Tag Archives: Gender

The extraordinary case of the Guevedoces

Catherine and his cousin Carla, Guevedoces in the Dominican Republic

Catherine and his cousin Carla, Guevedoces in the Dominican Republic

The discovery of a small community in the Dominican Republic, where some males are born looking like girls and only grow penises at puberty, has led to the development of a blockbuster drug that has helped millions of people, writes Michael Mosley.

Johnny lives in a small town in the Dominican Republic where he, and others like him, are known as “Guevedoces”, which effectively translates as “penis at twelve”.

We came across Johnny when we were filming for a new BBC Two series Countdown to Life, which looks at how we develop in the womb and how those changes, normal and abnormal, impact us later in life.

Like the other Guevedoces, Johnny was brought up as a girl because he had no visible testes or penis and what appeared to be a vagina. It is only when he approached puberty that his penis grew and testicles descended.

Johnny, once known as Felicita, remembers going to school in a little red dress, though he says he was never happy doing girl things.

“I never liked to dress as a girl and when they bought me toys for girls I never bothered playing with them – when I saw a group of boys I would stop to play ball with them.”

When he became obviously male he was taunted at school, and responded with his fists.

“They used to say I was a devil, nasty things, bad words and I had no choice but to fight them because they were crossing the line.”

We also filmed with Carla, who at the seven is on the brink of changing into Carlos. His mother has seen the change coming for quite a while.

“When she turned five I noticed that whenever she saw one of her male friends she wanted to fight with him. Her muscles and chest began growing. You could see she was going to be a boy. I love her however she is. Girl or boy, it makes no difference.”

Child on swing



So why does it happen? Well, one of the first people to study this unusual condition was Dr Julianne Imperato-McGinley, from Cornell Medical College in New York. In the 1970s she made her way to this remote part of the Dominican Republic, drawn by extraordinary reports of girls turning into boys.

When she got there she found the rumours were true. She did lots of studies on the Guevedoces (including what must have been rather painful biopsies of their testicles) before finally unravelling the mystery of what was going on.

When you are conceived you normally have a pair of X chromosomes if you are to become a girl and a set of XY chromosomes if you are destined to be male.

For the first weeks of life in womb you are neither, though in both sexes nipples start to grow.

Then, around eight weeks after conception, the sex hormones kick in. If you’re genetically male the Y chromosome instructs your gonads to become testicles and sends testosterone to a structure called the tubercle, where it is converted into a more potent hormone called dihydro-testosterone This in turn transforms the tubercle into a penis. If you’re female and you don’t make dihydro-testosterone then your tubercle becomes a clitoris.

Foetus at 12 weeks

When Imperato-McGinley investigated the Guevedoces she discovered the reason they don’t have male genitalia when they are born is because they are deficient in an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase, which normally converts testosterone into dihydro-testosterone.

This deficiency seems to be a genetic condition, quite common in this part of the Dominican Republic, but vanishingly rare elsewhere. So the boys, despite having an XY chromosome, appear female when they are born. At puberty, like other boys, they get a second surge of testosterone. This time the body does respond and they sprout muscles, testes and a penis.

Imperato-McGinley’s thorough medical investigations showed that in most cases their new, male equipment seems to work fine and that most Guevedoces live out their lives as men, though some go through an operation and remain female.

Another thing that Imperato-McGinley discovered, which would have profound implications for many men around the world, was that the Guevedoces tend to have small prostates.

This observation, made in 1974, was picked up by Roy Vagelos, head of research at the multinational pharmaceutical giant, Merck. He thought this was extremely interesting and set in progress research which led to the development of what has become a best-selling drug, finasteride, which blocks the action of 5-alpha-reductase, mimicking the lack of dihydro-testosterone seen in the Guevedoces.

My wife, who is a GP, routinely prescribes finasteride as it is an effective way to treat benign enlargement of the prostate, a real curse for many men as they get older. Finasteride is also used to treat male pattern baldness.

A final interesting observation that Imperato-McGinley made was that these boys, despite being brought up as girls, almost all showed strong heterosexual preferences. She concluded in her seminal paper that hormones in the womb matter more than rearing when it comes to your sexual orientation.

This is still a controversial topic and one I explore later in the film when I meet Mati, who decided from the earliest age that though “he” looked like a boy, Mati was really a girl.

As for Johnny, since he developed male genitalia he has had a number of short term girlfriends, but he is still looking for love. “I’d like to get married and have children, a partner who will stand by me through good and bad,” he sighs wistfully.

Complete Article HERE!

More of the SEX WISDOM of Benjamin Law — Podcast #420 — 06/11/14

Hey sex fans, Benjamin Law-2

Benjamin Law, the author of the critically acclaimed book, Gaysia; Adventures in the Queer East is back with us for Part 2 of his turn on this is the SEX WISDOM show. I’m so glad he has more time to spend with us again this week because he charmed the pants off me last week.

