Oregon Court Officially Recognizes Non-Binary People

Courtesy of Sandy Shupe
Oregon has just taken a huge step for transgender and non-binary people: A court in Multnomah County, OR, allowed a person to legally identify as neither gender, The New York Times reports.

Friday's decision granted Portland resident Jamie (who prefers to use a first name and the gender-neutral pronouns "they,""them," and "their") to legally change their gender to non-binary. With letters from doctors in hand, Jamie and their lawyer, Lake Perriguey of Law Works, LLC, went to court expecting to be challenged, according to the Times. Instead, Circuit Court Judge Amy Holmes Hehn made history by allowing Jamie to be legally recognized as a gender other than "male" or "female."

"The sex of Jamie Shupe is hereby changed from female to non-binary. Notice of this legal change shall be posted in a public place in Multnomah County as required by law," the court decision reads.

"It feels amazing to be free from a binary sex classification system that inadequately addressed who I really am, a system in which I felt confined," Jamie told CNN.
While this particular decision only affects Jamie — people still have to petition individually if they wish to change their gender to "non-binary" in Oregon — the ruling represents progress for transgender and non-binary people nationwide. Though knowledge of how many Americans identify as non-binary or transgender is limited, a survey by the Williams Institute at the University of California, Los Angeles reports that transgender adults make up approximately 0.3% of the U.S. population.

"A growing number of countries already recognize non-binary genders, but this is the first order of its kind in the U.S. that we know of," Kris Hayashi, the executive director of the Transgender Law Center, told Refinery29 in a statement. "This is a historic step towards our government recognizing non-binary members of our community and ensuring they have access to identity documents that reflect who they are, just like everyone else."

In 2011, Australia began allowing citizens to choose an option other than "male" or "female" on their passports. New Zealand passed a similar policy in 2012, and Denmark and India followed in 2014. Facebook began allowing users to choose from around 50 gender options in 2014, but the U.S. proves to be far behind on the recognition of non-binary people.

Hopefully, Jamie's case will clear the way for more legal recognition of people who don't identify as "male" or "female" — and change the assumption of a rigid binary to acknowledge that gender is a spectrum.

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