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Lawsuit Appeals for Intersex People to Be Able to Obtain Passports Without Specifying Gender

Lawsuit Appeals for Intersex People to Be Able to Obtain Passports Without Specifying Gender

By on Nov 24, 2015 in Obtaining Passports |

A lawsuit has been filed on behalf of one Dana Zzymm, which appeals to the United States federal government to change the way people who do not identify as either male or female can apply for passports. Zzymm is represented by Lambda Legal, and they name John Kerry, the current US Secretary of State as a defendant.

What Are The Current Laws Regarding Passports And Gender?

At present, to be granted a passport in the US one must declare as either male or female. In the case of transgender people, a new passport can be issued changing the gender of the holder if medical evidence is supplied. Temporary passports are also issued to people undergoing gender realignment.
However, for people who are ‘intersex’, that is, people born with ambiguous physical sexual characteristics, there is currently no option, meaning that to obtain a passport they must select male or female.

While 1.7% of Americans are thought to be intersex, which is actually around the same proportion of the population as those born with red hair, many are thought to identify as either male or female and use this gender in their passport applications. Zzymm believes that those who identify simply as ‘intersex’, should be allowed to take a third option of ‘other’ or similar, or not have to specify a gender at all, because they are otherwise forced to lie.

Some other countries including Australia and New Zealand already have these provisions in place for intersex people, though Australia does require people to present evidence from a psychologist or doctor to show that they really do have valid grounds to be issued a passport that doesn’t show them to be a man or a woman. Zzymm believes the same rights should be available to Americans.

Dana Zzymm

When Dana Zzymm was born, no gender was written on the birth certificate, as is common with intersex people. Zzymm’s parents opted to raise Zzymm as a boy, and Zzymm identified primarily as man, joining the US Navy as a male. It was later, when in attendance at Colorado University, that Zzymm began to identify more as intersex, and began working with Intersex International – an organization that helps intersex people and campaigns for their civil rights.
Zzymm first applied for a passport in order to attend one of Intersex International’s meetings in Mexico, but was unable to go as this application was refused. It was this event that inspired Zzymm to work with Lamda Law, who have previously been involved in gender issues related lawsuits, to try and change the way the US passport system views gender.

Dana claims that as someone who has worked in the military to protect the rights of US citizens, it is only right to actually be able to take advantage of some of those rights – like the right to be able to hold a passport and travel. It will be interesting to see whether this case creates the pressure that would be needed for the federal government to revise gender on the US passport.


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