Danni Askini Legal Fund
This is an archived page of a fundraiser to secure legal fees to help cover getting a 10-year US passport and apply for asylum in Sweden. With all of your help we reached our goal - and 9 months later, I am still safely in Sweden. I have given my final update which you can read here - I will take down this fundrasier soon. My husband Max and I have launched a fundraiser to help us resettle our stuff from Seattle to Stockholm as we rebuild our life here in Sweden. We are so so so grateful for all of the generosity and support that our friends, family, community members, and complete strangers have shown us. It is unbelievably kind and we are eternally grateful!
You can see our new fundraiser (with updates) here: https://www.gofundme.com/max-amp-danni-resettlement-fund
I am asking for people's help in raising funds to pay for legal assistance in Washington DC and Seattle to clarify my status with the US State Department, obtain sealed legal documents in the State of Maine, obtain legal support in Sweden, and help me remain in Sweden longer than intended until the mess with my passport can get figured out.
Since founding Gender Justice League in 2012 with friends and colleagues - my profile in Seattle's progressive community has grown immensely. I took a key role in combating the state's anti-transgender bathroom bills and ballot measures, have taken on a Mayor accused of sexual abuse, and championed key feminist issues such as reproductive health care access, transition related healthcare, banning reparative therapy, non-binary gender markers, combating hate crimes, and keeping police accountable. This work has garnered a lot of support - but it has also garnered a lot of negativity, hatred, and targetting.
In May and June 2018 in the run up to Trans Pride Seattle and following increased attention by several articles on the MeToo Movement and a recent bout of muteness following a vocal surgery - I started receiving very specific threats from anonymous email sources via. Gurellia Mail. These threats included photos and personal details that could have only been obtained through stalking and doxxing. For the first time as an activist the threats included details about people close to me such as friends and family - and threats to do harm to those people.
When I began engaging law enforcement, their assessment of the situation was that there were "no leads to go on” and that "there is only on ecybercrimes detective at SPD who can investigate these abuses, and they have a 3 month backlog. They almost only ever work on internet crimes against children.” The recommendation of the FBI and Police? Hire a private security firm or get a gun and learn how to use it.
Following these threats local fascists group "The Proud Boys” rallied and protested at Trans Pride Seattle - a 10,000 person event that I have run since 2013. The day before Trans Pride - I was also rear ended in a hit and run seriously damaging my car and pushing me off of the road and into a gutter. The assailants were three young white men with buzzcuts in a green ford pickup truck from Oregon. There was a gun visible in the back of the truck in a gun rack. These men shouted anti-queer, anti-trans, and anti-Jewish epithets out the window. Without the intervention of other drivers - I believethese men would have attempted to harm me further. The assailants drove off. When I called Seattle Police, I wastold that since both my vehicle was in working condition and I was insured and uninjured that I could "simply file a police report online”.
This lack of ability to secure protection from law enforcement combined with the increased violence and rhetoric from the Alt-Right in the Northwest led me to the decision to leave the country and return to Sweden where I have friends and family three days after the incident I purchased a plane ticket and started letting people know I was leaving.
It was at this point I had to renew my passport as it had recently expired. I attended an appointment Wednesday June 27th - where I completed a renewal for a passport form and requested and paid for both a full 10 year passport and passport card. When turning in the application I talked to the person receiving it and explained that I was fleeing violence and didn't want to disclose my home address as I am in the State of Washington Confidential Address program. We quickly found a solution and the service was polite and warm.
As has been covered (sometimes not completely accurately), I received a call on Friday June 29th from either a supervisor, manager, or the head of the Seattle Passport office that my passport application was denied. I was first asked if “You have ever used other names?” To which I truthfully replied with my name at birth and my name during foster care. I was then asked “Are you transgender?” I truthfully replied “Yes".
I was then asked to produce new documentation proving that I was
1. A US Citizen by providing an “Original birth certificate signed by a physician or a sworn affidavit of my birth in the United States by that physician.”
2. Any previous names and all name changes including court transcripts, orders, or declarations and all associated files and materials.
3. A certification from my doctor that I had undergone and "completed”gender transition.
At that time I explained to the Seattle Passport Office that I was aware of the State Department's policy for transgender people's passports as I consulted with the Clinton State Department on the drafting. That I was not requesting to change my name or gender on my passport, and thus didn't believe I needed to produce these documents.
At this point the person on the phone became angry, frustrated, and rude: She stated "We need to document and verify every person's legal identity, their claim to citizenship, and that they have undergone the surgery.”
I then explained that my name changes and legal gender marker change happened while I was a minor and during child welfare proceedings as I entered and exited foster care in 1998 in Maine - on the other side of the country. To obtain the records she was requesting I would need to travel from Seattle to Maine to appear before a judge to unseal sensitive child welfare records that are not generally available to the public. I reitterated that I had produced a birth certificate from the State of Maine that included my full legal name, my gender, my date of birth, and my place of birth and that I believed I had sufficiently established both my identity (by providing my previous passport and driver's license).
She came back with "Well we have no evidence related to previous names or your sex change, so we need that or you don't get a passport. You can go to Maine to get it and if a Judge won't unseal it you can get a sworn affidavit to that effect.”
I also explained to the State Deparment official that I am a Human Rights Defender fleeing violence and seeking state assistance to travel to Sweden to continue my human rights work in a safe environment. I explained that as a State Department official she should know that under the UN Convention on the Rights of Human Rights Defenders, of which the USA is a signatory, I had a right to seek and receive state protection - in this case, my passport so I can leave — and that she should simply renew my already legally valid and previously accepted 2007 passport without delay.
