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Intersex US Navy veteran receives first ever gender 'X' passport

An intersex US Navy veteran has become the first recipient of a US passport with its gender marked as 'X', for people who don't identify as male or female.

Dana Zzyym, from Colorado, was identified as the recipient by her law firm Lambda Legal on Wednesday, shortly after the State Department announced the document had been issued. 

Zzyym, who uses 'they/them' pronouns, first asked for the change while filling out their passport form in 2015, when the 63 year-old declared they were intersex and wrote 'X' on the form, instead of checking the M box for male or F box for female.  

The momentous modification will become an option for all Americans applying for passports from early 2022.

It comes after the department announced in June that it was changing its gender requirements for the forms to be more inclusive of the LGBT community, after facing backlash from some of its members. 

The inaugural intersex passport was for Dana Zzyym, a 63-year-old intersex activist and military vet who has been locked in a legal battle with the State Department for more than six years, petitioning for a shift in policy to allow intersex passports. Zzyym was denied such a document in 2015

The United States has issued the first US passport with 'X' as a gender for those who identify as neither a man nor a woman, the State Department announced Wednesday, while refusing to reveal who the passport was issued to

Zzyym sued the state department in 2015, petitioning for a shift in policy that would allow for the introduction of intersex-gendered passports.  

Zzyym, an intersex activist and former sailor - as well as the first military veteran in the United States to seek a non-binary passport - was initially denied the identification document during a renewal process in 2015, after failing to check male or female on an application. 

According to court documents from the subsequent lawsuit, Zzyym wrote 'intersex' above the boxes marked 'M' and 'F' and requested an 'X' gender marker instead in a separate letter.

Zzyym - who uses the gender-neutral pronouns 'they,' 'them' and 'their' - was born with ambiguous physical sexual characteristics but was raised as a boy, and subsequently underwent several surgeries that failed to make them appear fully male, court filings reveal.  

Zzyym served in the Navy for several years as a young man, but came to identify as intersex while working and studying at Colorado State University. 

The department's denial of Zzyym's passport prevented the intersex activist from being able to travel to a meeting of Organization Intersex International in Mexico, prompting the landmark federal discrimination lawsuit.

However, Wednesday's announcement from the State Department - the federal body responsible for the country's foreign policy and international relations - seems to suggest that the matter is close to being, or already has been, settled.  

Many consider the move a milestone in the recognition of the rights of people who do not identify as male or female. The State Department's newly appointed special diplomatic envoy for LGBTQ rights, Jessica Stern, was among those praising the passport update. 

Zzyym served in the Navy as a young man but later came to identify as intersex while working and studying at Colorado State University. They were born with ambiguous physical sexual characteristics but was raised as a boy, and uses the gender-neutral pronouns 'they,' 'them' and 'their'

The State Department's newly appointed special diplomatic envoy for LGBTQ rights, Jessica Stern, called the change to the longstanding federal documents historic Wednesday morning, saying the modification is set to bring the government documents in line with the 'lived reality'

Stern called the development historic and celebratory Wednesday morning, saying the change is set to bring the government documents in line with the 'lived reality.' 

She added that there is a wide spectrum of human sex characteristics that is more nuanced than what was reflected in the previous two designations - male and female.

'When a person obtains identity documents that reflect their true identity, they live with greater dignity and respect,' Stern said.

In the statement released Wednesday morning, State Department spokesperson Ned Price further revealed that the department is looking forward to making the 'X' gender marker available to all passport applicants early next year.

In the statement released Wednesday morning, State Department spokesperson Ned Price further revealed that the department is looking forward to making the 'X' gender marker available to all passport applicants early next year

'I want to reiterate, on the occasion of this passport issuance, the Department of State's commitment to promoting the freedom, dignity, and equality of all people – including LGBTQI+ persons,' Price said in the statement after announcing the change.

The department initially announced in June plans of adding a third gender marker for nonbinary, intersex, and gender-nonconforming people, but disclaimed that the process would take time, due to required, extensive updates to its computer systems. 

A department official also added that the passport application and system update with the 'X' designation option still need to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget, which approves all government forms, before they can be issued.

The department initially announced in June plans of adding a third gender marker for nonbinary, intersex, and gender-nonconforming people, but disclaimed that the process would take time, due to required, extensive updates to its computer systems 

The department now also allows applicants to self-select their gender as male or female, no longer requiring them to provide medical certification if their gender did not match that listed on their other identification documents.

The United States joins a handful of countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Nepal and Canada, in allowing its citizens to designate a gender other than male or female on their passports.

Stern said her office planned to talk about the United States' experience with the change in its interactions around the world and she hopes that might help inspire other governments to offer the option.

'We see this as a way of affirming and uplifting the human rights of trans and intersex and gender-nonconforming and nonbinary people everywhere,' she said.