BELGIAN model Hanne Gaby Odiele has come out publicly as intersex, making her one of the first high-profile stars to do so.
In an interview with USA Today, Odiele said she wanted to reveal the fact she’s intersex to break down stigma.
“At this point and in this day and age, it should be perfectly alright to talk about this.”
Intersex people are born with physical or biological sex characteristics that don’t fit binary ideas around male and female bodies.
There are at least 40 kinds of intersex variations and according to experts up to 1.7 per cent of the population are born with one or more of them.
Odiele was born with an intersex trait known as Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) in which a person that has both an X and a Y chromosome is resistant to male hormones. As a result, the person has some or all of the physical traits of a woman, but with the genetic makeup of a man.
In recent years there’s been a renewed push to end the involuntary or coerced sterilisation of intersex people’s bodies to erase their intersex traits.
The invasive procedures are often irreversible and can cause permanent infertility, pain, a loss of sexual sensation, and lifelong mental health issues like depression.
Odiele said she’s proud to be intersex and doesn’t believe the surgeries should be occurring on young and vulnerable children.
“I am proud to be intersex,” she said.
“But very angry that these surgeries are still happening.”
At the age of 10 Odiele’s parents elected to have her undescended testes removed, and at the age of 18 she underwent a distressing procedure in the form of vaginal reconstructive surgery.
“It’s not that big of a deal being intersex. If they were just honest from the beginning… it became a trauma because of what they did.”
Hanne Gaby Odiele is a Belgian model who started her career in 2005. She has walked the runway for Marc Jacobs and appeared in editorials for Vogue.