“My body isn’t really male or female”
Hanne Gaby Odiele is a Belgian model, Vogue cover girl and fearlessly fashionable street style muse to photographers around the world. We’re used to seeing her face (and enviable model-off-duty outfits) everywhere, but earlier this week, the catwalk veteran revealed an intimate detail about her life. She’s intersex.
So what is intersex exactly?
interACT, a nonprofit group that advocates on behalf of intersex youth, define the term as being a condition where a person is born with “reproductive or sexual anatomy and/or a chromosome pattern that doesn’t seem to fit typical binary definitions of male or female.”
Intersex people make up 2% of the population – that’s one in 200 births.
The supermodel star has teamed up with interACT to break down the barrier intersex individuals face and to use her position as an It girl to educate people about her experiences.
Odiele was born with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, meaning she has the male XY chromosomes but male body parts don’t develop normally. This resulted in her having surgery to remove her internal, undescended testicles at 10 years old. Later, at 18, she underwent a vaginal reconstruction.
“I have reached a point in my life where I feel ready to share this important part of who I am,” the model says. “It is time for intersex people to come out of the shadows, claim our status, let go of shame and speak out against the unnecessary and harmful surgeries many of us were subjected to as children.”
“Intersex people should be able to make their own choices about their bodies. I’m speaking out because it’s time this mistreatment comes to an end. It’s caused me way too much pain. I’m proud to support interACT, as we fight to protect kids from suffering the same way I did.”
“I am proud to be intersex,” Odiele explains. “It might be private, you might not tell the whole community. But it’s not secret, so there’s nothing shameful about having one of these conditions.”