Vogue Model Hanne Gaby Odiele Comes Out As Intersex, What Exactly Does Intersex Mean?

‘Vogue’ Model Hanne Gaby Odiele Comes Out As Intersex, What Exactly Does Intersex Mean?

Vogue model Hanne Gaby Odiele has made a shocking confession — she is intersex.

Odiele recently made the announcement on USA Today and said she wants to be a voice for those who are intersex to prevent them from feeling like they are inferior to others.

The 29-year-old supermodel from Kortrijk, Belgium, said she wants to “break the taboo” associated with being intersex and feels like it is something she shouldn’t have to hide.

“It is very important to me in my life right now to break the taboo,” Odiele told USA Today during an exclusive interview. “At this point, in this day and age, it should be perfectly all right to talk about this.”

So, what exactly does it mean to be intersex? According to the Intersex Society of North America, the term intersex is used to describe a person who is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.

“For example, a person might be born appearing to be female on the outside, but having mostly male-typical anatomy on the inside. Or a person may be born with genitals that seem to be in-between the usual male and female types—for example, a girl may be born with a noticeably large clitoris, or lacking a vaginal opening, or a boy may be born with a notably small penis, or with a scrotum that is divided so that it has formed more like labia. Or a person may be born with mosaic genetics, so that some of her cells have XX chromosomes and some of them have XY.”

Odiele was one of the 1.7 percent of the population who was born with intersex traits. Specifically, Hanne was born with androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS), which is when a woman has XY chromosomes, which are more typically found in men. Hanne’s doctors also found that she had internal, undescended testes, which had to be removed.

“I might develop cancer and I would not develop as a normal, female girl,” Hanne explained of the reasoning for having the testes removed, which she underwent at age 10.

At 18, Odiele had another procedure done called a vaginal reconstructive surgery. Although she said it isn’t a big deal to be intersex, she recalls the surgeries being traumatic.

“I knew at one point after the surgery I could not have kids, I was not having my period,” she explained. “I knew something was wrong with me.”

Hanne, who was discovered at a music festival in Belgium at the age of 17, will be partnering with interACT Advocates for Intersex Youth, an advocacy group for people who are intersex.

“I think her speaking out, having her voice added to the mix is going to culturally raise awareness in the mainstream,” Kimberly Zieselman, the executive director of the group, said. “[It will] help in raising awareness – and raising outrage.”

“It is an important part of my life to talk about this,” Odiele said, noting that she doesn’t feel it will affect her career. “They will see me as they have before. Nothing should change.”

Hanne’s husband, John Swiatek, said he is happy that his wife has decided to use her voice and speak out about the issue.

“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.

What do you think about Hanne Gaby Odiele’s decision to reveal she is intersex? Leave your comments below.

[Featured Image by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images]