“Non-Binary” Now Legally Recognized As A Gender In Oregon, A First In The U.S.

In just two paragraphs, an Oregon judge struck a landmark decision for gender rights with a ruling that a person can legally identify as non-binary — rather than having to choose between “male” or “female” — on official documentation. This is a huge step forward for the growing number of people whose gender identities don’t conform to the limiting male/female dichotomy. Although non-binary people (that is, people who don’t identify as solely male or female) are increasingly being recognized around the world and have long been a part of various cultures throughout history, the Oregon ruling is the first of its kind in America. Finally, non-binary Americans are beginning to gain the legal recognition they need and deserve. This is, like, one of three things that isn’t completely horrifying garbage in the news right now, so pause to take in the moment.

The ruling came about after military veteran Jamie Shupe petitioned the court to legally change their gender (Jamie uses the pronoun “they” rather than “he” or “she,” and prefers to use only their first name) to non-binary. Jamie was born with male biology, but began taking hormone treatments to transition to a woman. During the treatments, Jamie realized that they no longer identified as female, but also didn’t identify as male. As a result, they applied to legally change their gender designation from “female” to “non-binary,” which Circuit Court Judge Amy Holmes Hehn allowed Friday.

In an interview with The Daily Dot about the decision, Jamie said the ruling had hopefully “opened the legal doorway for all that choose to do so to follow me through,” and emphasized that non-binary people “don’t deserve to be classified improperly against our will.”

Legal recognition is a major factor here. Over your lifetime you’ll have to fill out a huge amount of documents requiring you to specify your gender. Imagine being forced to choose between “male” and “female” when you don’t identify as either one, every single time you apply for anything, ever. Making the recognition of non-binary identities status quo for official documents will go a long way towards creating greater inclusivity.

In addition to taking an important step toward equality for non-binary people, experts say the ruling may also help to progress rights for other groups by, for example, raising more awareness around North Carolina’s anti-trans bathroom law (which is still in effect despite the Justice Department suing the state). It could also encourage the public to develop more inclusive and fluid ideas of gender that don’t force people to fit into one of only two options, because there are actually a lot of options for identifying yourself.

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Hopefully this will lead to the end of (eh, would even settle for moderate mitigation of) hostility and misunderstanding toward people who identify as non-binary. A 2008 study found that non-binary people were more likely than trans people who identify as either male or female to suffer violence, police brutality, and harassment, and the government recognizing their identity is the first step toward combatting the hatred.

In terms of expanding the ruling, there’s still a lot of work to be done. Now that it’s in place, it needs to be taken to the state and federal level. As Jamie told The Daily Dot, the next aim is “to tackle the Oregon DMV,” which doesn’t yet provide documents that include non-binary gender identities. Similarly, federal documents exclusively use the terms “male” and “female” for identifying one’s gender.

However, the ruling does provide an extremely important starting point for granting non-binary people full equality — and for that, it should be celebrated.