Most people know that the LGBT acronym stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, and it's been pretty much that way for quite some time now. What they may not know is that the official acronym consists of 12 different characters that represent 11 different groups in the community, and ends up being LGBTQQIP2SAA.
Yes, it is a mouthful, but the main idea is that the community is now more than just lesbians, gays, bisexuals and trans people, but if you don't feel comfortable under the LGBT umbrella, you don't really get that much exposure.
When Miley Cyrus came out as pansexual a few months ago, that particular community (the "P" in the very long acronym) was able to get some recognition.
A similar event has recently occurred when Belgian supermodel Hanne Gaby Odiele, who has appeared on the cover of Vogue and done numerous campaigns for DKNY and Mulberry in the past, revealed that she is intersex.
What does it mean to be intersex?
In short, a person who is intersex is born with a reproductive or sexual anatomy that doesn't fit within typical female or male definitions. In other words, they were born with "ambiguous genitalia" which can't fall under a specific gender.
This is much different than transgender (which some people often confuse) in the sense that trans people aren't born with ambiguous genitalia, but rather they don't identify with the gender they were assigned at birth.
In Odiele's case, she was born with a condition known as androgen insensitivity syndrome.
While she is genetically male (she has one X and one Y chromosome), her body is resistant to male hormones known as androgens. Because of this, her physical appearance mostly resembles a woman, even though she has internal testes (she doesn't have a uterus or ovaries, however), but her genetic makeup resembles a male.
Odiele's condition is just one of many different forms of intersexuality. According to Kimberely Zieselman, the executive director of InterACT, an organization that advocates for rights and protection of intersex youth, the statistics aren't as rare as you may think. During an interview with Vogue, she said:
"Nearly 2% of babies are born intersex — about the same as naturally born redheads."
Odiele isn't the first and won't be the last person to be born as intersex. After finding out their child was intersex, her parents set up a major surgery to remove her internal testes to prevent her from developing cancer – a common consequence that has very little scientific evidence.
Her parents also told her that the surgery Odiele was getting done was for a bladder problem, never fully revealing the truth to her since they weren't quite sure of what was happening either.
After getting the surgery done and going on hormones to keep everything in check, at the age of seventeen Odiele began to have feelings of depression.
A few months before she a modeling agency discovered her, Odiele was sifting through some Dutch teen magazine when she came across a story about a girl who couldn't have children due to many childhood surgeries. Odiele got in contact with the girl, and it was this moment that she first heard the term "intersex."
What is Odiele doing now?
Odiele is, in fact, one of the very first public figures to come out as intersex. She is now working closely with InterACT to raise awareness and advocate against childhood surgeries on intersex kids that may end up doing more harm than good.
In March 2016, the United Nations condemned nonconsensual genital surgeries on intersex children, urging that they would be classified as torture. Odiele hopes to get this point across:
"I hope that by telling my story, more people get outraged at the human rights ciolations suffered by intersex children around the world."
Check out Gaby Odiele's short interview with InterACT on what it means to be intersex below:
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