October 26, 2015 at 5:41 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Intersex person sues State Department over passport denial

Dana Alix Zzyym, gay news, Washington Blade

Dana Alix Zzyym (Photo courtesy of Lambda Legal)

Lambda Legal on Monday filed a federal lawsuit against the State Department on behalf of an intersex person who was denied a passport because they do not identify as male or female.

The lawsuit notes that Dana Alix Zzyym, a resident of Fort Collins, Colo., who is the associate director of the U.S. affiliate of the Organization Intersex International, applied for a passport in September 2014 in order to travel to Mexico City this week for an international conference that will focus on intersex-specific issues.

Those who are applying for a passport for the first time must submit a copy of their birth certificate.

The State Department in a Sept. 24, 2014, letter to Zzyym stated it denied the application because it was “unable to fulfill your request to list your sex as ‘X,’ even though doctors at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs confirmed the gender listed on the birth certificate as “unknown.” The State Department said Zzyym could receive a passport with a male or female gender marker or withdraw the application.

Zzyym on Dec. 19, 2014, provided additional documentation to the Colorado Passport Agency for the State Department to prove their intersex identity. This second application was denied 10 days later.

Zzyym on Feb. 26 requested that the State Department reconsider its decision. An April 10 letter said this petition had been denied.

The lawsuit names Secretary of State John Kerry and Sherman Portell, director of the Colorado Agency for the State Department, as defendants. It further alleges the State Department violated the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Administrative Prodecure Act by denying Zzyym a passport that accurately reflects their gender.

“When I was a child, I had no say in what was done to me in order to make me ‘fit’ in some acceptable category,” said Zzyym in a press release that Lambda Legal released on Monday. “I continue to suffer the consequences of those decisions today. But, as an adult, I can take a stand. I am not male, I am not female, I am intersex, and I shouldn’t have to choose a gender marker for my official U.S. identity document that isn’t me.”

The State Department on Monday declined to comment on Zzyym’s lawsuit.

Lambda Legal in its press release notes Australia, India, Malta, Nepal and New Zealand are among the countries that issue passports without female or male gender markers. The International Civil Aviation Organization, a U.N. agency that sets standards for documents used for international travel, recognizes the “X” gender marker.

Lambda Legal announced its lawsuit on Intersex Awareness Day, which is designed to raise awareness of intersex issues around the world.

Michael K. Lavers is the international news editor of the Washington Blade. Follow Michael

14 Comments
  • Excuse my ignorance but can someone please explain what intersex means?

    • Hint ….. google the word….

      • Hint. If you have nothing good to say, don’t give a smart ass answer!

        The time you took to make your snide comment could have answered the question! A human touch sometimes provides a better answer than simply googling something! People gain a better understanding of issues and people that way!

        A google search doesn’t inspire empathy or deeper understanding!

        • Perhaps the wise and considerate thing to do would have been to look up the word and then ask for a deeper explanation if required?
          When I read something I don’t understand I take a few minutes to familiarize myself with the subject.
          Thank you

          • Perhaps I could have not given a damn instead. You should be grateful when someone reaches out to you and wants to learn something. They give you value when they do. It’s arrogant, shortsighted, inconsiderate and dismissive to tell someone one to look it up because you can’t bother to explain! If anything it can encourage resentment and scorn. If you don’t want to be bothered then don’t give a snarky response! You’re not the only one it can be directed to!

            It’s not incumbent upon me to go out of my way for learn about an issue that doesn’t impact me. Don’t be so presumptuous to tell me how to learn about something! If I want a human touch, that’s my prerogative! You look it up!

          • Well … I don’t feel I would have ever had your support.
            You have no idea what it is like to have to always explain and justify what one is.
            You have no idea what it is like to be looked at as a freak.
            You have no idea what it is like to have a doctor curl their nose at you and treat you badly.
            Support? ….. typically we are not used to support….
            If I offended you I am sorry … that was not my intention. So very very seldom does anyone take a moment to try and understand us or show any empathy.
            It’s rather hard to be grateful in a world like that….
            It is always up to us to justify ….. I guess I am tired…

          • I have no idea? I’m gay. Do you think I didn’t go through all that decades ago and still don’t?
            Being called and looked at like a freak is common. Dirty looks, looks of disgust, looks of fear, anger or ridicule. Being asked why I’m gay often. Being threatened with violence and even murder. Being ostracized. I could tell you stories. I’ve been through all of that.
            Being ashamed to tell people who you are or afraid they’ll find out. I can relate to all your feelings. Been there. Unfortunately find myself there periodically.
            My advice to you is that if someone makes an effort to know about you, accept it and make it easy for them. Only through better understanding and seeing you as a human being can you hope to make things better for yourself. There will always be a-holes against you. What matters ultimately is what you think about yourself. No matter who you are you have to accept that people will hate you for one reason or the other. But there are still some good people in the world.

          • Excuse my ignorance but what does being gay mean? I can’t be bothered looking it up, so you should explain it for me. I don’t have all day, my time is valuable.

            Look, I’m trying to reach out to You People, if you want any sympathy just do it. Now, please.

          • you’re excused this time but watch it next time. Your time can’t be that valuable if you have time to troll around here.

            I’ve be been doing just fine without you all this time and can continue doing so. Move on.

            You’re better off focusing on that much needed extreme make over.

          • “What matters ultimately is what you think about yourself. No matter who
            you are you have to accept that people will hate you for one reason or
            the other. But there are still some good people in the world. Take it
            one day at a time. That’s all any of us can do.”

            Well said.

            For reasons why there’s hate of those not fitting sex/gender/sexual orientation norms see http://nautil.us/issue/28/2050/caitlyn-jenner-and-our-cognitive-dissonance

            “It’s difficult to imagine, though, any strong selective pressure against
            our brain’s automatic binary categorization by gender—it can be handy
            when it comes to that evolutionarily relevant goal of finding a mate.
            Accepting the fragility of that categorization requires some heavy
            lifting by the neocortex, the recently evolved, egg-heady part of the
            brain that is tasked with assimilating the information in an article
            like this.”

            So don’t expect either the irrational phenomena of homophobia, transphobia or hatred of Intersex people to go away soon. Darnit.

    • It’s just a excuse for someone, to NOT have to go by the rules AND law’s or the World, AND Nature like EVERYONE else HAS TOO!!! Just because those that were born with a abnormality of a little bit of BOTH sex organs, doesn’t mean that the Doctor’s CAN’T fix THEM to be one OR the other! MOST of the time, THE Doctor’s AND Parents HAVE IT FIXED AT BIRTH! So I really DON’T CARE if people think I’m MEAN! But I KNOW a person who WAS born that WAY, and THEY had it fixed AT BIRTH!!! And THEY are HAPPY as a GIRL and DON’T try to PULL this BS! It’s THIS person’s STUPIDITY and wanting MONEY and Attention is ALL this IS! The World could really careless HOW YOU were born! It’s HOW you behave later in LIFE, and NOT trying to cause DRAMA and TROUBLE!!!

      • Calm down, Diana. Just because you know 1 person who was able to resolve this via surgery doesn’t mean you understand a single other person.

        And no, I have no idea why I’m trying to have a rational discussion with someone who types like a serial murderer.

        P.S. Liking your own posts is like masturbating while staring into the mirror while telling yourself how sexy you are.

  • Are we supposed to change every document ever, every sign, and never ask anyone about gender ever again? And who pays for the changes? Where does non-conformity give way to practicality? I have no idea and I feel for the… person… but I’m stumped here.

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