“Nonbinary” Is Now a Legally Recognized Gender in Oregon

A non-gendered bathroom sign at the Electronic Freedom Foundation. Photo by Cory Doctorow (Creative Commons).

Today marks a legal victory for Americans who don’t identify as either male or female: A judge in an Oregon circuit court has ruled that a resident can legally change their gender to nonbinary.

As first reported by The Daily Dot, Portland resident Jamie Shupe and lawyer Lake Perriguey filed a petition with the court to have Shupe’s gender be officially classified as nonbinary.

While some cities and states have legal ID card options that don’t require people to state a binary gender, this is the first time a court in the U.S. has ruled that nonbinary is a legal gender. The judge agreed. “It's a good day when our government recognizes the reality of people who have a different experience being human,” says Perriguey, who plans to create documents to let people file for nonbinary recognition on their own and upload them to his website by next week.

“As far as we know, this may be the first ruling of its kind in the U.S.,” Transgender Law Center Legal Director Ilona Turner said in an email to the Daily Dot. “This is an important step toward ensuring that nonbinary members of our community have access to identity documents that reflect who they are, just like everyone else.”

A few countries legally recognize genders beyond male and female on legal paperwork. In Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, and Nepal you can get a passport with the nonbinary gender marker X. In Bangladesh, you can get a passport listing the gender “other” and India issues passports with “T” for “transgender.” Add that all up and 1.5 billion people now live in countries where you don’t have to identify as male or female on passports. But the United States still allows only male or female to be listed on passports and doesn’t even have a policy for processing passports that list nonbinary genders, which creates all kinds of problems. Last year, an intersex Colorado resident filed suit against the State Department after being denied a passport because they didn’t choose either “male” or “female” on the application form.

This ruling in Oregon could be an important step toward having nonbinary genders recognized by the government. It’s not a be-all-end-all ruling, but it’s a start. “This is incredibly humbling to be the first person to accomplish this,” Shupe told the Daily Dot. “I hope the impact will be that it opened the legal doorway for all that choose to do so to follow me through. We don't deserve to be classified improperly against our will.”

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Article updated at 4:58pm with a correction and information from Lake Perriguey.

by Sarah Mirk
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Sarah Mirk is the former host of Bitch Media’s podcast Popaganda. She’s interested in gender, history, comics, and talking to strangers. You can follow her on Twitter

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