Supermodel and Alexander Wang muse Hanne Gaby Odiele revealed in an interview with USA Today that she is intersex, saying, "at this point, in this day and age, it should be perfectly alright to talk about this." Amen to that. 'Intersex' is a catchall term that describes a range of conditions in which an individual is born with sexual or reproductive anatomy that falls outside the typical definitions of male or female. Odiele was born with the intersex trait AIS, or Androgyn Insensitivity Syndrome, where a woman is born with the typically male XY chromosomes. She was also born with internal, undescended testes, which she had surgically removed at the age of 10 because doctors told her parents that without the surgery, "I might develop cancer and I would not develop as a normal, female girl." The surgery was an incredibly traumatic and painful process for Odiele, in part because she was too young to process it. She told USA Today, "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 shared her intersex status and experience not only to "break the taboo," but to speak out against these unnecessary, non-consensual surgeries being performed on intersex children to make them conform to one anatomical gender. These surgeries can have devastating impacts on the lives of intersex people, with side effects that can include infertility, reduced sexual sensation, and lifelong dependence on hormone replacement medication. "I am proud to be intersex," she says, "but very angry that these surgeries are still happening."
Splash photo: Sam Deitch/BFA