Top model Hanne Gaby Odiele on coming out as intersex, and what it means for her career.

Belgian top model Hanne Gaby Odiele has been in the fashion industry for more than 12 years. If there is a designer you love or a style you crave, she might just be the reason why.

But this time, when the 29-year-old’s name was splashed across international media, it wasn’t for her wardrobe – it was for her words.

“Today might be one of the most important in my life, I’ve decided to announce with you all I’m intersex,” she wrote.

“I want to bring awerness and put to light the irreversible unnecessary non consent surgeries we often go trough as kids. [sic]”

Odiele at Paris Fashion Week SS17. (Source: Getty)

In a subsequent press release for interACT, the model said “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".

"Intersex children born today are still at risk for these human rights violations. I will use my voice and platform to help end such abuses.”

Intersex people are born with sex anatomy - internal or external - that do not fit the typical definitions of "male" or "female". The term "intersex" is an umbrella term for the many variations on how these attributes present themselves.

Speaking to USA TODAY, Odiele explained she was born with an intersex trait known as Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome (AIS) - meaning she possesses the chromosomes typically found in men, XY, but is resistant to male hormones.


Odiele told the program she underwent surgery at age 10 to remove her internal undescended testicles after doctors advised her parents she might develop cancer or later developmental issues if there was no medical intervention.

“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 said.

In an interview with Mamamia, Odiele said she was unafraid to disclose her status as intersex despite her status as a public figure.

"I’m not really worried to be honest," she said. "If it never mattered before, working in fashion for over 12 years, why would it now?"

Hanne at the Balmain after party in Paris, France on January 21. (Source: Getty Images)

The now New York-based model said she was lucky to be part of her industry, which she believes was built to admire individuality.

"I think the fashion industry stands for uniqueness and should celebrate difference," she said.

Odiele said the few people who knew before her big announcement now had only offered their love and support.

"I've been open to close friends and family for a bit now, I've always had the best support," she said. "I don't see negativity, it's irrelevant to me."

Individuals can learn more about intersex people, and how to support the community by visiting the interACT website here.

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