Guevedoces
September 20, 2015 4:00 PM   Subscribe

The extraordinary case of the Guevedoces. "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' ... 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." posted by homunculus (15 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
 
Via a comment from 2002 (!), a report that has actual photos of this remarkable transformation: The 'Guevedoces' of the Dominican Republic. It's not loading for me right now, probably because it's being hammered. Also see this summary on Medscape.

There have been instances of Guevedoce-like developments from other places in the world. The pages I link mention New Guinea, but I also know of a rabbinic report from Greece (I think; I can't lay my hands on it right now). The subject was Jewish, and had married a young man while apparently female - unfortunately, we know nothing of the subject's self-identity. The questions were:
1) Should the husband divorce his wife; and
2) Can they divorce, or is the marriage intrinsically void?

I thought it was quite a sensitive responsum, and an interesting one too - the author had to really dig into primary sources to formulate an answer. There's also a case mentioned in the Talmud that I suspect may have been a Guevedoce or some similar condition, but the account is too brief to tell.

And there's Tiresias, of course - such an odd myth, and the bit about the copulating snakes seems weirdly evocative of DNA.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:47 PM on September 20, 2015 [5 favorites]


Interestingly, GROW A PENIS rearranges perfectly into SPIRO AGNEW.
posted by jonp72 at 5:06 PM on September 20, 2015 [15 favorites]


This really makes me wonder what society would be like if this was a universal trait, if boys and girls were indistinguishable from birth until puberty.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 5:10 PM on September 20, 2015 [28 favorites]


Interesting, though some of the confidently stated translations of Spanish in the articles are just plain wrong. "Guevedoce" does not in any way translate into "penis at twelve years". "Guevo" is a common slang corruption of "huevo", egg, which is slang for testicle. "Guevo" is only used for testicles. "Doce" means twelve. There are a bunch of Spanish compounds of two words like this, mostly a verb and a noun, so you get for instance "lamehuevos", or "egg-licker", someone who sucks up to people. In this case, it's "twelve-testicler", perhaps.

Translating "machihembra" as "first woman, then man" is also a big reach. It's a compound of "macho" and "hembra", the words for male and female. This is another type of common Spanish compound, of two nouns with the terminal vowel of the first shifted to an i, and they usually imply a mix or combination of both words. I've never seen this to be used to denote a progression in time, and the fact that this particular word puts "macho" first makes me even more skeptical (there's a general idea in English that Spanish has a lot of stuff backwards, because grammatical ordering of some things is the opposite of what it is in English, but this does not mean that cause and effect or before-after relationships are generally reversed).
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 5:35 PM on September 20, 2015 [9 favorites]


Sex really is a spectrum, and there are literally hundreds of different ways to be intersex. And as this is a fact of nature, all societies have found ways for their intersex members to be recognized and incorporated. It is we in the contemporary West who are the strange ones who have chosen to make intersexuality invisible by surgically altering the bodies of intersex children, teaching us to keep the sex variance we were born with a "shameful" secret, and framing societies with three, four, or more sex categories as bizarre.
posted by DrMew at 7:06 PM on September 20, 2015 [10 favorites]


here's a copy of the smashed website: featuring nsfw photos
posted by rebent at 8:02 PM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Joe in Australia, do you know how old the bride was in the Greek story? She wasn't getting married at 12, was she? The legal age for marriage in Greece is 18 (Google says), and 18 seems very late for her to pull a Spiro Agnew like that.

That poor kid. Being trans can suck sometimes even if you've had your whole life to get used to it, but imagine growing up as a girl and getting married and then growing a damn dick.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 9:31 PM on September 20, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ursula Hitler, I'll try to dig up the reference, but I think it was about a hundred years ago when (a) puberty was later; (b) engagements might be a lot longer; and (c) people often got married earlier. The photos that rebent reposted, above, show the genitalia changing rapidly - from age 12 to age 13 - so perhaps it involved a late-developing 14-year old, who had been engaged for a couple of years? I'll try to find it again and provide something of a translation.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:45 PM on September 20, 2015


This really makes me wonder what society would be like if this was a universal trait, if boys and girls were indistinguishable from birth until puberty.
What are the odds that Ursula Le Guin has written a story exploring that idea to great depth? Now I want to find out if she has...
posted by merlynkline at 1:26 AM on September 21, 2015


This really makes me wonder what society would be like if this was a universal trait, if boys and girls were indistinguishable from birth until puberty.