At this point, the State Department official told me that:
“Your 2007 passport should never have been issued and was never legally valid because you fraudulantly obtained it. I will send you the list of documents we need by email. Ok. Good bye.”
And then hung up the phone.
I was given an extensive list of documentation I would need to be given a 10-year passport. After rallying support and the intervention of my US Congress Person, I was issued a temporary 2 year passport. This passport contains a "endorsement”that states the following:
"This passport expires on JUL 01 2020. It cannot be replaced without the express authorization of the department of state.”
”A full validity Passport book and card may be authorized upon receipt of required documentation.”
These “endorsements” have subjected me to additional scruitny and questioning upon entering both the United Kingdom and Sweden - where I was repeatedly asked if my passport was "not legally valid” and "what documents I hadn't provided.” This second-class passport has greatly restricted the number of countries I am safe to travel to. Countries in which transgender people experience widespread human rights abuses may be hostile, refuse to allow entry, or arrest and detain me.
I have tried in vein to get ahold of consular officers at the US Consulate in Sweden or to email, file complaints, or call US Consular affairs in the United States over the last month while staying with family in Stockholm. Before returning home to Seattle there are a number of complicated outstanding questions that need to be answered and completed. I am asking for people's help to achieve the following.
GOALS OF THIS CAMPAIGN:
1. Hire a lawyer in Maine to help obtain unsealed name change orders and a new birth certificate.
2. Hire a lawyers in Seattle and DC to help clarify and understand from the State Department if my case has been referred to the US Attorney for Western Washington for prosecution.
Or, if the State Department Official misspoke when she accused me of committing fraud in obtaining my 2007 passport. This crime is punishable by up to 10 years in Prison and a $100,000 fine. Under 18 U.S. Code § 1542 which you can read here: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/1542
If possible I am seeking to receive an apology or statement of reassurance that if I return I will not be prosecuted
3. Hire a laywer in Sweden to try to help me obtain a 10-year US Passport from the US Embassy here. As well as help me identify options legal options to remain in Sweden longer than 90 days should #2 become extremely hard to obtain.
4. Provide me with funds to remain in Sweden until I can clarify if I will face prosecution upon returning to the United States.
Given the open hostility towards transgender rights by the current administration (which has repealed Title IX guidance, issued a transgender military ban, repealed Affordable Care Act protections, and defunded federal law enforcement assistance in prosecution of anti-transgender hate crimes). Combined with the open hostility and subsequent "radio silence” from the State Department - I have serious concerns that I maybe unsafe in returning to the United States and if I do so without first gaining a better understanding of the State Department and US Attorney's office's position I may be arrested, detained, and prosecuted for a federal office that is generated based on a discriminatory policy that treats transgender people differently than all other applicants for US Passports.
First off - Thank you all SO MUCH for your endlessly generous donations in support of my legal fund. I have exciting news to report - and somewhat sad news to report.
1st off - After 10 months of negotiation, legal appeals, and fighting with the Department of State, I have been granted a fully valid 10-year passport with the help of Rep. Pramila Jayapal and her staff.
2nd - I am well into my asylum process here in Sweden having completed all my interviews. I am now awaiting the preliminary decision on my claim. I intend to appeal if I am denied - as I intend to stay in Sweden as it is still unsafe for me to return to the USA.
3rd - The sad news: My case before the United Nations Human Rights Council still has not been resolved, I have not been given any assistance in investigating or prosecuting the harassment, death threats, and attempt on my life in the USA. I have not been able to secure a guarantee of safe return from the State Department, or an investigation into the discriminatory conduct and statements by DOS staff while trying to obtain a passport. I have recently been subject to a new investigation for statements made in the Swedish press about having survived a sexual assault by a Seattle Police Officer last year. This has all continued my fear of return to the United States. With the consultation of my family, lawyers, human rights defenders, and many organizations I have made the decision to remain in Sweden for the foreseeable future until there is a safer atmosphere in the USA for trans people.
4th - My husband Max will soon be joining me in Sweden!! YAY! After 10 grueling months apart and struggling to maintain two households in Seattle and Stockholm - Max has landed a job working here in Sweden. For folks who are able to help us relocate, and help me to resettle here in Sweden and make a new home - we have launched a GoFundMe campaign to help us with moving cost, the remaining legal fees I have left, and to help me launch a YouTube Channel called "Dissonance". If you can, please consider supporting our efforts to relocate to Sweden and reestablish our life together after this extremely long period apart! https://www.gofundme.com/max-amp-danni-resettlement-fund
In summary - I am eternally grateful for the support so many members of the community have shown! Your financial assistance helped me to get my 10-year passport, secure the best legal representation possible in both the USA and Sweden - and to allow me to remain here while things continue to feel unsafe and remain uncertain in the USA. I can't express my gratitude enough to you all.
With my warmest and sincerest gratitude
First - WOW !! And THANK YOU
Second - A lot has changed since my last update. After several attempts with a team of U.S. lawyers pulling records from two states, it has been made clear to us that I cannot reobtain a U.S. passport.
Third - As a result I am having to swiftly shift gears and move all my energy toward securing a permanent status in Sweden. I am now working with three of Sweden's best immigration lawyers to put together a case. As such, I have to remain in Sweden and secure longer term housing, meals, and transportation. The funds provided so far have greatly offset the expenses I've had to date and have paid my retainer for new lawyers; so thank you.
Stretch Goal: My stretch goal is to cover housing expenses until the end of October, food, and transportation.
I will be blacking out social media but this will remain up!