Puberty is hard enough for most kids. But for the children in one small Caribbean village in the 70s, things were a little more complex than usual. That’s because a startling number of the girls there were magically turning into boys once they hit puberty. That’s right, it’s WTF Wednesdays.
Four out of the ten children in the Batista family changed from girls into boys around the age of 13, and their story was pretty typical. In fact, 22 other families in the village had children unexpectedly change sex as they reached maturity.
Mario, who was 29 at the time that the family were being studied, and the eldest child in Batista family is a man with a wife and children, but he began life as a girl named Antonia. His younger sister Milady was born, and remained, a girl, while the next child Chichi, started out as a girl and became a 19 year old boy. One of their children, Virgilio, was in the process of changing from a girl to a boy.
The phenomenon was first observed by a Spanish doctor who visited the village in the 1950s. He wrote up his findings in a medical journal, yet it wasn’t until 1972 that the findings were picked up and investigated more closely.
All 23 affected families were traced back to a single woman, who married four times and produced a large number of children. All of these children carried a mutant gene which prevented the affected children from developing the external male sex organs. All babies have the beginnings of male and female sexual organs in the womb, but in males, the chemical responsible for creating the male external anatomy, dihydrotestosterone ensures that the vagina and ovaries are lost whilst the penis and testes grow.
The Batista males were different.
They didn’t produce dihydrotestosterone until puberty. In the womb, their testes developed normally but remained hidden inside their bodies and instead of being removed, their completely normal female sexual organs remained. Once they hit puberty, they underwent the changes that should have occurred in the womb; their testes dropped, their clitorises grew into normal penises, and their vaginas closed.
According to the children’s father “Soon everybody forgets. They find girlfriends quickly…the affected children become more muscular and virile than their normal brothers”. All well and good then, unless you happened to have a crush on one of the Batista girls that is, that might have been a little confusing for an impressionable young mind…