículos — a los doce”).