back to top

A 29-Year-Old Supermodel Just Revealed She Is Intersex

The 29-year-old says she's coming out now to advocate on behalf of children who are intersex.

The 29-year-old Belgian has modeled for designers like Alexander Wang and Christian Dior but is in the news for another reason — Odiele just revealed she's intersex in a story in Vogue magazine.

Vogue / Via

What does it mean to be intersex? Actually, it can mean a number of things.

Instagram: @hannegabysees

According to InterAct, a nonprofit group that advocates on behalf of intersex youth, intersex people have "reproductive or sexual anatomy and/or a chromosome pattern that doesn’t seem to fit typical binary definitions of male or female."

As InterACT explains, these traits are considered intersex and can include several different conditions, including "androgen insensitivity syndrome, some forms of congenital adrenal hyperplasia, Klinefelter’s syndrome, Turner’s syndrome, hypospadias, Swyers’ syndrome, and many others."

According to the American Psychological Association, as many as 1 in every 1,500 babies are born intersex.

Odiele was born with "androgen insensitivity syndrome," which means she has XY chromosomes of genetic males but doesn't have the external genitalia of typical males.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the bodies of people with androgen insensitivity syndrome "are unable to respond to certain male sex hormones (called androgens), they may have mostly female external sex characteristics or signs of both male and female sexual development."

Odiele was also born with undescended testicles. When she was 10, a doctor told her parents that if they weren't removed they could cause cancer down the road, so her parents consented to the surgery.

Instagram: @hannegabysees

Several additional surgeries followed, and Odiele considers those experiences "more harmful than good," she told BuzzFeed. "I was never really informed what has happening to me, so I felt really left out of the conversation."

Odiele says a doctor never explained to her what her options were — that she could have waited to have surgery, or not had surgery at all — or even bothered to define her condition. And, she says it wasn't until years later, when she was 17, that she even heard the term "intersex."

Instagram: @hannegabysees

"It made me feel like I had something wrong with me," she said. "Finally, by meeting more people that were intersexual, I got in touch with a support group. It was a relief, a weight off my shoulders. After that my whole attitude changed."

Odiele's experiences have made her advocate on behalf of other intersex children who may also feel as though they have no choice when it comes to what happens to their bodies. "I'm not against surgery," she told BuzzFeed. "But it should be consented to whenever the child is old enough to decide."

Instagram: @hannegabysees

Further, says Odiele, "Doctors often use scare tactics to make intersex patients decide, but too often the scare tactics are out of fear of a nonbinary body. If you're healthy, why do you need to be fixed?"

Odiele hopes that in coming out as intersex she can help foster conversation around gender and bodies. "There's more intersex people than you know. I hope by speaking up, people don't have to feel so lonely anymore."

Instagram: @hannegabysees
Connect with As/Is