Internationally-recognized fashion model Hanne Gaby Odiele has just become one of the most famous intersex public figures.
Odiele, 29, came out as intersex in an interview with USA Today. She will be partnering with the advocacy group interACT Advocates for Intersex Youth to raise awareness about the humans rights violations, such as nonconsensual genital surgeries, that intersex babies and children often undergo.
Odiele was one of those children. She was born with an intersex trait known as Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) in which a woman has XY chromosomes more typically found in men. She also had internal, undescended testes, and her parents were told that if she did not have her testicles removed, “I might develop cancer and I would not develop as a normal, female girl,” she says.
At 10, she had surgery to remove her testes, an experience she could barely process at the time. “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.”
At 18, Odiele — whose modeling career took root when she was discovered a year earlier at a music festival in Belgium — underwent an equally distressing procedure in the form of vaginal reconstructive surgery.
“It’s not that big of a deal being intersex,” she says. But the anguish of the two surgeries is an issue for her that is still troubling today. “If they were just honest from the beginning… It became a trauma because of what they did.”
Wow. This is a gripping story – one that so many people share – and she has an incredible platform to tell it. Congratulations on sharing this with the world, Hanne, and thank you for paying it forward.
Anja Rubik, Jacquelyn Jablonski, Bethann Hardison, Doutzen Kroes, Toni Garrn, Naomi Campbell, Alek Wek, Hanne Gaby Odiele, Edie Campbell & Candice Huffine by Daniel Jackson for Vogue Germany, August 2018