#WCW Hanne Gaby Odiele – An Exclusive By Myla Dalbesio
Why we love her:
She’s been a runway favorite from the beginning of her career, racking up appearances for nearly every major designer, year after year. Marc Jacobs, Versace, Chanel, Calvin Klein… you name it, she’s done it. The same goes for the campaigns – fronting for brands like Jil Sander, Balenciaga, Marc Jacobs and Alexander Wang, Hanne Gaby Odiele has really made her mark as an industry icon. Her brand of downtown cool is enduring, creative, and inspiring.
But it’s not the many hits on her fashion resume that have us interested. Earlier this year in an interview with Vogue, Hanne went public about being intersex, the term used for an individual born into a body that does not conform to the typical definitions of male or female. This can mean many things, depending on the variations in each individual’s hormones, chromosomes or genitalia. For Hanne, it meant that she was born with male chromosomes, but with a physical composition that was more like a woman. In the current climate, where transgender rights and the LGBTQ community have been making more progress than ever, the social discourse regarding the intersex community has been surprisingly scarce. Especially when you realize that about 2% of babies born are intersex, the same percentage as those born as redheads.
Hanne is hoping to change the conversation. By working with advocacy group interACT and opening up to the public about her life experiences, she is giving a face and a voice to many who have been historically and medically misunderstood, silenced, or shamed. “My parents understood a little, but not all,” Hanne tells the Guardian about following the medical advice provided to her family when she was a baby. Doctors pressured her parents into multiple surgeries and encouraged concealing Hanne’s identity as intersex from everyone, including Hanne herself. The result of a childhood of non-consensual medical treatments were many lifelong complications, perhaps avoidable had her family or the doctors been better informed, or offered more options. Or, as Hanne is advocating for, waiting to perform non-emergency surgeries until the recipient is old enough (or informed enough) to consent. The current norm is to operate while the individual is still an infant. As the most high-profile individual publicly claiming the intersex identity, we applaud Hanne’s courage and honesty. And it certainly has a lot of people talking.
Image Source: Nagi Sakai, Vogue, interACT