ORLANDO | Six months after a Central Florida judge denied her petition for a gender marker change, actress and intersex activist Juleigh Mayfield has been granted the change request in a South Florida court.
Judge Samantha Ruiz Cohen of the 11th Judicial Circuit Court of Florida granted Sept. 17 Mayfield’s request for a gender marker change on all her legal documents, including her birth certificate.
“Because of everything going on, we were all on Zoom and it only took 10, 15 minutes,” Mayfield says. “They swore me in, I met the judge and we had a nice conversation.”
The process was quicker and much easier this time, Mayfield says, compared to earlier this year when her request was denied by Judge Michael Kraynick of the Ninth Judicial Circuit Court of Florida.
“It being a re-election year for him, I can only assume that he felt that it would be detrimental to his career to rule in my favor,” Mayfield says.
Mayfield, who is intersex, was born 47XXY, meaning she has one additional sex chromosome. This left Mayfield neither completely biologically male nor female, but both. Raised male by her parents, Mayfield transitioned to female after having to be placed on estrogen due to health problems and to save her life.
Dr. Irene Pons, an associate lecturer at the University of Central Florida and friend of Mayfield, and her class assisted Mayfield in her initial petition to the court after her birth state of Alabama refused to change the sex on her birth certificate unless she could prove she had transitional surgery.
“I explained to them that I didn’t have to have surgery because I was born both,” Mayfield said in a Watermark interview in January.
After Kraynick denied Mayfield’s request, she and Pons started working with Simone Chriss of the Southern Legal Counsel on the appeal process.
“Simone got together with some of her colleagues, discussed my case and they said we think instead of appealing the judge’s decision, you should re-file the initial petition in another part of Florida that is less conservative than the ninth judicial circuit,” Mayfield says.
Mayfield’s case was taken on by Miami attorney Elizabeth Schwartz and filed in Miami-Dade County. After months of waiting, Mayfield got the call and she appeared before the judge via a Zoom call.
“[Judge Cohen] looked at me in the camera and said congratulations, welcome to being a woman,” Mayfield recalls. “I was shocked and just started to cry. I’m blessed that Elizabeth had done her due diligence in educating the judge about intersex people. She told me ‘Florida supports it and we’ll sign off on it’ and now Alabama will be required to follow suit.”
The ruling is the first ever in Florida to cover intersex individuals. Mayfield says she is thankful to everyone who helped her along the way.
“I had moments where I stopped and cried because I thought this really is making a difference for our community and I couldn’t have done it without the help of Irene, Elizabeth, the students of UCF and everybody that kind of championed me along the way,” she says. “On one end I should be happy for myself, and I am, but I’m more excited about what it means for the community and what it means for everybody else that may really be struggling with trying to quantify their identity and existence.”