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*** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE ***
Denver, CO, October 26, 2015.
Today, Intersex Awareness Day, 2015, Lambda Legal filed a groundbreaking lawsuit against the U.S. State Department on behalf of OII-USA Associate Director Dana Zzyym, for Zzyym’s right to have their gender accurately represented as neither male nor female on their passport. Zzyym, a disabled Navy veteran who uses the gender neutral pronouns they, them, and their, was born intersex, meaning their physical sex characteristics do not fit typical definitions of male or female.
As plaintiff Zzyym said, “This Intersex Awareness Day I celebrate my independence from the binary system that has forced me to live as someone other than who I am.”
Dana was selected to represent OII-USA (a.k.a. the Intersex Campaign for Equality), at the 4th International Intersex Forum, held in Mexico City in October, 2014, which required them to obtain a passport. However, in keeping with historic efforts to erase intersex people from society, the U.S. State Department denied Zzyym’s application because they did not choose male or female gender markers. Lambda Legal Staff Attorney Paul D. Castillo explained, “The State Department in effect is demanding that Dana use incorrect information on the passport application and choose either ‘male’ or ‘female’ when, in fact, Dana is neither. They shouldn’t have to choose.”
Sadly, lack of legal recognition is only a small example of the discrimination intersex people face. Prejudice is still so great that intersex infants and minors are routinely subjected to unsolicited, medically unnecessary surgeries and other medical treatments whose sole purpose is to erase intersex traits, and thus, intersex people, from society. The practice has been found so damaging that the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has called on all nations to ban it, and earlier this year Malta became the first nation to do so.
The entire intersex community agrees that nonconsensual medical procedures should be legally banned in all nations, and that we deserve the right to make our own decisions about our bodies and identities. We note that Dana’s case is about intersex adults with non-binary gender identities having the option to be legally identified as neither male nor female. Because certain rights and benefits are, for now, only available to those who are legally registered as male or female, intersex infants should still be registered as males or females on their birth certificates, without having to undergo medically unnecessary treatments in the process.
“When I was a child, I had no say in what was done to me in order to make me ‘fit” in some acceptable category,” Dana said. “I continue to suffer the consequences of those decisions today. But, as an adult, I can take a stand. I am not male, I am not female, I am intersex, and I shouldn’t have to choose a gender marker for my official U.S identity document that isn’t me.”
OII-USA Founder and Executive Director Hida Viloria added, “Intersex people have been forced to live in the shadows for centuries, but those dark ages are over. Everyone deserves the right to have their gender accurately identified, including intersex people who do not identify as male or female. Recognizing our existence as equal citizens is a critical step in ending the discrimination we face. We are honored to have been able to work with Lambda Legal to expand its understanding of intersex people’s issues and needs, and extend them our deepest thanks for initiating this historic lawsuit. ”
Please join us in celebrating Intersex Awareness Day and equality for intersex people by sharing this news on Twitter (#intersexequality) or your other social media outlets.
Read more about the lawsuit, Zzyym v. Kerry, here: http://www.lambdalegal.org/blog/20151026_zzyym-intersex-denied-passport
For more information about intersex issues and how you can support Dana’s historic efforts, visit: http://oii-usa.org/