Guevedoce, a condition that is not well-known

Where have you heard that genitals of females spontaneously change to male genitals at puberty? Although this condition is quite rare in the world, it is a very familiar condition in the Dominican Republic where it affects almost 1 in 50 children and is often celebrated as a momentous occasion.

Guevedoce is the name affectionately given this condition by the isolated village of Salinas in the Dominican Republic. Translated, it means ‘penis at 12’. It is a hereditary condition and may explain such a high frequency of this occurrence in this country. This condition is also called ‘Turnim’ which literally means ‘expected to be a man’ in New Guinea.

The scientific name for Guevedoce is pseudo-hermaphrodites.

Although the sex organs don’t begin to form in the fetus until after 8 weeks of conception, the chromosomes that regulate the sex of the baby normally take place at conception itself. When the fetus has the Y chromosome, it develops into a male and without the Y chromosome, it develops into a female. However, the case with Guevedoce is quite different.

When there is a deficiency in the 5-alpha reductase enzyme during the course of fetal development, the male organs form in the proper way. However, when puberty strikes, there is a big surge of testosterone and a dramatic sex change takes place in the individual when the testes and penis emerge from inside the body.

Most individuals that undergo such a change at puberty usually go on to live a normal and healthy life. When a girl was interviewed for a BBC documentary about such a change, they confirmed that they didn’t really have an affinity towards a woman’s lifestyle from the beginning; they would not play with the girls toys and hated being dressed as girls.         

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