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November 22, 2016
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Lambda Legal is urging the State Department to issue accurate passports for non-binary people.

This comes after a judge found that the State Department violated federal law in denying a passport to Lambda Legal client Dana Zzyym, a U.S. citizen and Navy veteran who is intersex.

The State Department denied Dana’s application because Dana could not accurately choose either male or female on the form, which does not provide any other gender marker designation.

In his ruling, Judge R. Brooke Jackson stated that he found “no evidence that the Department followed a rational decision-making process in deciding to implement its binary-only gender passport policy,” and ordered the U.S. Passport Agency to reconsider its earlier decision to deny Dana a passport.

Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Paul D. Castillo says:

This is a tremendous victory for Dana Zzyym and other intersex and non-binary citizens, who simply want to be recognized and respected for who they are, to live openly and authentically, and have their government recognize them for who they are.

In light of this ruling, we call on the State Department to do the right thing and issue accurate passports that reflect who Dana and all non-binary citizens truly are. Why should Dana – or any non-binary person – be forced to lie about their gender on a passport application when there are other proven solutions already implemented by countries elsewhere?

Today’s decision is great news, but I realize it is the first step in a long battle.
—  Lambda Legal client Dana Zzyym

Dana — who uses the gender-neutral pronouns “they,” “them” and “their” — was born with ambiguous sex characteristics. Shortly after Dana’s birth, their parents and doctor decided to raise them as a boy. As a result, Dana underwent several irreversible, painful and medically unnecessary surgeries that didn’t work, traumatized Dana and left them with severe scarring.

Dana applied for a passport in 2014, when they were invited to attend the International Intersex Forum in Mexico City. Even though Dana’s birth certificate lists their sex as “unknown,” and the fact that Dana’s doctors with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs confirm their gender as intersex, Dana’s application for a passport was denied.

Dana says:

Today’s decision is great news, but I realize it is the first step in a long battle.

Every day, I am forced to suffer the consequences of decisions made for me as a child. I shouldn’t have to suffer at the hands of my government — a government I proudly and willingly served — as well.

It’s a painful hypocrisy that, simply because I refused to lie about my gender on a government document, that the government would ignore who I am. I hope the State Department will do the right thing now.

Several countries currently issue passports with gender markers other than “F” or “M,” including Australia, India, Malta, Nepal and New Zealand. Most countries that offer a third gender marker on their passport use the non-specific “X” because it is recognized by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), a United Nations agency that sets forth international travel document standards.