Belgian model and Vogue cover girl, Hanne Gaby Odiele, is no stranger to being bold and fearless; her street style alone is known to send photographers into a frenzy outside the shows. But yesterday saw the catwalker reveal her most intimate detail yet: her status as being intersex.
Defined as a general term to describe a person who has been born with atypical reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't fit typical definitions of gender binary, intersex individuals make up up to 2% of the population - one in 2000 births.
Odiele was born with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, in which a woman has XY chromosomes most typically found in men. Despite being genetically male with male chromosomes, the body does not respond to testosterone, inhibiting male body parts from developing normally.
The model has partnered with interACT Advocates for Intersex Youth to produce a YouTube video discussing her experiences.
"I have reached a point in my life where I feel ready to share this important part of who I am," she explains in the video, after revealing that she had surgery at the age of 10 to remove her internal, undescended testes followed by a vaginal reconstruction surgery at 18. "It is time for intersex people to come out of the shadows, claim our status, let go of shame and speak out against the unnecessary and harmful surgeries many of us were subjected to as children."
According to the UN, sex-assignment surgeries can cause infertility, ongoing pain, loss of sexual sensation and emotional trauma and are a violation of human rights when done without proper consent.
"Intersex people should be able to make their own choices about their bodies," she says. "I'm speaking out because it's time this mistreatment comes to an end. It's caused me way too much pain. I'm proud to support InterACT, as we fight to protect kids from suffering the same way I did."
"I am proud to be intersex," explained the model. "It might be private, you might not tell the whole community. But it's not secret, so there's nothing shameful about having one of these conditions."
For more information, visit Organisation Intersex International Australia.