Guevedoces and how they change gender identities
What is guevedoces and how does it relate LGBT? It’s an interesting question, and for answers, we need to look at a remote village in the Dominican Republic where little girls turn into boys by the age of 12.
First discovered by Cornell University Dr Julianne Imperato in the 1970s who traveled to the Dominican Republic to do research on it, guevedoces literally means “penis at 12.”
The guevedoces condition
Some children in the small village of Salinas in the Dominican Republic are called guevedoces because of a rare genetic condition that makes them appear female at birth. But when puberty begins, these girls develop a penis and testes.
This is because these children have a condition where they weren’t able to produce an enzyme while they were still in their mother’s womb. This lack of enzyme prevents the production of a specific form of male sex hormone called dihydro-testosterone (DHT).
Babies in the womb have internal glands (called gonads) and a tubercle between their legs. At eight weeks, male babies with Y chromosome start to produce DHT in large amounts, and this turns the tubercle into a penis. For female babies, the tubercle turns into a clitoris.
However, because some male babies don’t have the enzyme 5-α-reductase to trigger the hormone surge, they’re born as female with no testes and what appears to be a vagina. However, when they reach puberty (around 12 years later), another surge of testosterone is produced.
This time, the male reproductive organs emerge: their voice becomes deeper and they finally grow a penis. That’s why these girls-turned-boys are called guevedoces, or machihembras meaning “first a woman, then a man”.
There are also individuals in the Sambian villages of Papua New Guinea who have the same genetic defect called turnims, meaning “expected to become men.” Similar individuals have been found in Turkey and Egypt.
Though these individuals are raised as female but identify as male, they are not considered as transgender. This is because they supposedly identify with their biological sex whereas transgender individuals identify with a gender different from their biological sex.
What guevedoces means to LGBT
But what’s even more interesting is that for these individuals who were thought of girls, most of these children admitted they never felt like girls and became happy when they had finally become boys.
A guevedoces named Johnny said, “I went to school and I used to wear my skirt. I never liked to dress as a girl. When they bought me girls toys I never bothered playing with them. All I wanted to do was play with the boys.”
Does that sound familiar? What’s important to consider here is that the guevedoces have to deal with the presumptions of society of their “true” gender identity. Though the gender identity of the guevedoces is based on their biological sex, the implications here can certainly apply to those of the LGBT community.
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