WASHINGTON — International fashion model Hanne Gaby Odiele has come out as intersex. The 29-year-old from Belgium made the announcement on USA Today.
“At this point, in this day and age, it should be perfectly all right to talk about this,” Odiele told USA Today. “It is very important to me in my life right now to break the taboo.”
The Intersex Society of North America describes intersex as “a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person 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,” the ISNA said. “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 has XY chromosomes, which are more typically found in men, the newpaper reported. She also had internal, undescended testes that were surgically removed when she was 10 years old. At 18, she had vaginal reconstructive surgery.
Odiele told the newspaper being intersex isn’t “that big of a deal” but said the surgeries were traumatizing.
“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,” Pink News quoted Odiele as saying. “Intersex children born today are still at risk for these human rights violations.”
Odiele’s story will also be featured in the issue of Vogue magazine that will be available at newsstands on Wednesday.
Odiele married her husband, deejay and model John Swiatek, in August. He told USA Today that he is “incredibly proud and happy” his wife chose to speak out and advocate for intersex children.
According to the United Nations, up to 1.7 percent of the population have intersex traits. That is about the same as the number of people with red hair.