Belgian model Hanne Gaby Odiele has bravely revealed she’s intersex in the hope that she can break down barriers and taboos on the little-spoken-of topic.
‘It is very important to me in my life right now to break the taboo,” the 28-year-old model said in an interview with USA Today of her decision to speak out about such a personal matter.
‘At this point, in this day and age, it should be perfectly all right to talk about this,’ she continued.
The runway veteran is one of the first high-profile names to discuss the issue.
The 28-year-old is part of the 1.7 per cent of the population born with intersex traits, which the Intersex Society of North America defines as individuals who are born with sex characteristics such as genitals or chromosomes that do not fit the typical definitions of male or female.
And according to Free & Equal - the United Nations campaign for LBGT equality, the majority of intersex children undergo surgery without their consent.
Hanne – who has worked with the likes of Tommy Hilfiger and Marc Jacobs - also shared her story with her Instagram followers, revealing she has teamed up with the non-profit organization, InterACT Advocates for Intersex Youth, with the hope that she can help raise awareness about being intersex.
Hanne with husband John
‘Today might be one of the most important days in my life, I've decide to announce with you all I'm #intersex, read my story in USA Today,’ she wrote in an Instagram caption. ‘I want to bring awareness and put to light the irreversible unnecessary non consent surgeries we often go trough as kids.’
Hanne told USA Today that she's ‘proud to be intersex,’ but that she's ‘very angry that these surgeries are still happening.’
Born with the intersex trait known as AIS (Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome) and with internal, undescended testes, the model described how her parents were told that if she didn’t have surgery to remove them she ‘might develop cancer and I would not develop as a normal, female girl.’
She then underwent surgery at the age of 10 to have them removed. ‘I knew at one point after the surgery I could not have kids, I was not having my period. I knew something was wrong with me,’ revealing that she also had vaginal reconstructive surgery at the age of 18.
‘It’s not that big of a deal being intersex,’ she told the paper, wishing she knew then what she knows now.
‘If they were just honest from the beginning... It became a trauma because of what they did.’
Speaking about how proud he is of his wife, Hanne’s husband, fellow model John Swiatek said: ‘I am very impressed with her decision to advocate for intersex children in order to give them an opportunity to make up their own minds about their bodies, unlike the lack of options and information Hanne and her family (and many others) were given.’
Reaffirming her decision to go public with the matter, Hanne concluded her raw and honest interview with some words of encouragement to fellow intersex individuals.
‘You can be whoever you want. It doesn’t matter.'