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Boy-Girl-Boys: The Weird Phenomenon In The Dominican Republic

Salinas, Dominican Republic is a small remote village where something unbelievable has been happening for quite sometime: girls turn into boys at the age of 12. This is real.

The phenomenon has been dubbed “guevedoces” (penis at 12) or machihembra (male females). It’s a genetic disorder that affects fetuses who are missing an enzyme that prohibits testosterone from becoming dihydro-testosterone, which is what helps develop a penis in the womb and, hence, are born girls. But! Once they start producing a lot more testosterone during puberty, these girls grow a penis.

READ: Not Male, Not Female, but Muxe, Mexico’s Third Gender

24-year-old Johnny, for example, was born as Felecitia up until the age of puberty. He talked to BBC2 for a new series “Countdown to Life – The Extraordinary Making of You”.

“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.”

Like him, one in 90 babies are girls at birth and become boys during puberty. Some don’t even change their names. So there are boys who are named Catherine, for example. Since it’s so common and accepted in the Dominican Republic, they now consider having three sex categories male, female, and pseudohermaphrodite.

Read more about the rare genetic phenomenon The Telegraph here.

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These Long-Time Best Friends Just Found Out They’re Biological Sisters

Things That Matter

These Long-Time Best Friends Just Found Out They’re Biological Sisters

Photo via Cassandra Raquel Madison/Facebook

We’ve all had those friends that are so close to us that they feel like they’re family. Well, in the case of these of two Connecticut women who had the same feeling, that ended up being the case.

Best friends Julia Tinetti and Cassandra Madison learned that they were biological sisters, adopted from the Dominican Republic.

The story is stranger than fiction. Julia and Madison met in 2013, when they both worked at a bar called The Russian Lady in New Haven, Connecticut. The women immediately bonded when they discovered that they both had tattoos of the Dominican Republic’s flag.

Cassandra rehashed the meeting via a Facebook post: “Julia notices the Dominican flag on my arm and makes a comment about how she’s Dominican too BUT she’s adopted from there. I stop her in her tracks and tell her I’m adopted from there too.”

“After that moment, we were so tight,” Julia told Good Morning America. “We started hanging out. We would go out for drinks, for dinner. We started dressing alike.”

Apparently, Cassandra felt the same way. “I thought she was cool,” Cassandra said to GMA. “We just kind of hit it off right away. It was very natural.”

According to them, coworkers were always telling them that they looked like sisters. But when the two of them cross-referenced their birth certificate, their information didn’t add up.

“Papers said we were from two different cities [with] different last names,” Julia explained. “And, our mothers’ names on our paperwork were different.” But the two women believed they were somehow connected–they just didn’t know how.

The mystery finally began to unravel after Cassandra took a 23andMe DNA test.

Through 23andMe’s genetic database, Cassandra tracked down her biological family in the Dominican Republic through a first cousin. She then traveled to the DR where she met her bio-family for the first time–an incredibly emotionally experience. While Cassandra’s bio-father was still alive, her bio-mother had passed away in 2015 from a heart attack.

Years later, Cassandra finally pressed her bio-father on whether or not he had put up another child for adoption. While at first he was hesitant to talk about the painful memory, he finally admitted that he had, indeed, put another child up for adoption years ago.

It was then that Cassandra finally urged Julia to take a DNA test so they could finally put their questions to rest.

The results came back on January 28th, 2021 and finally confirmed what they had long suspected: they were biological sisters.

The entire ordeal has been both thrilling, joyful, and emotionally taxing for the women. At times, it has even been bittersweet, considering the trauma their biological family endured in the past.

“On top of the DR being a very poor country, [our family] couldn’t take care of us,” Julia explained. “I was [born] 17 months later and they weren’t ready.”

All in all, Julia summed up how she feels about the situation in a very direct way: “This is the type of thing you see on TV.”

We couldn’t agree more!

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The Dominican Republic Finally Outlaws Child Marriage After Years of Campaigning by Girls’ Rights Activists

Fierce

The Dominican Republic Finally Outlaws Child Marriage After Years of Campaigning by Girls’ Rights Activists

Image via Getty

Outside of the U.S., some good news has occurred amidst a week that has otherwise been full of mayhem and chaos.

On Wednesday, the Dominican Republic’s Executive Branch approved a law that unilaterally bans child marriage in its country.

In the past, children younger than 18 were allowed to marry with a special exemption from a judge. These exemptions happened often. Now, no woman or man under the age of 18 are allowed to marry under any circumstances in the Dominican Republic.

This move is significant because the Dominican Republic has the highest rates of child marriage in Latin America and the Caribbean. Official government figures show that 36% of Dominican girls and adolescents marry or enter into “unions” before the age of 18. In 12% of these relationships, the female partner was less than 15 years old.

More informal “unions” where a girl simply moves into an older man’s household are also common in the DR. These are very common in higher poverty communities where many girls are considered a financial burden on their families. Unions like these will be harder to penalize because there is no formal documentation of their partnership.

There are multiple factors that play into the Dominican Republic’s high child marriage rate.

One of the main factors is the culture of machismo that informs the way that young men and women approach relationships.

According to research conducted by Plan International, 81% of Dominican girls said they preferred men that were five years older than them. This statistic is in stark contrest to 39% of Dominican men who prefer their partners 18 or younger because they found them more “obedient” and “adaptable”.

Not only that, but there is also a strong cultural expectation for girls and women to become mothers and wives. These cultural beliefs have simply stoked the practice of child marriage.

“Child marriage and early unions are seen as normal in society. It is driven by machismo that sees the role of a woman to be just a mother and wife,” said Rosa Elcarte, UNICEF’s representative in the Dominican Republic, to the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Ending early unions will require years of work to change cultural norms.”

Feminists and human rights activists consider this law a win after many years campaigning to put an end to this practice.

But on a bittersweet note, many advocates realize that one law doesn’t dismantle the patriarchal structure of their culture that enabled this practice for so long. There is still a lot of work to be done.

“Our girls and adolescents will be protected … and cannot be forced into marriage in their childhood or adolescence, which in the past was often carried out by parents and legally allowed,” said Sonia Hernandez, an associate director of the International Justice Mission, in a statement to NBC News.

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