Belgian model Hanne Gaby Odiele reveals she is intersex and has decided to share her experience as such and inspire other to come out and live openly.

Hanne Gaby Odiele reveals she underwent “harmful” surgery to remove her male parts.
Photo: Hugh Lippe

By the age of 29, model Hanne Gaby Odiele, a Kortrijk, Belgium native, has signed with big names in the fashion industry, such as Chanel, Alexander Wang and Dior. Despite the glam and success, there was an aspect of her life that was kept in the dark. Until today.

On Monday, Odiele released a press statement in which she comes out as intersex. She reveals that she underwent “corrective” surgery when she was only 10-years-old.  “It’s very important to me in my life right now to break the taboo”.

Intersex people are born with chromosomes which do not correspond with traditional genders (male/female). Currently, these people undergo corrective surgery, meant to remove one type of sexual organs and leave them with the other, thus identifying them as male or female. It is still a controversial procedure, as it is violating the patient’s rights, while not life-saving.

Odiele told USA Today that at the time she got the surgery, she didn’t fully understand what made her different from her peers. “I knew something was wrong with me”, she says adding she had learned after the surgery that she could not have children. Still she says being intersex is not “that big of a deal.”

“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”, said Odiele, who added that she was partnering with interact Advocates for Intersex Youth. Her main purpose is to put a stop to the surgeries and the lies that come with it. She reveals that her parents were told that if the surgery is not done, she might develop cancer. “If they were just honest from the beginning … It became a trauma because of what they did”, she concluded.