Intersex Model Hanne Gaby Odiele Recalls Having Testes Removed at Age 10

credit: Myles Kalus Anak Jihem

Model Hanne Gaby Odiele recently discussed being intersex and the non-consensual surgery that was forced upon her as a child.

Odiele was born with Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, which means she was born with XY chromosomes and undescended testes.

When she was 10, she had surgery to remove the testes after her parents told her that if she didn’t she “might develop cancer and I would not develop as a normal, female girl.”

At the time though, she could barely understand what was going on. She told USA Today,

“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.”

Looking back, she wishes that her parents had just told her the truth about what was going on.

“It’s not that big of a deal being intersex. If they were just honest from the beginning… It became a trauma because of what they did.”

However, most surgeries forced upon intersex kids are medically unnecessary and very harmful.

Now Odiele wants to be an advocate for intersex children and prove that the condition is no big deal.

In a video for the non-profit organization interAct, she explained,

“Like so many others I’ve suffered physical and emotional harm because I was born with a body that isn’t clearly ‘male’ or ‘female.’ I’m proud to join interACT as we fight to stop unnecessary surgery and other harmful treatment on intersex kids.”

Since Odele’s coming out, doctors have finally started to rethink these surgeries.

In 2018, the American Academy of Family Physicians released a statement telling doctors to only perform such surgeries if the child is facing an “imminent and substantial risk of developing a health- or life-threatening condition.”

The non-profit organization The Human Rights Campaign also came out with a statement that same year, which stated,

“The results are often catastrophic… [The surgeries] can inflict irreversible physical and psychological harm.”

Feature photo credit and license: Myles Kalus Anak Jihem/Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license


Doctors Finally Rethink Harmful Surgeries on Intersex Children