COVER STORY

Boy, oh buoy!

32-According

On May 8, Mridula Paul and Paul Jose will celebrate the second birthday of their second son, Daniel. The Bengaluru-based couple adopted a nine-month-old Daniel from an orphanage in Delhi last year. Today, the couple's biological child, four-year-old Noah, dotes on Daniel, and both brothers eat, sleep and play together, that is when they are not busy fighting, quips Mridula.

But bringing Daniel home wasn't easy. “To begin with, we were looking to adopt a girl and that is how we began our hunt,” she says. At the time, Daniel was listed in the female category on the orphanage's website. One look, and Mridula had her heart set on the baby. The couple was told that the baby was given up for adoption a day after birth, possibly owing to ambiguous external genitals. Tests revealed that the baby was diagnosed with congenital adrenal hyperplasia, a genetic disorder that affects hormone production in the adrenal glands. “On his papers, the orphanage had mentioned, 'transgender with traits of female: orphan found abandoned in the cradle. Active and alert baby.' It was completely unexpected and shocking,” says Mridula. “But then, we were so in love with her already that we didn't want to let her go. We read up on the condition and decided to go ahead with the adoption.” The couple approached a paediatric endocrinologist, who, in turn, referred them to a paediatric surgeon, Dr Meera Luthra at the Holy Family Hospital in Delhi. After getting several tests done, including chromosomal and hormonal tests, it was found that Daniel was, in fact, a boy with a microphallus, 46XY chromosome and palpable gonads or testes.

Just a few months ago, Daniel underwent a surgery to correct a unilateral inguinal hernia that he was born with and to bring down his undecended testicles. While doctors had suggested a series of surgeries, Mridula and Paul decided against any gender correction or cosmetic invasive surgeries after speaking to experts and people with similar conditions. They have come to the understanding that Daniel is perfect the way he is. "We are not getting anything that is not medically required," says Mridula. Also, none of the insurance companies will cover Daniel's surgery costs. Perhaps, that's one reason why children with such needs don't find a family.

Mridula and Paul, working in the human resources department of two different multinational companies, remain open to the idea that Daniel may have a sexual orientation or take on a gender identity different from his sex of rearing. “We will be okay with that,” says Mridula. “As long as he remains happy and content, the sexual orientation will not be a matter of concern to us.” For now, Daniel is a healthy baby and is achieving his milestones, and the family couldn't be happier. “He is everything we ever wanted,” says Mridula, beaming.

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