Supermodel Hanne Gaby Odiele Reveals She Was Born Intersex: 'I Knew Something Was Wrong With Me'

Hanne Gaby Odiele is a successful model with her own unique style, a style which has landed Odiele high profile work with such fashion houses as Versace, Marc Jacobs, Dior, and Alexander Wang. While she may appear to have that feminine look and thin physique that often drives fashion coordinators wild, Hanne is now revealing that she suffers from a condition that might have limited her appeal, had it been previously known. Biologically, Odiele reveals that she suffers from Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) and opens up about what that means and how it has affected her life as a model and as an individual.

What Does Being Intersex Mean For Hanne Gaby Odiele?

As Yahoo Style shares, being an intersex person is more about a biological condition than it necessarily is about a struggle with one's gender identity, though that is certainly a part of it. With an intersex person, their sex characteristics (including genitals, gonads, and chromosome patterns) are mismatched and can include both male and female aspects. Genetically, a woman with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome has more of the XY chromosomes more typically found in the male genetic make-up.

It's a rare condition. Odiele comes from a group that represents just 1.7 percent of the world's population.

Although Hanne has previously felt pressured to keep this part of herself hidden from the public and from the modeling industry, she has found the courage to reveal her condition and speak out about it.

"It is very important to me in my life right now to break the taboo," says 29-year-old supermodel, Hanne Gaby Odiele, who comes from Kortrijk, Belgium.

"At this point, in this day and age, it should be perfectly all right to talk about this."
Hanne has decided to come forward for two reasons, First, the supermodel wants to create a less hostile atmosphere for other intersex people to speak openly about the condition. Odiele also wants to bring attention to forced surgeries, which are performed early in life to compel the intersex person to conform more closely to one gender or the other.

"I am proud to be intersex," Odiele said, "but very angry that these surgeries are still happening."

Hanne Gaby Odiele Gets Candid About Having Her Own Sex Organs Taken From Her

Hanne Gaby Odiele, intersex
Supermodel Hanne Gaby Odiele speaks out about being an intersex individual. [Image by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images]

Ms. Odiele told USA Today that doctors discovered her undescended testes early in childhood and cautioned her parents that, unless the testes were removed, she might develop cancer. In any event, the doctor told Hanne's mother and father that she wouldn't develop fully as a female, unless the organs were removed. As a result, Hanne was forced to undergo the surgery, when she was just 10-years-old. The model now says that was far too young and she was unable to really process the experience.

"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," says Hanne.

Eight years later, just as Ms. Odiele was embarking on her modeling career, she submitted to another surgery. This time, the 18-year-old model underwent a vaginal reconstruction procedure, which Odiele found just as unsettling as the first surgery. Hanne makes a point to say that she was traumatized by the surgeries and feels that, had she been left to develop naturally, she would have grown into a happy and well-adjusted intersex person.

Ms. Odiele is determined to change things for future generations of intersex children, so she has partnered with interACT Advocates for Intersex Youth. In sharing her story, Odiele hopes more intersex persons will come forward and also speak about their personal experiences. When asked about her career as a model, Hanne says she would hope the fashion industry will see her as they always have, adding that she sees no reason their opinion of her should change.

Hanne Gaby Odiele feels confident, particularly because the fashion industry is evolving, developing an all-inclusive atmosphere which celebrates creativity and diversity.

"I didn't have to fit into certain roles," Hanne Odiele said. "I was able to kind of have a sense of being more of an individual."

[Featured Image by Ian Gavan/Getty Images]