Hanne Gaby Odiele, a Belgian model who has been featured in magazines like Vogue Italia, Marie Claire, Teen Vogue, and Elle and has walked in fashion shows for brands like Chanel, Givenchy, and Prada, has come out as intersex.
“It is very important to me in my life right now to break the taboo,” Odiele said to USA Today. “At this point, in this day and age, it should be perfectly alright to talk about this."
Intersex is defined as "an individual having reproductive organs or external sexual characteristics of both male and female." Intersex individuals face a unique set of sociopolitical challenges ranging from being inappropriately assigned a gender at birth to erasure within the LGBTQ community.
The United Nations estimates that 1.7% of the human population is born intersex, roughly the same amount of people born as redheads.
Odiele was very frank about her medical history in the interview. She says she was born with undescended testicles, which were removed when she was 10 years old. “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," she explained. “It’s not that big of a deal being intersex,” she says, but feels that the many medical procedures she was subjected to, including vaginal reconstruction, left her emotionally scarred. “If they were just honest from the beginning ... It became a trauma because of what they did.”
“I am proud to be intersex,” she says, “but very angry that these surgeries are still happening.”
“I think her speaking out, having her voice added to the mix, is going to culturally raise awareness in the mainstream," says Kimberly Zieselman, executive director of interACT Advocates for Intersex Youth.
Odiele's husband, model John Swiatek, is proud of his wife: “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,” he said.
“You can be whoever you want. It doesn’t matter," Odiele concluded.
h/t: Pink News
[Photo: Getty Images]