But wait, you didn’t miss Part 1 of this conversation, did you? Well not to worry if ya did, because you can find it and all my podcasts in the Podcast Archive right here on my site. All ya gotta do is use the search function in the header; type in Podcast #419 and Voilà! But don’t forget the #sign when you do your search.

And I’m sure we’ll have another opportunity to hear Benjamin read from his book.

Benjamin and I discuss:

  • Sham marriages and marriages of convenience;
  • Growing gay consciousness in China;
  • Reparative therapy through the power of Christ, Allah, or Yoga;
  • Colonialism and sexual oppression;
  • The resilience of the sexual minority communities throughout Asia;
  • Asia, the gayest continent;
  • Cultural relativism and cultural imperialism;
  • How his travels changed his life;
  • Our queer family is global
  • His next book project.

Benjamin invites you to visit him on his site HERE! And he’s also on Twitter HERE!

Click on the cover art below for more information about Gaysia; Adventures in the Queer East.

Gaysia Adventures in the Queer East


Look for all my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously. Just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

Today’s Podcast is bought to you by: Fleshlight & FleshJack.

Pesky Pronouns

Name: Lynn
Gender: Female
Age: 19
Location: Eugene, OR
I have a friend who is driving me (us) crazy. She is my age and we’ve been best friends since grade school. Last year I came out to her as a lesbian and she was very supportive and loving. This year it’s her turn. She cut her hair really short and now only wears men’s clothes. Thing is, she’s not gay, or lesbian. In fact, she doesn’t have a boyfriend or a girlfriend. As far as I know she’s still a virgin. She told me that she’s gender queer. I was like, OK cool. Then she changed her name and wanted all her friends to call her by her new gender-neutral name. I was like, OK cool. Now she wants us to use gender-neutral pronouns—they, their, and them when referring to “her.” This just sounds dumb. I want to be loving and supportive of her, like she was for me, but I don’t understand what’s going on. It’s like this whole thing is an act, like she is trying to see how much attention she can get. A lot of our friends have just given up on her, but I don’t want to do that. At the same time it’s like she’s mocking our trans friends who have real gender concerns. Am I being a dick for not wanting to go along with this?

Curious word choice there, young lesbian Lynn. Are you being a dick? Hell, I don’t know. What I can say for certain is, if we were being totally politically correct, we wouldn’t use euphemisms for our genitals in a derogatory way, right? Luckily, I’m not the least bit PC as you will discover from my comments below.gender-fuck

The question you raise in your email is a thorny one and I’m not sure I know how to respond. Gender is the new hot button issue and it is rapidly becoming the litmus test for PC crowd. As you suggest, it sometimes looks as though some folks are just trying to get attention or see how much the traffic will bear.

I’m going to be pretty self-referential in my response because I feel like I’ve been here before. Let me explain.

When I was about your age and into my early 20’s the modern gay lib movement here in the US was just finding its footing. Stonewall had just happened and those of us on the sexual fringe were tying to come up with a new vocabulary with which to talk about ourselves. No one I knew liked the term homosexual for obvious reasons. Some of us, myself included, preferred the term, homophile. The difference being one was about loving, the other was about sex. That term didn’t catch on, but “gay” sure did. I was fine with that, even though it wasn’t my first choice. As I began to take a closer look at my sexual orientation and identity, I became a bit more radical; gay just didn’t cut it anymore. I began to embrace the term “queer.”

look!When I was a boy, the term queer, often directed at me because I wasn’t like the other boys, was hate-filled and hurtful. It stung and I was ashamed. By my mid 20’s, however, I was no longer ashamed. In fact, I was full of a new found fervor that was connected to my new found identity as a sexual outlaw. I know for certain that my radicalness was a little off-putting to some people, even people who wanted to love and support me.

After I passed through my militancy stage, I continued to use the term queer to describe myself as a way of showing the world that I had reclaimed and detoxified the word that once brought me shame. It became my own personal badge of honor.  Maybe you’ve had a similar ark in your coming out, Lynn.

The curious thing is I’ve lived long enough to see the term I fought so hard to reclaim morph yet again. Nowadays, when someone self-identifies as queer, more often than not, it has to do with gender; it no longer has a strong sexual connotation. I feel a little bummed about this because one of my favorite words has been coopted by another group of people.  But that’s the nature of language, right?Gender-Outlaws6

Over the decades since I first began to struggle with who I was and how I would talk about myself to others, I’ve seen numerous fracturing of the solidarity we sexual outlaws might have had. There was a virulent strain of lesbian separatism that cropped up in the mid 70’s. But most of that has dissipated since. And there was the radicalism that came with HIV/AIDS, which turned quiet, unassuming, cocktail sipping homos into fearless street fighters. That too has played itself out. In fact, now that marriage equality is all the rage, some of us old queers are asking if it’s still possible to be a sexual outlaw by just being gay. I fear not. Apparently, gender benders are the new sexual outlaws. OK, my time has past; I get it. I have no hard feelings, but I do have a wistfulness for days gone by.

