Oregon court rules that ‘nonbinary’ is a legal gender

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People hold up rainbow flags during an lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) parade. Photo by Samuel Kubani/AFP/Getty Images

People hold up rainbow flags during an lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) parade. Photo by Samuel Kubani/AFP/Getty Images

An Oregon circuit court has ruled that a resident can change their legal gender to “nonbinary,” a gender identity that is neither male nor female.

Jamie Shupe, who lives in Portland, Oregon, filed a petition on April 27 for what the court designates a legal “sex change.” Judge Amy Holmes Hehn granted the change on Friday.

“I was assigned male at birth due to biology,” Shupe told the Oregonian. “I’m stuck with that for life. My gender identity is definitely feminine. My gender identity has never been male, but I feel like I have to own up to my male biology. Being non-binary allows me to do that. I’m a mixture of both. I consider myself as a third sex.”

This is the first instance in the country that a court has ruled that “nonbinary” is a legal gender identification, according to the Transgender Law Center.

Shupe uses the honorific “Mx.,” a gender-neutral alternative to “Mr.” or “Ms.” which was added to the Oxford-English dictionary last year. The honorific has become increasingly popular among people who do not identify with either a male or female gender identity.

Shupe, 52, served in the military before retiring in 2000 and had previously petitioned for a legal change to “female,” but that label was never accurate to Shupe, the Oregonian reported.

The ruling fits within current Oregon laws, which allow residents to petition for a legal gender change and do not require that change to be “male” or “female,” according to attorney Lake J. Perriguey, who worked on Shupe’s petition.

“Oregon law has allowed for people to petition a court for a gender change for years, but the law doesn’t specify that it has to be either male or female,” Perriguey told CNN.

The decision does not necessarily mean that Shupe will be able to list a nonbinary gender on legal documents. Currently, Oregon does not allow genders other than “male” or “female” on driver’s licenses, according to Nancy Haque, a co-executive director for Basic Rights Oregon. And federal documents such as passports require the listed gender to be “male” or “female.”

Heather Betz, lead attorney for the LGBT Law Project at the New York Legal Assistance Center, said the decision was “amazing news.”

“Not everyone’s gender fits within our society’s construction of either male or female,” she told the PBS NewsHour. “The next step is for agencies issuing identification documents like the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Passport Office to acknowledge this judge’s order and issue identity documents that reflect Mx. Shupe’s identity and others like them.”

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