Fashion Model, Hanne Gaby Odiele, has revealed that she is intersex. This means that she was born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn’t seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male.
The fashion star revealed the anguish she had to live through while growing up due to her condition and she is teaming up with InterACT Advocates for Intersex Youth with the hopes of giving a voice to others like her who have to spend their lives hiding.
The 29-year-old made a startling revelation, that there are as many intersex people in the world as there are redheads, that is 1.7% of the world’s population are intersex and that anyone could be born with the condition.
Hanne was born with internal, undescended testes and had to undergo surgery at age 10 to have her testicles removed because her parents were wrongly informed that if left, she could have cancer and may not develop as a normal female child. After the surgery, she knew she could not have kids and was not having her period, but she was too young to understand her condition.
She also endured another surgery at the age of 18, this time it was a vaginal reconstructive surgery. Both surgeries were referred to by Hanne as being “unnecessary and irreversible”.
She went on to say,
“It’s not that big of a deal being intersex.”
“I am proud to be intersex,” she says, “but very angry that these surgeries are still happening.”
Odiele aims to spotlight medical procedures intersex children have to endure without their consent in a misguided effort to make a child appear more typically male or female. She is advocating for intersex people to be left to be as they came into the world.
50-year-old Kimberly Zieselman, Executive Director of interACT Advocates for Intersex Youth, suffered an experience similar to Odiele’s.When she was 15 her parents were advised by an oncologist that she had a partially formed uterus and ovaries and that they needed to be removed to avoid the risk of them becoming cancerous. When Kimberly clocked 40 and started to have hernia problems, she was surprised to discover that the surgery she had at 15 removed internal, undescended testes and that she never has a uterus or ovaries to start with. It was then she discovered that she was intersex.
Though hundreds of people are intersex, there are still lots of misconceptions about intersex people. An intersex individual can be straight, gay, lesbian, bisexual… They can marry, as is the case of Odiele and Kimberly, and they can lead a normal life if people are well educated about this condition.
Odiele’s husband, John Swiatek, is also a model and he reveals that he is happy and proud of his wife for speaking up.
Odiele has a message for other intersex individuals and it is this: “You can be whoever you want. It doesn’t matter.”