Young girls in a remote Caribbean village are changing sex when they hit puberty.
A genetic disorder among kids in Salinas, in the Dominican Republic, means that 90% of girls born there grow a penis around the age of 12.
The condition is so common that the children are known as guevedoces, which literally translates to ‘penis at 12’. In medical terms, the children are known as pseudohermaphrodites.
Being a pseudohermaphrodite in Salinas is so common that it is accepted as a third sex, alongside male and female.
The incredible village is the subject of a BBC2 series called Countdown to Life – the Extraordinary Making of You.
Johnny, 24, tells the show that although he is physically and biologically male, he was once known as Felicitia.
‘I remember I used to wear a little red dress,’ he told the show. ‘I was born at home instead of in a hospital. They didn’t know what sex I was.
‘I went to school and I used to wear my skirt. I never liked to dress as a girl, and when they bought me girl toys I never bothered playing with them. All I wanted to do was play with the boys.’
The rare disorder is caused by a missing enzyme, preventing the production of the male sex hormone dihydro-testosterone in the womb.
When babies with the condition are born, they appear to be female – but their testosterone flows at puberty, causing their voices to break and a male reproductive organ to grow.
BBC presenter Dr Michael Mosley said: ‘Guevedoces are sometimes called “machihembras”, meaning “first a woman, then a man”.
‘When they’re born they look like girls with no testes and what appears to be a vagina.
‘It is only when they near puberty that the penis grows, and testicles descend.’
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