Intersex person sues after being denied a passport

Posted at 5:44 PM, Jul 06, 2017

There is another gender identity battle brewing in federal court.

Dana Zzyym, an intersex person in Colorado who was born with physically ambiguous anatomy and does not identify as male or female, has been denied a passport multiple times despite a court ruling in their favor.

Legal experts say other countries, and at least one state, have already resolved this issue.

In November 2016 Zzyym celebrated what they thought was a victory after a judge ordered the State Department to review its policies after denying Zzyym a passport.

"It's the first major step to getting human rights for us," Zzyym told KMGH in an interview following the ruling.

Zzyym now identifies as intersex. They were born with anatomy that didn't fit the traditional binary male or female genders, and at a young age underwent surgery to make them male.

"My parents told me I was a boy, but I always questioned it," Zzyym said.

Zzyym served in the Navy and was honorably discharged. Decades, a divorce, depression and lots of counceling later, Zzyym came to the realization that they didn't fit the term "male."

"I was like what am I?" Zzyym recounted to KMGH in November.

When applying for a passport, the federal government says it recognizes a transgender person transitioning from one gender to another, but not someone like Zzyym, even after the judge's order in November. The State Department says it still does not recognize intersex people, and once again denied Zzyym a passport.

Last week, a court reopened Zzyym's case.

Ryann Peyton is an attorney who specializes in LGBTQI issues. She does not represent Zzyym, but says other countries like Australia have allowed peole to choose an "X" or "O" for "other" in the section for gender on their passports. Peyton says the U.S. accepts travelers from other countries with those gender designations.

"We've forgotten about those folks and they have legitimate needs," Peyton said. "They have the right to travel, they have the right to driver's licenses. They have a right to have documents that reflect who they are and what's true about their gender identity."

Peyton says depending on the government's response to the case being reopened, the issue could be resolved fairly easily, or it could potentially end up in the Supreme Court.

"What we've seen over the last year is the intersex community and the non-binary community really standing up and saying we don't want to choose. We don't have to choose," Peyton said.

Zzyym has said they are not suing for anything other than their legal costs to be covered, and to be able to get a passport to travel.