It’s also been my experience that some of us, and I include my younger self in this category, have an uncanny ability to alienate loads of people with our politics. That can be a good thing, but radicalism can, and often does, alienate those who would naturally be our allies as well as some of those who struggle next to us. There’s nothing more devastating to a popular movement than having a bunch of edgier-than-thou folks setting themselves up as the thought police. When this happens, as it always does, it suggests to me that we are more interested in making a point than making a connection. This is a particularly acute problem for the newly liberated crowd, often found on college campuses. They are flush with indignation as they discover that life is not fair. They tend to use the scattergun approach when doling out their fury regardless if those around them are deserved of their wrath or not.

fuck genderThe current incarnation of the gender liberation movement suffers from a lot of the excesses that other liberation movements have experienced before it—intolerance and dogmatism among them. The thing is, gender-fuck has a long history and an honored place in sexual politics. However, in the past, this has mostly expressed itself in street theater. Nowadays, there is precious little humor among the new gender warriors, and very few of these zealots can laugh at themselves. That tells me we’re all in for a very rough ride ahead.

I know how important a shift in vocabulary is to making the dominant culture see its oppression, but the pronoun thing is just awkward. For one thing, there’s no agreement on what pronouns to use for those who are rallying for gender neutrality. Some people militate for they, their, and them. Others want the even more extreme “ze,” pronounced as the letter zee. And “hir,” pronounced here. As in, “Ze went to the store and bought hirself an ice cream cone.” Well, if you wanna do that to the language go right ahead, but I refuse!

Besides, are we just supposed to use these twisted pronouns when the gender warrior is in our company, or are we to alter our vocabulary even when they aren’t around? Try using they, their, and them when referring to someone who isn’t present. Confusion will reign.gender neutral pronouns

Lynn, I don’t know your friend so I can hardly make a call on whether your friend is being authentic, disingenuous, or histrionic. But I don’t think you should beat yourself up if you draw the line at a pronoun shift. If your friend takes offense, as well your friend might, you could always compromise and use no pronouns ever in relation to your friend. Simply use your friend’s chosen name each time a pronoun might serve you better. In time, this will surely get exhausting for both you and your friend. But maybe this exercise will help your friend see that you are not the enemy and maybe your friend will then cut you a little slack.

Good luck

Early Spring 2014 Q&A Show — Podcast #413 — 03/31/14

Hey sex fans,rifleman

After a spate of marvelous interview shows, it’s time to turn our attention to the sexually worrisome in our audience. I have a swell Q&A show in store for you today, which just so happens to be our last podcast before our annual spring break. Each of my correspondents is eager to share his or her sex and relationship concerns with us. And I will do my level best to make my responses informative, enriching and maybe even a little entertaining. And I think there will be enough time for us to do some sex science too. So please stay tuned, you won’t want to miss this.

  • Kennedy, Jim, and Ronald’s lives are being fucked up by meth.
  • Sam wants to know about and share some information about penis pumps.
  • Rebecca has a heartbreaking story to tell of the last days before her husband of 46 years died.
  • Tracy asks about babies and gender. So you know it’s time for some Sex Science.

Today’s podcast is bought to you by: Dr Dick’s Sex Advice and Dr Dick’s Sex Toy Reviews.


Look for my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously, or just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

More SEX WISDOM With Katherine Frank — Podcast #387 — 08/21/13

Hey sex fans! Welcome back.K Frank

Kate’s back! That’s Dr Katherine Frank, cultural anthropologist, sex researcher and noted author, to you guys, don’t cha know. And this is the SEX WISDOM show.

So Kate and I got such an amazing response after last week’s episode that I could hardly contain myself for her return today. And I’ll just bet she’ll be bringing us more of her signature candor and insight.

But wait, you didn’t miss Part 1 of this show, did you? Well not to worry if ya did, because you can find it and all my podcasts in the Podcast Archive right here on my site. All ya gotta do is use the search function in the header; type in Podcast #386 and Voilà! But don’t forget the #sign when you do your search.

Katherine and I discuss:

  • Gender power dynamics in group sex;
  • Differences between gay and straight group sex etiquette;
  • Sexual taboos may still apply;
  • The mainstream and the fringe;
  • Disgust, shame and guilt;
  • Sexual transgressions and transcendence;
  • Strings and Sympathy: Strip Club Regulars and Male Desire;
  • Sex work is labor;
  • Sex as barter;
  • Double standards;
  • Sex worker rights;
  • Those who inspire her.

Katherine invites you to visit her on her site HERE!

Click on the book covers below for more information about Katherine’s books.

g-String          plays well


Look for all my podcasts on iTunes. You’ll find me in the podcast section, obviously. Just search for Dr Dick Sex Advice. And don’t forget to subscribe. I wouldn’t want you to miss even one episode.

Today’s Podcast is bought to you by: DR DICK’S — HOW TO VIDEO LIBRARY.


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