Brave Belgian model Hanne Gaby Odiele has revealed that she is intersex, and was born with undescended testes that doctors removed when she was 10.
“It’s very important to me in my life right now to break the taboo,” Hanne, 29, tells USA Today.
“At this point, in this day and age, it should be perfectly all right to talk about this.”
The runway and fashion supermodel from Kortrijk hopes that telling her story will help the 1.7 percent of people born intersex, and lower the rate of surgeries to remove unformed reproductive organs that often occur before children can give consent.
“I am proud to be intersex, but very angry that these surgeries are still happening,” adds the fearless fashion star.
Hanne admits that doctors told her parents that the surgery was essential because she might develop cancer and would not develop as a normal, female girl.
Today might be one of the most important days in my life, I've decide to announce with you all I'm #intersex, read my story in USA Today (link in bio) I want to bring awerness and put to light the irreversible Unnecessary non consent surgeries we often go trough as kids ?✌️FEEL FREE TO SHARE #intersex #StopIGM (Intersex Genital Mutilation) #intersexHanne #intersexy @interact_adv
Because she was so young at the time, Hanne says she didn’t fully understand what was happening, and wishes now she had more of a say.
“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,” she says.
“It’s not that big of a deal being intersex. If they were just honest from the beginning … It became a trauma because of what they did.”
Hanne, who married her husband, model John Swiatek, just a few months ago, started opening up about being intersex, and doesn’t expect her announcement to create problems in the modelling world.
“They will see me as they have before,” she says. “Nothing should change.”
But she hopes things do change for others born intersex.
“It is an important part of my life to talk about this,” she says. “You can be whoever you want. It doesn’t matter.”
It’s not the first time the topic of intersex has made headlines. South African runner Caster Semenya garnered attention during the 2016 Olympic Games coverage. Numerous reports claimed the athlete was intersex, although she has yet to speak about it, reported NPR. She went on to win the gold in the 800m race.