She’s as bold in real life as she is on the runway.
Fashion model Hanne Gaby Odiele became one of the most well-known celebrities to announce she is intersex. She made the declaration on Monday to USA Today.
“It is very important to me in my life right now to break the taboo,” she said. “At this point, in this day and age, it should be perfectly all right to talk about this.”
People who are intersex typically have chromosomes or genitalia that does not align with common definitions of the “male” or “female” sexes. The United Nations estimates between 0.05 and 1.7 percent of the world population “is born with intersex traits — the upper number is similar to the number of red haired people.”
Odielle was born with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (present XY chromosomes common in men) and undescended testes that she had surgery to remove at age 10 to prevent the possibility of a cancer forming.
“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 said. She also underwent vaginal reconstruction surgery at 18.
That’s part of why Odiele chose to come out — she wanted to highlight the surgeries intersex children commonly undergo without their consent.
“I am proud to be intersex,” she said. “But very angry that these surgeries are still happening.”
InterACT Advocate for Intersex Youth believes that Odiele coming out will “help in raising awareness — and raising outrage,” a Executive Director Kimberly Zieselman stated.
Odiele’s husband John Swiatek, who she married last year, was “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.”
Odiele has an important message for struggling intersex youth: “You can be whoever you want. It doesn’t matter.”