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Jamie Lee Curtis, Hermaphrodite (cont.)

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And then there is the matter of her name. Some have speculated she was christened "Jamie Lee" because it wasn't clear at birth whether she was a boy or a girl. Not so, according to Curtis' mother, actress Janet Leigh, who says the gender-ambiguous name was just a practical choice.

"At that time," she told Village Voice columnist Michael Musto in 1998, "we didn't know ahead of time if it would be a girl or a boy, so when I was pregnant with Kelly, my best friend Jackie Gershwin said, 'Why don't you call the baby Kelly, so if it's a girl, it works, and if it's a boy, it works?' And she thought the same thing with Jamie. The babies were named before they were born because Jackie said, 'This way, we won't have to worry about it!'"

Speculation has also centered around the fact that Curtis and her husband, Christopher Guest, adopted their two children instead of conceiving -- the implication being that perhaps Curtis couldn't conceive because of her allegedly "abnormal" physique. It's a question that will have to go unanswered for now -- and perhaps forever -- since neither Curtis nor Guest seems keen on speaking publicly about their reasons for adopting.

The 'Proof'

Without a doubt, the main driving force behind this gossip is the fact that Jamie Lee Curtis's alleged intersexuality has long been spoken of as a given in medical school classrooms, even though her name has never appeared in a textbook or journal article in connection with intersex conditions. But a rumor is still a rumor, even from the lips of a board-certified physician. All the more so, in fact, given that any physician who actually treated Curtis couldn't have revealed such information without violating patient confidentiality laws.

The only document that has ever been offered as "proof" was a 1996 op-ed piece in the Baltimore Sun written by William O. Beeman, associate professor of anthropology at Brown University, entitled "What Are You: Male, Merm, Herm, Ferm or Female?" The relevant passage reads as follows:

As a result, there are perhaps millions of XX males and XY females living in the United States today. These are cultural males with male genitalia who are genetically female, and cultural females with female genitalia who are genetically male. The film star Jamie Lee Curtis is one well-known individual who is genetically male, but phenotypically female.

And there we have it in black and white, it would seem, except for two tiny caveats. First, according to Professor Beeman the pertinent sentence was deleted from the published article. Second, the reason it was deleted was that Beeman's attempts to track down the plastic surgeons to whom intermediate sources had attributed the statement were "totally unsuccessful." In other words, Professor Beeman had simply repeated an item of gossip.

Which leaves us, at the end of our investigation, in the same place we started: face-to-face with an unsubstantiated rumor. Twenty-odd years of hearsay later, there is simply no evidence to support it. Any honest appraisal of the facts, I believe, must arrive at the same conclusion reached by L.A. Exposed author Paul Young, to wit, "the rumor that Curtis suffers from AIS (Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome) has never been proven and is almost certainly false."

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Sources and further reading:

  1. About.com
  2. News & Issues
  3. Urban Legends
  4. Celebrities
  5. Curtis, Jamie Lee
  6. Jamie Lee Curtis, Hermaphrodite?

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