JEDDAH, 16 June 2004 — Three Saudi sisters have undergone surgery at a hospital here to become men and two others will follow suit.
Dr. Yasser Jamal, a professor of surgery at King Abdul Aziz University Hospital who operated on two of the sisters and is preparing for the other operations told Arab News the patients ranged in ages between 19 and 38.
“This is not the first case. What is bizarre is that it happened to five girls in the same family,” Dr. Jamal said.
Dr. Jamal insists on the term “gender correction” rather than “reassignment”. “We are taking the person back to his or her original sex according to the intensive tests that are done, but we will not operate on people that are actually men or women to change them to the opposite sex just because they want to,” he said.
The chromosomes decide. “If the test shows xx, the person is female, and if it is xy they are male,” he said. “Also, tests are performed on the testicular or ovarian tissue as well as the patients’ internal organs — for example, does this person have a uterus? Then that is a strong indication that she is a female.”
He added that every person is born male or female — the only problem that might cause sex “misinterpretation” is a defect in the external organs. Unqualified midwives assisting at home births might not understand the complications, he said.
Reasons for deformities could include inherited factors, parent’s exposure to radiation or the mother taking certain medicines during pregnancy.
Dr. Jamal said that when all the tests results point to a correction, psychologists start a rehabilitation program with the patient. However, “in this case we did not need to do that because the patients themselves knew that they were men, not women, and wanted so much to correct their sex. “It is unlikely that someone reaches the age of 38 without discovering their real sex,” he added.