Rare gender identity defect hits Gaza families

CNN World

By Ivan Watson, CNN
December 17, 2009 12:08 p.m. EST

Gaza City (CNN) — Two Palestinian teenagers stroll amid the mounds of rubble left by last year’s Israeli military offensive, listening to the tinny beat of a Turkish pop song playing on a cell phone.

Nadir Mohammed Saleh and Ahmed Fayiz Abed Rabo are cousins and next-door neighbors. With their gelled hair, buttoned-down shirts and jeans, they look much like any other 16-year-old Palestinian boy. But looks, Ahmed says, can be deceiving.

“Only my appearance, my haircut and clothing, makes me look like a boy,” Ahmed says, gesturing with his hands across his face. “Inside, I am like a female. I am a girl.”

Until last summer, both Nadir and Ahmed were — for all intents and purposes — girls. They wore female headscarves, attended girls’ school and even answered to the female first names Navin and Ola.

Both Nadir and Ahmed were born with a rare birth defect called male pseudohermaphrodism.

Deficiency of the hormone 17-B-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (17-B-HSD) during pregnancy left their male reproductive organs deformed and buried deep within their abdomens.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.