March 6, 2007 at 5:00 pm in History
There are many incarnations of this rumor that basically surround the claim that actress Jamie Lee Curtis was born with both male and female sex organs. The story goes that since her gender questionable at birth (supposedly having a very small penis or a really big clitoris), her parents, Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, named her the gender-neutral “Jamie Lee” until re-assignment surgery was done to make her legally female. A variation on this theme is that Jamie Lee was born an intersexual with (either) XY choromosomes or XXY chromosomes instead of the XX that genetic females have, depending on the rumor you’re hearing.
Moreover, “evidence” to support the assertion that Jamie Lee Curtis is partly male (to which I say):
-Gender neutral name (so? That proves nuthin!)
-Mannish looks (again, so? In this town there are plenty of real men who look like women and vice versa.)
-JLC adopted children instead of having her own (ok, maaaaybe this might be something since hermaphrodites are not able to bear children. But who knows? Plenty of celebs adopt and none of them have hermaphrodite rumors swirling around them.)
-Her case is supposedly cited often in the medical world; with Cedars-Sinai doctors being attributed (show me one published medical article which does this!)
-And, of course, Jamie Lee Curtis has supposedly admitted this on a talk show/in an interview/to Oprah (oh yeah? Let’s see this! Oh, you can’t find it? Maybe that’s cuz she’s never commented on it!)
Ok, so I’m a skeptic, but let’s delve into this one a bit…
This legend has been repeated so often, that many simply take it as “truth.”
Various articles cite (as if fact) that JLC is an XY male with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, making her appear female. Jamie Joy Gatto states:
Jamie Lee Curtis has one X chromosome and one Y chromosome. For those of you rusty in biology, XY means that she is chromosomally, literally, biologically male. What Jamie Lee wasn’t born with were the receptors for her male hormones, so she went back to the genetic sexual default appearing female. Her penis and testicles were never able to be developed.
In 1996, the article “Male, Merm, Herm, Ferm or Female?” by William O. Beeman was published in the Baltimore Morning Sun which, among other things, discusses the notion of biological vs “cultural” gender:
…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.”
Again, this assertion is stated as if it was fact, with no supporting evidence to even say WHO says JLC is genetically male. (Sounds like shoddy journalism to me.)
That Jamie Lee Curtis is an XXY male would be stating that she has Klinefelter’s Syndrome. While the symptoms and degree of Klinefelter’s varies by patient, the most typical manifestation of an XXY male is someone who is unusually tall, with some degree of breast growth at puberty and a small penis and testes. At 5’9″, Jamie Lee Curtis is not unusually tall given the heights of her parents (Tony Curtis: 5’8″ and Janet Leigh: 5’5″). And Jamie Lee is well known for being “well-endowed” in the breast area. (For some fun quotes, just google “Jamie Lee Curtis breasts.”)
Janet flinched, then responded by saying, “Maybe because we didn’t have sonograms back then and a friend suggested I name the baby something in advance that could work either way, so I named the baby Jamie Leigh.”
One my of favorite articles about JLC came with the headline “Jamie Lee Curtis has nothing to hide” written by Joan Ryan and published in the San Francisco Chronicle in 2002. This was when JLC decided to be photographed without makeup and “unglammed” so that people could see the REAL Jamie Lee (wrinkles, ripples, bulges, and all). Jamie Lee has been notoriously honest in the press about a lot of things, like how much plastic surgery she’s had (practically none, according to a 2006 article in the Los Angeles Times Magazine by Laurie Drake). I would think that if this rumor were true, Jamie Lee would be the first to blow the lid on the truth of it.
The bottom line is that Jamie Lee Curtis has never admitted to being a hermaphrodite, and her doctors are unable to state one way or the other due to patient-doctor confidentiality.
So this LA legend falls squarely into the “undetermined” category, with me giving a vote to “who cares? does it matter?”
(Oh yeah… try googling “Jamie Lee Curtis hermaphrodite” and see what you get.)