Intersex model and activist Hanne Gaby declared Person of the Year

This article was originally published in Dutch in ZIZO Magazine on December 7th 2017.

hanne gaby

While Knack chose Hilde Van Mieghem to become Woman of the Year, it was Hanne Gaby Odiele Termore who was awarded a prize by Knack Weekend. They declared the intersex supermodel and activist Person of the Year.

Hanne Gaby Odiele caught their eye “because she put the intersex debate on the map. Not only in Belgium but also on an international level. She also gave a speech at the United Nations. She was well-prepared when she went public. She wanted to be a rolemodel. The world needed that’, states Ruth Goossens, head-editor at Knack Weekend.

Secret

Hanne was born with both male and female sexual characteristics. She only discovered this when she was 17 years old. Doctors told her parents that it would have been better to keep it a secret. And that’s what they did. When she found out what was really going on, she kept it a secret for years because she was embarrassed. But this year she decided to go public. Meanwhile she is not only famous for being a supermodel but also for being an intersex activist.

Often unnecessary surgeries are performed on intersex people when they are still very young. Hanne Gaby Odiele calls for the intersex people being able to make those decisions themselves, not the doctors. She experienced those surgeries as traumatizing. These kind of procedures have a very big influence on a person, both mentally and physically.

Breaking taboos

The fact that the word gender-neutral was declared most annoying word of the year in 2017 in the Netherlands, stirred up the gender debate. “For some people this debate has been pushed too far. It’s far removed from their own personal lives. They can’t associate themselves with it. If they know someone in their own surroundings who is working with this topic, they often think differently about it’, says head-editor Goossens.

At Knack Weekend they think it’s really important to inform people as good as possible. They want to break all taboos. “People need that. We have to show the that intersex people exist and explain them what it means. That’s our task.’

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