Coloradan Won't Stop Fighting If State Department Appeals Intersex Passport Case

Sep 25, 2018

The U.S. State Department is considering whether to appeal a ruling regarding how the agency asks for a person's gender on a passport application.

On Sept. 19 a federal district judge in Colorado ruled in favor of Fort Collins resident Dana Zzyym. Zzyym, who is intersex, was denied a passport in 2015 because they did not mark male or female on the application.

Judge R. Brooke Jackson wrote in the ruling that while the agency can legally reject passport applications for a good reason, that "adherence to a series of internal policies that do not contemplate the existence of intersex people” is not one of them.

If the federal agency disagrees with the ruling, they have until mid-November to appeal to the 10th Circuit Court in Denver.

Dana Zzymm spoke to KUNC’s Kyra Buckley the same day the judge’s opinion was released.


Interview Highlights

Kyra Buckley, KUNC: Getting a passport already isn't that easy. Folks have to come up with all those documents, and it sounds like on top of that you had barriers that people who identify as male or female wouldn't have. It is that how you experienced it?

Dana Zzymm: I knew I was going to have those barriers, so I tried to have everything in place to overcome

those barriers. I thought I had those, but the State Department chose to stick with their binary system of male and female only.

Buckley: So, up until now -- and we still don’t know if this will change or not at the State Department -- but if an intersex person wanted to get a passport before this they had to lie and choose a gender that doesn't actually match their identity?

Zzymm: For me, if I would have needed to go out of the country, I mean absolutely needed to go somewhere, I would have had to lie on a passport to go. It would have felt very uncomfortable (...) but chances are if my case gets defeated there will probably be another case right behind it-- but those cases take a long time. It's taken me four years on this particular lawsuit to get here. That's a long wait.

But it's important for people who strongly feel that not having the correct marker on their passport (...) living with a lie, living with incorrect documents, is hard. The world is stacked against us. We’re intersex people. We’re usually physically modified against our wills as children, and it’s hard enough to live with that, let alone live with all the markers that says we’re “wrong.” And we want to correct those things.

Buckley: Your case doesn't put this issue to bed. The State Department could decide to appeal. But what I'm hearing from you and other activists is that you’re not going to let this go. It’s important and this is something you're going to keep fighting for. Is that correct?

Zzyym: Right. It’s not only this issue, because even if I win we still have to work on stopping intersex genital mutilation, we still have civil rights issues we have to work on, and a lot of other issues of who we are. This is just one of the issues. We have a lot of work to do.