Oregon Court Allows Individuals To Identify As Neither Male Nor Female

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Connor Moldo Contributor
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Oregon court recognizes non-binary status for residents that do not identify as either male or female, according to The Oregonian.

Tackling this dilemma has been controversial for lawmakers over the last decade, as the Obama administration encouraged local and state governments to fund programs protecting transgender individuals. Most recently, President Trump has sought to reverse the previous administration’s efforts by saying transgender bathrooms are not essential in an educational setting.

“Having a legal recognition of non-binary gender is something folks have wanted for a long time,” said Arli Christian, the National Center for Transgender Equality’s state policy counsel.

Current laws in Oregon protect individuals who have undergone surgical procedures for gender change but do not make any references to individuals that do not identify as either male or female.

Section 33.460 of the Oregon Revised Statutes says courts “may order a legal change of sex if the court determines that the individual has undergone surgical, hormonal or other treatment appropriate for that individual for the purpose of gender transition and that sexual reassignment has been completed.”

Judges in Oregon and across the nation have been hesitant to grant non-binary status because there are no laws in place that address this issue. Some counties in Oregon have added “individual choice” as reasoning for why an individual would like non-binary status.

“Non-binary folks and trans folks are at high risk for hate crimes,” said Lorena Reynolds, an attorney who frequently represents these individuals. “Every time they show their ID and that gender marker does not reflect their presentation, they’re subject to harassment. As we move toward a third option, hopefully, that will alleviate a lot of that concern.”

The movement for non-binary status was sparked in June 2016 when a Multnomah County judge permitted Portland resident Jamie Shupe to change Shupe’s sex to non-binary in a landmark decision.

“It’s not that these folks didn’t exist before,” Reynolds said. “They’ve always been in our communities. They’ve always been in our families. We just haven’t allowed them legal recognition.”

The decision regarding Shupe has compelled Oregon DMV Officials to consider making changes to the gender mark on driver’s licenses. Furthermore, an Oregon house bill will allow citizens to change their genders on their birth certificates.

“I think there’s been a creeping consciousness and public awareness around gender identity, and this has created opportunities for people to advocate for removing barriers,” said Amy Herzfeld-Copple, co-executive director of Basic Rights Oregon.