Model's Intersex Reveal: I Was Born With Testes

'USA Today' calls Hanne Gaby Odiele one of the first big names to go public
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 23, 2017 10:33 AM CST

She's used to putting herself on display, but Belgian model Hanne Gaby Odiele exposed herself in a different way on Monday. The 29-year-old sat with USA Today and revealed something that "should be perfectly all right to talk about ... in this day and age": Odiele is intersex, having been born with undescended testes and Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, meaning she has XY chromosomes. Odiele, whom Vogue refers to as an Alexander Wang staple, says being intersex is "not that big of a deal," but she can't say the same for the two surgeries she has undergone, one at age 10 to remove those testes, which doctors told her parents could lead to cancer.

USA Today calls her "one of the first high-profile people" to reveal intersex traits, which an LGBT initiative associated with the UN Human Rights Office estimates are present in 0.05% to 1.7% of people. (The Intersex Society of North America digs into the frequency question in a much more detailed way.) Now married to fellow model John Swiatek, Odiele says she's "very angry that these surgeries are still happening." A professor of pediatrics at SUNY Upstate Medical University tells the paper parents are often pressured into agreeing to subject their intersex kids to surgery when there is no medical necessity, but rather to produce more "normal" children. Odiele's story will appear in the next issue of Vogue; she plans to work with the interACT Advocates for Intersex Youth. (More intersex stories.)

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