While many people view gender as a black-and-white issue, the reality is there is a lot of grey of the spectrum from man to woman. From young men who feel more comfortable dressed a pretty girl to a handsome transman fighting for equality in the Philippines, the world is full of people who don’t quite fit into a rigid gender binary.
Recently, a 44-year-old Chinese man found this out recently when he went to the doctor after some concerning stomach pains and finding blood in his urine. Worried about the source of the bleeding, the doctor ordered a CAT scan that turned up the surprising cause—the man had a full set of female reproductive organs and had begun menstruating.
According to the Chinese news site Zhejian Online, the man with the surname of Chen lives in the eastern province of Zhejiang and had been feeling ill for a while. He and his wife of 10 years went to their local hospital in the city of Yongkang to see where the pain was coming from.
The doctor told the local media that since Chen was dressed as a man, had a short hair cut and came with his wife, they treated him like any other male patient. It was only have the CAT scan revealed the man’s uterus and ovaries that the doctor began to realize that Chen had been born a woman. After closer examination, the doctor saw that Chen had little facial hair, no Adam’s apple and deformed genitalia. Chen told the doctor that he and his wife had a very normal sex life despite his genitalia not looking like those of other men.
The doctor diagnosed Chen with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, a genetic disorder where the adrenal glands can produce more or less of the hormones that shape the development of genitals and secondary sex characteristics like body hair. Women with the disorder will have all of the female reproductive organs, but may have more masculine features like a deeper voice or broader shoulders.
Because Chen had been living so long without the proper hormone treatment for the disorder, his adrenal glands had developed tumors and needed to have surgery to remove them. Luckily for him, the tumors turned out to be benign and he was able to leave the hospital after a two-week stay. During the hospital visit, Chen underwent genetic testing that showed that he was indeed, at least biologically speaking, a woman.
This isn’t the first time for an older man in China to find out he was born a woman. Last year, a 66-year-old man went to a doctor complaining of abdominal pain and the results of the tests showed that the source of the pain were from an ovarian cyst. The short-statured man, who also had congenital adrenal hyperplasia, had lived his entire life as male and had facial hair and a deep voice. He also had Turner Syndrome, where a woman is born without the usual two X-chromosomes.
The Chinese media sites that reported this news didn’t say anything about whether the men decided to change their gender identity after finding out they had been born female. But considering they had lived and identified as male up to that point, the surprising news may not have changed anything for them or their families. And although most people have matching sex and gender, these kind of cases should remind us that some people don’t and that’s just fine.