In the village of Salinas, Dominican Republic, about 2% of the females (as determined by external genitalia) gradually morph into males at age 12.[​1][​2]

If such a child was Jewish and accepted as female upon birth, several interesting situations could occur:

  1. The person was married to a male after age 12, only to then turn into a male.
  2. The person, thought to be halachically an adult (since girls mature at age 12) performed acts of halachic bearing, only to then turn into a male and therefore losing status as adults (since males mature at 13).
  3. The person would supposedly need a circumcision, but at what point in the gradual transition would it be performed? (Asked by CashCow.)

What would the halachic implications be?

  • 1
    What about a person who was married to a male before age 12, only to turn into a male?
    – Daniel
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 12:44
  • 1
    FWIW (and you alluded to this in the OP but I wanted to make it more clear) based on my understanding of what I've read of the articles so far the babies are genetically and biologically male, but lack external male genitalia. It does not seem like they have female reproductive organs. Probably all it would take in the hospital to determine their true sex would be some kind of internal imaging.
    – Daniel
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 12:47
  • 6
    Perhaps these boys, before they mature, would exactly fit the definition of tumtum.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 12:49
  • 3
    When would they have their bris milah? Because at 8 days old they had nothing to do it on..
    – CashCow
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 13:37
  • 1
    @NBZ, are you sure they look completely like normal girls at birth? It's not clear what tumtum refers to, but I imagine that one would appear more similar to a female than to a male at birth, and would be assumed to be the former by anyone who had to guess one way or the other.
    – Isaac Moses
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 16:23

1 Answer 1


From your link: "But some male babies are missing the enzyme 5-α-reductase which triggers the hormone surge, so they appear to be born female with no testes and what appears to be a vagina. It is not until puberty, when another huge surge of testosterone is produced, that the male reproductive organs emerge. What should have happened in the womb happens around 12 years later. Their voices deepen and they finally grow a penis."

These children are actually male, however due to underdeveloped genitalia, appear female. So there is no halachic question here. At best, we can call them a Tumtum.

A side point. It is quite telling that the person they interviewed was born at home. I wonder how much of this phenomenon is simply due to careless assessments made at birth and assumptions continued on through life. Of course it is possible that their genitalia would look exactly like a vagina at birth, even upon close professional inspection, but this is all a side point.

  • 2
    Please source that an XY person born with normal female external genitalia is halachically considered a male. Also, their genitalia are not underdeveloped.
    – Adám
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 16:50
  • 1
    All foetuses start out with proper female genitalia. Because of this disorder, no change happened at all, so they are really proper females anatomically.
    – Adám
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 16:51
  • 1
    Again from your linked article: All babies in the womb, whether male or female, have internal glands known as gonads and a small bump between their legs called a tubercle. At around eight weeks, male babies who carry the Y chromosome start to produce dihydro-testosterone in large amounts, which turns the tubercle into a penis. For females, the tubercle becomes a clitoris.
    – user6591
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 16:53
  • 1
    You can't say all babies start off with female genitalia. You certainly cannot say that they actually are female.
    – user6591
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 16:54
  • 1
    @Daniel Warning: Explicit picture.
    – Adám
    Commented Oct 15, 2015 at 21:50

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