A BBC documentary is bringing to light a rare phenomenon where girls in a remote Caribbean village are becoming boys when they hit puberty due to a rare genetic disorder.
The BBC2 series called Countdown to Life – the Extraordinary Making of You reveals that one in 90 children born in Salinas in the Dominican Republic grows a penis in a natural transformation from female to male.
Known as the guevedoces, which translates to “penis at 12”, these teenagers are referred to as pseudohermaphrodite in medical terms.
The documentary says it is so common to be a pseudohermaphrodite in Salinas, that it is accepted as a third sex, alongside male and female.
It shows a 24-year-old man called Johnny, who is physically and biologically male but was once known as Felicitia. As a child, he did not have a penis and was brought up as a girl.
“I remember I used to wear a little red dress. I was born at home instead of in a hospital. They didn’t know what sex I was,” Johnnny 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.”
Johnny (R), once known as Felicita, said he was born as a girl but developed into a boy aged seven.
BBC presenter Dr Michael Mosley said: “Guevedoces are also 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.”
Countdown to Life – the extraordinary making of you airs Monday Sept 21, on BBC2, 9pm.