Belgian model Hanne Gaby Odiele is one of the fashion industry’s most recognisable models, known as much for her prolific blue chip bookings as she is her singular sense of style. Today, the 29-year-old revealed that she is intersex, making her arguably the only high profile advocate for intersex bodily autonomy. 

“Today might be one of the most important days in my life,” Odiele, who has worked with extensively Chanel, Dior, Alexander Wang, Balenciaga, Givenchy, and Prada, amongst many others, wrote on Instagram earlier today. “I’ve decide to announce with you all I’m intersex. I want to bring awareness and put to light the irreversible, unnecessary [non-consensual] surgeries we often go [through] as kids.”

Intersex is an umbrella term that describes people born with reproductive, sexual anatomy or a chromosome pattern that can’t be classified as typically male or female. Those variations number more than 30. And while some people with an intersex condition also identify as transgender or queer, the three are separate and shouldn’t be confused or conflated. According to the United Nations and interACT, the non-profit organisation with which Odiele has aligned herself, “Nearly two-percent of the population is born with intersex traits, similar to the number of people born with red hair.

“Despite how common it is to be intersex, laws, policies and medical best practices still fail to protect intersex people from unneeded and irreversible surgeries that are often both physically and psychologically detrimental. The surgical interventions are often driven by the fear of non-binary bodies, rather than medical necessity.”

Odiele pictured at the amfAR’s 23rd Cinema Against AIDS Gala at Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Cap d’Antibes, France
Credit: Pascal Le Segretain/WireImage

Many of Odiele’s friends and contemporaries – Emily Ratajkowski, Jacquelyn Jablonski, Natasha Poly, Molly Blair, Catherine McNeil, Ruby Jean Wilson, Kasia Struss, Aline Webber, Binx Walton and Anna Ewers – as well as industry names like Olivier Theyskens and Miley Cyrus have declared their love and support for Odiele on Instagram.

“I have reached a point in my life where I feel ready to share this important part of who I am,” Odiele said in a statement released through interACT.

“It is time for intersex people to come out of the shadows, claim our status, let go of shame, and speak out against the unnecessary and harmful surgeries many of us were subjected to as children. Intersex children born today are still at risk for these human rights violations. I will use my voice and platform to help end such abuses.”

Tile image: Pascal Le Segretain/WireImage
Cover image: Ian Gavan/amfAR16/WireImage