A top fashion model has revealed that she is intersex, saying that she hopes speaking out will help break a taboo.
Hanne Gaby Odiele, 29, was born with undescended testicles, which were removed when she was 10 after doctors warned that they could cause cancer.
Intersex people are born with a mixture of male and female sex characteristics.
According to the United Nations, the condition affects up to 1.7% of the world’s population.
Ms Odiele, originally from Belgium, was born with androgen insensitivity syndrome (AIS), which causes girls to have XY chromosomes usually found in boys.
It is very important to me in my life right now to break the taboo,
“At this point, in this day and age, it should be perfectly all right to talk about this.”
At 10, Ms Odiele had surgery to remove her testes.
“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 said.
She had an additional surgery at 18 to reconstruct her vagina.
But she said the procedures caused her distress and she wanted to speak out in part to discourage other parents from putting their children through perhaps unnecessary surgeries.
“It’s not that big of a deal being intersex,” she said.
If they were just honest from the beginning… It became a trauma because of what they did.
Ms Odiele’s husband, John Swiatek, also a model, said he was “incredibly proud” of his wife for speaking out.
“I am very impressed with her decision to advocate for intersex children in order to give them an opportunity to make up their own minds about their bodies, unlike the lack of options and information Hanne and her family (and many others) were given,” he said.