Güevedoces (roughly translated as "penis at twelve") is a term used in the Dominican Republic for children with a specific type of intersexuality. Güevedoces are classified as girls when they are born but, around the age of 12, they start developing male genitalia. This is due to a deficiency in the production of 5α-reductase, an enzyme involved in the metabolism of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone.[1][2][3][4][5] The same phenomenon occurs in Papua New Guinea, where it is called kwolu-aatmwol by the Sambia people ('which suggests a person's transformation "into a male thing."'),[6] and in Turkey.[7] Anne Fausto-Sterling states that güevedoces (as well as people in Papua New Guinea with 5α-reductase deficiency) "are recognised as a third sex" by their cultures, while the cultures "nevertheless recognize only two gender roles."[6]

Early researchEdit

The first scientific investigations of güevedoces occurred in the 1970s, when Julianne Imperato-McGinley, an endocrinologist from Cornell University, traveled to the village of Las Salinas in the Dominican Republic to investigate reports of apparently female children becoming male children at the onset of puberty.[8] The cause was determined to be 5α-Reductase deficiency, and the results were published in the journal Science in 1974. The frequency of the deficiency was found to be unusually high in Las Salinas, with occurrence ratio of 1 güevedoce to every 90 unaffected males.[9]

The transformation of a phenotypically female child into a phenotypically male adult at puberty, which is reported to be celebrated in Dominican culture, is the result of a genotypic male (with XY chromosomes) born with a deficiency in the enzyme 5α-reductase. 5α-Reductase is responsible for the conversion of testosterone to dihydrotestosterone via reduction of testosterone. Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) is the hormone responsible for the majority of embryonic development of primary male sexual characteristics such as genital size. However, the oxidized form of the hormone, testosterone, promotes secondary sex characteristics. Thus, an XY child without functioning 5α-reductase cannot convert testosterone into the form that develops primary sex characteristics and will have the appearance of female genitalia. At puberty, when large amounts of testosterone are produced, secondary sex characteristics (e.g., deepening voice, hair pattern changes, muscle anabolism, etc.) develop, thus producing a phenotypic male.

Status in societyEdit

Whereas in countries like the United States, where intersex children are often operated on immediately after birth to make their genitals appear either typically male or female, in the Dominican Republic güevedoces are accepted by society as they are and are regarded as a third gender, experiencing ambivalent gender socialisation. In adulthood, güevedoces most commonly self-identify as men (perhaps because of the positions of freedom and power that men hold in their culture), but are not necessarily completely treated as such by society.[6]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "The extraordinary case of the Guevedoces". BBC. 20 September 2015.
  2. ^ Баринова, Анастасия (4 September 2018). "Девочки превращаются в мальчиков: доминиканский феномен". National Geographic Russia (in Russian).
  3. ^ Knapton, Sarah (20 September 2015). "The astonishing village where little girls turn into boys aged 12". The Telegraph.
  4. ^ Bosson, Jennifer K.; Vandello, Joseph A.; Buckner, Camille E. (2018). The Psychology of Sex and Gender. SAGE. ISBN 9781506331324.
  5. ^ Pou, Jackie (4 March 2015). "The World of Intersex Children and One Person's Journey Between Two Sexes". ABC News.
  6. ^ a b c Fausto-Sterling, Anne (2000). Sexing the Body: Gender politics and the construction of sexuality (1st ed.). New York, NY: Basic Books. p. 109. ISBN 0465077145.
  7. ^ Jong, Diana Mettadewi (2016). "5-alpha-reductase deficiency: a case report". Indonesian Pediatric Society. 43 (6): 234-240. doi:10.14238/pi43.6.2003.234-40. Retrieved 24 October 2020.
  8. ^ The 'Guevedoces' of the Dominican Republic, Urological Sciences Research Foundation, retrieved August 23, 2019
  9. ^ Imperato-McGinley, Julianne; Guerrero, Luis; Gautier, Teofilo; Peterson, Ralph Edward (December 1974). "Steroid 5alpha-reductase deficiency in man: an inherited form of male pseudohermaphroditism". Science. 186 (4170): 1213–1215. doi:10.1126/science.186.4170.1213. PMID 4432067.

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