Friday, May 1, 2009

A True Hermaphrodite: Kyle or Kelli Hartman

Hartman was sure she was hearing things in her hospital room. She had just undergone a caesarean section, and the doctors were saying the baby was healthy but they weren't sure whether it was a boy or a girl. "I thought the drugs were making me hallucinate," she recalls. In fact, she was hearing just fine. But nothing about her child's biology — from the chromosomes to the reproductive tissue — conformed to the standard demarcations we have come to expect between the male and female sexes. In the language of developmental biologists, the baby was "intersexual."

Technically speaking, the Hartman baby was a true hermaphrodite. "Hermaphrodite" is not one of the options available on a birth certificate, so the Hartmans' doctors struggled to figure out which sex was more appropriate for the child. Meanwhile, Debbie's sister and mother told relatives and friends not to send anything pink or blue. "They said yellow or green," Hartman recalls. "Or better yet, just send a card."

After two weeks, the doctors decided the baby was a boy. Debbie and her husband — they have since divorced — named their son Kyle and took him home. Debbie quickly dubbed her little guy Mr. Man and Slugger. When Kyle was 11 weeks old, however, he developed a hernia that required surgery. Midway through the operation, four doctors came to the waiting room, and one of them told Kyle's parents that "your child is in fact a girl." The surgical team had found rudimentary ovarian and Fallopian-tube tissue in Kyle's body.

Story Continues...


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