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Fort Collins intersex person denied passport, files lawsuit

Posted at 7:28 PM, Nov 22, 2016

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- What if you don't identify yourself as male or female but wanted to travel the world? As of right now, you can't. To get a passport you have to pick a gender. That's what a Fort Collins resident is facing.

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

“They didn't know what to do with me,” Zzyyum said. “My parents told me I was a boy, but it's just that I always questioned it.”

It was only many years later, after serving six years in the U.S. Navy, that ZZyyum began researching surgeries and came to understand they had been born intersex.

“I'm an intersex person; that's how I identify,” Zzyyum said.

However, the State Department doesn’t see it that way. When he applied for a passport two years ago, he was denied.

“They said they couldn’t give me a passport because I had to check either male or female,” Zzyyum explained.

Zzyyum took the matter to federal court and a judge ordered the State Department to reconsider its application process. A victory for people like Zzyyum.

“This is the first major step to getting human rights for us,” Zzyyum said.

If the State Department doesn't follow the orders, Zzyyum’s lawyer will take the matter back to the court.

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