Reggie Ramirez, 34, a singer from Davao City, Philippines, has become a Susan Boyle-like Internet sensation after performing a startling duet of "Endless Love" on the show "Pilipinas Got Talent."
Ramirez, who says he went on the show to find his long-lost brother, performs as half-man and half-female, complete with a pink dress on the left side of his body and a tuxedo on the right.
Adding to the effect is the fact that Ramirez has a beard on the "male" half of his body, although it looks augmented.
Ramirez's looks -- and vocal range -- are startling enough that folks who see the video are wondering if the singer really does possess equal parts of both genders.
One in 2,000 babies is born with this condition, and, in some cases U.S. doctors perform sex changes on them to make them look normal. However, with certain groups of people who have a particular gene, you can't tell their gender until puberty.
Turner acknowledges that there's no way to determine a person's gender by just watching a YouTube video and says it's very possible that Ramirez is "more of a drag queen."
The fact that the singer chooses to blur the line between genders suggests to Turner that Ramirez is not transsexual, a term given to people who identify with a physical sex that differs from their biological one, nor transgendered, a term for people whose identity does not conform unambiguously to conventional notions of male or female gender roles but combines or moves between them.
For the record, the term "hermaphrodite" is a misnomer. True hermaphroditic humans do not exist, but pseudo-hermaphrodism does. That's where an individual has both male and female external genital organs, sometimes at the same time. It's usually caused when female embryos exposed to high levels of androgens (the male hormones) develop female internal reproductive organs but have male external genitalia.
Alternately, genetic defects cause children to be born with female external genital organs, which change at puberty with the development of a penis and the closure of the false vagina.
Turner says that while it would take a medical examination to determine whether Ramirez fits any of these categories, it is a good thing if his YouTube celebrity helps raise awareness of the distinct terms.
"People get stupid around a transgendered person," said Turner, who is a research fellow at the James Weldon Johnson Institute at Emory University in Georgia. "There have been cases where there is an accident to a person who looks like a woman on the outside and the medics arrive and discover the victim is anatomically a man and deny emergency treatment."
Turner says that while he found Ramirez's singing impressive, he finds the disclaimer that flashes during the video suggesting that it is "controversial" a bit of a surprise since there is nothing racy about the outfit or the choice of song. Still, he's not surprised.
"Adults gets freaked out when they can't identify a baby's sex," he said. "That's why we put pink bows on the baby's head."
Of course, while Ramirez's budding Internet success could create an international dialogue about gender roles the same way that Susan Boyle's success created a debate over whether 40-something women who look like grandmothers could be singing stars, it's possible that, as Sigmund Freud once said, sometimes a cigar may be just a cigar.
R.B. Mayor, an actor in Manila, Philippines, and a "Pilipinas Got Talent" fan, says that although Ramirez may be getting international attention for being a half-man, half-woman performer, he's not exactly breaking new ground.
"There's this noontime variety show here in the Philippines called 'Eat Bulaga' that have had contests like the one [Ramirez's] doing," Mayor said. "It was called 'Doble Cara,' which means two faces, half-man, half-women, singing with two different voices, a man and a woman voice."
It is especially popular with the country's gay citizens, and while Mayor admits Ramirez is good at "Doble Cara," he says there are others who are better at the art form.
And despite the Internet buzz and the TV audience's reaction to Ramirez, he might not even win the contest. The smart money is on 16-year-old Jovit Baldivino, who performed "Faithfully" during his audition, and a singer named Big Mouth, who looks as if he was trapped in a small room with all of Michael Jackson's plastic surgeons at once.
But while Ramirez and his "Doble Cara" performance may not be as big in the Philippines as it is on the Internet, he and his singing are raising awareness about gays in the Southeast Asian country, according to one person who asked not to be identified.
"Gays here are like a pouring rain that's getting bigger each year," said the unidentified source. "There's a joke here in the Philippines about gays and bisexuals: A girl should be very wise on choosing a Filipino guy, because guys here can be a 'chick-boy,' meaning one who can have a relationship with both boys and girls. Another one goes like this: 'Not all cute and handsome guys are straight. Sometimes they are gay.'"