Due to genetic deformity all then men in the small village Salinas which is located in the south western region of Dominican Republic are born as females. This recent discovery has left all the scientists and researchers lost for words. Though being born as girls initially, they develop male organs once they reach puberty and are biologically male. One of those children is Johnny, who is suffering from the same genetic deformity. Though this story may seem to extraordinary for the outside world, for people living in the village of Salinas these cases of little girls turning into boys are no longer considered an abnormality.
Johnny who was initially named by his friends as Felecitia had an upbringing of a girl.”I remember I used to wear a little red dress,” he said. “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. When they bought me girls toys I never bothered playing with them. All I wanted to do was play with the boys.”
The British broadcaster BBC 2 will be featuring the story of Johnny in a new series called Countdown to Life. The main cause behind the disease is due to the lack of production of an enzyme which prevents the product of a male sex hormone called dihydro-testosterone when the baby is still in the mother’s fetus.
All the babies while being in the womb, irrespective of being a male or female, have several internal glands which are called gonads and also a small bump in between their legs which is known as a tubercle. After about eight weeks of pregnancy, the male babies carrying the Y chromosome start producingdihydro-testosterone in good quantity, which causes the development of the tubercle into penis.
In some male babies due to the absence of the enzyme which causes the increase in hormone level, they appear to be female. Only when puberty is reached, during which a large surge of testosterone is produced again, the male reproductive organs are developed and the voice deepens a large extent. It takes almost 12 years to develop what would have taken place as early as the time when the person was a fetus. In the case of Johnny it occurred at the age of seven. He claimed that being a girl was not his preference ever and he always liked to be a boy. “When I changed I was happy with my life,” he added. In the same village in Dominican Republic a small boy named Carla, who is aged nine, is currently going through the same transformation.
Around one in 90 children in the village of Salinas are affected by his disorder and though they resemble the normal males sexually, there are some subtle differences which do remain in adulthood. Most of these males have minimal amount of facial hair as well as a much smaller prostate glands in comparison to any average male. Scientists believe that this condition has prevailed through many generations mainly due to the isolation of the villager people.
featured image© JON SAYERS /BBC