Scrub, Rinse, Repeat

A Surgeon’s View of on Patients, Doctors, and Health

Death in a Sink

Gender science marches on.

Daishiro drove deep. He drove hard. It didn't work. Instead of neat decapitation, the guillotine caused only messy, crushed bone. As the sorry son of the samurai failed again and again, he turned noisy and tense. So did the bird. The sink filled with feathers and blood.

Lovingly bred by the chicken fanciers of the English countryside, the Sebright bantam occupies a peculiar position in the pantheon of poultry: It has a feminine side. It's not so much that it's sensitive or in any way maternal. It's more that it looks like a hen. With black laced fringe on its feathers and large and rounded breasts, this ornamental fowl is celebrated, not marinated.

Kim Novak might have told you: Beauty has a secret. In the case of Ms. Novak, more correctly called Mr. Novak, male gender development can be arrested because of genetic mutation. In his case, the condition known as testicular feminization causes the receptor for male hormone to malfunction: It won't respond to testosterone. So that gorgeous babe on the screen may be a man.

Nature delights us with other gender benders. Consider, as you may have already, the spotted hyena. This ugly marauder of the planes has been endowed with an over-abundance of maleness, which affects everything from its lady parts to its behavior: It kills nearly everything it sees, which includes its little brothers as they first poke their faces out of mommy's manly vagina. Now there's a reason to laugh!

Which brings us back to the Sebright.

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While the rest of us silly boys and girls worked on stuff like cancer and hormone receptors, Daishiro turned to ornithology. He would come in late and, loose gloves on his hands, pipette DNA and put it in the freezer. At times he went out to smoke. At times, he mumbled about exons and introns. With his Japanese accent, nobody knew what he said.

The big day arrived. Daishiro went to the aviary to pick up a rooster from which later he would learn that, long before Facebook, the Sebright had gone viral. Specifically, he learend that a virus called myc that put its gene-driving muscle in a place that would relentlessly turn on the Sebright's aromatase gene. Aromatase converts testosterone to estrogen, which makes us ladies, be we roosters or men. 

For a while, Daishiro struggled alone. As the flailing grew, he could not hide his frustration. Taking pity on the chicken, I played the heavy that day. Daishiro then took his little dead hen and put it in a bucket of ice. Science would continue apace.

So never judge a book by its cover
Or who you're going to love by your lover
Love put me wise to her love in disguise
She had the body of a venus
Lord imagine my surprise

(That, that) Dude looks like a lady
(That, that) Dude looks like a lady
(That, that) Dude looks like a lady
(That, that) Dude looks like a lady

Copyright © 2010 Arnon Krongrad, MD

Arnon Krongrad, M.D., specializes in surgery for prostate cancer and chronic prostatitis.

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