24/01/2017 4:51 AM AEDT | Updated 24/01/2017 2:54 PM AEDT

Model Hanne Gaby Odiele Comes Out As Intersex

Courtesy of Women Management / Matte Projects

Belgian model and fashion star Hanne Gaby Odiele made a bold and admirable move on Monday by sharing her intersex identity with the world.

The 29-year-old, who has modeled for brands such as Chanel, Dior and Alexander Wang, said in a press release sent to The Huffington Post that she made the decision to live openly and visibly in order to hopefully give a voice to the intersex community and help end human rights violations against intersex people.  

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

Intersex identity is an often misunderstood way of describing an individual who is born with chromosomes that don’t necessarily correspond with traditional understanding of a male/female binary. Intersex children are frequently forced to undergo “corrective” surgery as infants to assign them as either male or female, a controversial practice that many medical professionals have spoken out against.

In order to raise awareness about nonconsensual medical intervention for intersex newborns, Odiele is partnering with interACT Advocates for Intersex Youth, an organization dedicated to “stop[ing] harmful medically unnecessary treatment and other human rights violations on children born with intersex traits and raise awareness about their experiences.”

“We congratulate Hanne for her courage in sharing her intersex status with the world,” InterACT Executive Director Kimberly Zieselman said in a statement. “We are extremely grateful to have her join interACT’s efforts in strongly advocating for the protection of intersex children from harmful medical treatment and surgery. Hanne is a beloved fashion model who has achieved global success in her industry. She also happens to be intersex and understands firsthand the harm caused by unnecessary medical intervention routinely done to ‘fix’ intersex children. Using her passion, her voice and her notoriety, she will undoubtedly further the cause of protecting intersex youth, and help put an end to the human rights violations far too many have suffered.”

Want to learn more about what it means to be intersex? Head here.