A Portland judge made apparent national history today, when she issued an order that a transgender Portlander's gender identity should be legally changed from "female" to "non-binary."
Jamie Shupe filed a petition in April, asking that Multnomah County Circuit Court grant a request for the gender change. According to the website the Daily Dot, which spoke with the plaintiff, Shupe is "an Army vet who began a gender transition in 2013 at age 49. Assigned a male gender at birth, Shupe initially petitioned to change their gender from male to female, then from female to nonbinary."
Court records show a hearing was held on Shupe's request earlier today. The Daily Dot obtained a copy of Circuit Judge Amy Holmes Hehn's ruling, which states "the sex of Jamie Shupe is hereby changed from female to non-binary." Shupe reportedly readied two letters from primary care doctors to influence the judge's ruling, but it wasn't required.
The binary gender system codified (in things like IDs) by many states has long been frustrating to people who don't identify with either gender. Relaxed rules around gender identity have taken incremental steps in recent years. In late 2014, we wrote about how the State of Oregon was making it easier for transgender citizens to change the gender designation on their state-issued IDs.
But this is something wholly different. According to experts the Daily Dot spoke with, it's likely the first time a ruling like this has occurred in the US. From the site:
The Daily Dot spoke with attorneys at the Transgender Law Center, who noted the historic nature of the case.
"As far as we know, this may be the first ruling of its kind in the U.S.," said Transgender Law Center's Legal Director Ilona Turner 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."
Mik Kinkead, a staff attorney at New York's Sylvia Rivera Law Project, called the Oregon court's decision "wonderful news."
Shupe was represented in this case by a local attorney who's made Oregon history before: Lake Perriguey. Perriguey was the lead attorney in a case challenging Oregon's definition of marriage, which resulted in same-sex marriage being legalized in the state.
Perriguey says he had no idea he might be having a hand in something unprecedented when he accompanied Shupe to court today. "I thought it was pretty routine," he says.
According to Perriguey the court appearance involved little more than he and Shupe submitting the required paperwork, and Holmes Hehn approving them.
"It was run-of-the-mill, though the judge did say I was pushing the envelope," Perriguey says. The attorney's represented loads of clients in sex change petitions, he says, but Shupe is the first to ask for a "non-binary" designation. Since filing the petition on Shupe's behalf, Perriguey says he's spoken with state's Department of Motor Vehicles about a "sex" designation beyond "M" or "F" on state IDs.
"They've been discussing this," he says.
Already, the brand new decision is spurring buzz.