Model Hanne Gaby Odiele Comes out as Intersex

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Odiele at Alexander Wang Autumn/Winter 2016

Model Hanne Gaby Odiele Comes out as Intersex


Hanne Gaby Odiele, an international top model hailing from Belgium, came out as intersex earlier this week during an interview with USA Today. “It’s brave,” said Dawn Vago, co-director of IntersexUK. “We are very proud of her. It’s been a big taboo. Doctors tell parents not to tell their children. Children grow up with an anxious feeling of not belonging to society.”

“It is an important part of my life to talk about this,” Odiele stated. “You can be whoever you want. It doesn’t matter.” The model was born with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) and internal, undescended testes. At the age of ten Odiele underwent surgery to remove the undescended testes, as doctors had informed her parents not doing so might lead to Hanne developing cancers later on. It turned out this surgery was not necessary, and only lead to issues later on. “I knew at one point after the surgery I could not have kids, I was not having my period,” Odiele recalls. “I knew something was wrong with me. 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.” The model has expressed anger that these surgeries continue to be performed, and others including the World Health Organization and the United Nations (UN) have classified these as human rights violations

In a definition from the UN, “Intersex people are born with sex characteristics (including genitals, gonads and chromosome patterns) that do not fit typical binary notions of male or female bodies. Intersex is an umbrella term used to describe a wide range of natural bodily variations. In some cases, intersex traits are visible at birth while in others, they are not apparent until puberty. Some chromosomal intersex variations may not be physically apparent at all.”

While the general condition of being intersex is not unknown, Odiele’s announcement has started a flurry of articles and prompted a dispersion of information on the issue at large. Other people have started sharing their stories and experiences with the condition, many revealing the serious repercussions resulting from childhood surgeries and the condition being hidden from them or from those around them from an early age.

“It’s very important to me in my life right now to break the taboo,” Odiele told USA Today. “At this point, in this day and age, it should be perfectly all right to talk about this.”


Model Hanne Gaby Odiele Comes out as Intersex

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Written by Lillie Peterson

Lillie is a graduate from UC Santa Barbara with a bachelor's in Classics and a lifelong fascination for fashion and art. A freelance writer and artist, her hobbies include photography, design, drawing and blogging.

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