They pretty much are, but we rigidly divide them with clothes and hair. The sorting starts very early. Even a tiny girl baby gets a pink bow on her head as soon as she's got a few wisps of hair to clip the bow to. But until age 12 or so, boys and girls look very much alike.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 3:04 AM on September 21, 2015 [2 favorites]


OK, looked it up. I think this is the original version of the story, which is slightly different from the one that has been quoted elsewhere. It's from the book Yosef Et Ahhiv by Rabbi Yosef Palaji (?), printed in Izmir (now Turkey) 5656, corresponding to the secular year 1895. I don't know when the event itself took place; it may have been decades earlier.

I think the implication of the couple being married for "some youthful/tender years" is that they were married while quite young, and it's very plausible that it was before one or both parties entered puberty. Note the way the author switches between male and female pronouns while talking about the same person!
M. Gimel, O. Hei.
A question came to me asking whether a formal divorce document is needed in this case. A man, Reuben married a virgin from among the daughters of Israel and after some years of youthfulness [literally tender years] something happened and she changed absolutely from a female to a male. What is the law in this case, since she was female, and a wife, and became male, and he [the former wife] ought to marry and take another woman [as a wife]? Must Reuben write her a formal divorce document so that she shall be separated from him, as is Jewish law, since this man was a wife? Or perhaps he doesn't need a divorce document at all, since he isn't a woman but a man?
The author concludes that Reuben's former wife doesn't need a divorce; because a divorce would imply that the former wife is a woman, which is false. He cites some other cases, some of which are more relevant than others, but which demonstrate that this was a known thing.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:15 AM on September 21, 2015 [1 favorite]


>> This really makes me wonder what society would be like [...] if boys and girls were indistinguishable from birth until puberty.
> They pretty much are, but we rigidly divide them

Yes, but if they were indistinguishable then we couldn't do that. Well, modern technology would have found a way by now I guess :(

FWIW, here's my intuition: prior to puberty: much better for everyone; around puberty, much more stressful for everyone as they try to guess what will happen and are subsequently terribly stoked/disappointed by the outcome and adapt/fail-to-adapt to their roles; after puberty, not much different from now :(
posted by merlynkline at 3:54 AM on September 21, 2015


In Victorian times, at least in the UK (and I think elsewhere in the white Anglo world) children's clothing was gender-neutral until the age of six or seven, which is why there are so many early photographs of boys wearing dresses.

What this did to Victorian psycho-sexuality, I am in no way qualified to even speculate wildly.
posted by Devonian at 7:34 AM on September 21, 2015


I think the implication of the couple being married for "some youthful/tender years" is that they were married while quite young, and it's very plausible that it was before one or both parties entered puberty. Note the way the author switches between male and female pronouns while talking about the same person!
M. Gimel, O. Hei.
A question came to me asking whether a formal divorce document is needed in this case. A man, Reuben married a virgin from among the daughters of Israel and after some years of youthfulness [literally tender years] something happened and she changed absolutely from a female to a male. What is the law in this case, since she was female, and a wife, and became male, ...

Not to get too far down into the details of people's private lives, or no farther than necessary, at least, but this reminds me of an anecdote from John Money -- he of 'vandalized love-maps' fame, and now rightly excoriated for forcing gender reassignment changes on people too young to make informed choices (most notoriously one of a set of identical twins who lost his penis in infancy to a voltage surge during circumcision by electrocautery) -- who wrote about a client who had a penis and testicles but did sex work as a woman and allowed male customers to penetrate an inguinal canal (one of two tubes in the abdomen through which the testes descend).

Which makes me think it may not have been impossible for the young couple to have consummated their marriage in the usual way (or for Money's client to have been a Guevedoce, for that matter).
posted by jamjam at 4:47 PM on September 21, 2015




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