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Belgian Model Hanne Gaby Odiele Opens Up About Being Intersex

Belgian Model Hanne Gaby Odiele Opens Up About Being Intersex

Hanne Gaby Odiele
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

"It should be perfectly all right to talk about this."

Few people exude as much natural confidence as runway models. Honing an assigned attitude or aesthetic becomes their job and they work tirelessly to craft their personas and train their bodies. But Belgian model Hanne Gaby Odiele is making her career about more, now opening up and bringing attention to being intersex.

"It is very important to me in my life right now to break the taboo," the 29-year-old model told USA TODAY. "At this point, in this day and age, it should be perfectly all right to talk about this."

Related | Today In Gay History: First Public Demonstration By Intersex People In North America

"Intersex is a general term used for a variety of conditions in which a person is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't seem to fit the typical definitions of female or male," according to the Intersex Society of North America. This means intersex individuals may appear outwardly female but have more typical male anatomy, possess genitals that appear to have male and female characteristics, or even have some cells with XX chromosomes and some with XY.

Odiele was born with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, meaning she has XY chromosomes typical to males. The model was also born with undescended testicles, which were surgically removed at age 10 due to concerns about cancer and regular female development, and at 18 she underwent vaginal reconstruction surgery.

Related | UN Reprimands UK and Nepal for Genital Mutilation on Intersex Children

Not only is Odiele aiding in intersex visibility, she's also calling attention to medical procedures, similar to the ones she experienced that attempt to make children appear more male or female by societal standards. "I am proud to be intersex, but very angry these surgeries are still happening," she said. Read the full USA TODAY interview, here.

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