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Jamie Shupe (Facebook)

"Pushing the envelope"

Judge grants retired Army sergeant right to legally change sex to “non-binary”

By WITW Staff on June 13, 2016

In a ruling that some experts said was the first of its kind in the U.S., on Friday an Oregon judge granted a petition to allow an Oregon resident to legally reclassify as non-binary — neither male or female. Jamie Shupe of Portland, Oregon, a retired U.S. Army sergeant who prefers to use only a first name and pronouns such as “they” and “their” instead of singular pronouns, said that despite growing up strongly identifying as female, that tendency was suppressed — first by a strict mother, and then by 18-year stint in the Army. “It was like totally living in fear,” said Jamie of life in the armed forces, during a time when homosexuals were banned from service. “It was like a Pandora’s box that I couldn’t open.”

Upon leaving the Army, however, Jamie fought the military to be classified as a female on the discharge papers — and won. And following retirement, Jamie underwent hormone treatments to transition to a woman in 2013. After having to deal with “neighbors yelling at me for being in women’s clothing” while living in Pittsburgh, Jamie moved to Portland where, Jamie said, “nobody cares who or what you are.” But in the end, Jamie said in an interview on Friday, neither sex really fit.

An undated handout photo of Jamie Shupe, whose petition to be legally classified as nonbinary was granted in Oregon. A judge granted the petition to allow Shupe to legally choose neither sex and be classified as nonbinary: an important development for transgender Americans while civil rights and sexual identity are in the national spotlight, advocates and legal experts said. (Sandy Shupe via The New York Times)
An undated handout photo of Jamie Shupe, whose petition to be legally classified as nonbinary was granted in Oregon. (Sandy Shupe via The New York Times)

In Oregon, changing one’s sex is relatively painless — one submits paperwork, a filing fee, and a notice of 14 days, and then a judge reviews and either accepts or denies the petition. When Jamie petitioned judge Amy Holmes Hehn for non-binary status, two doctors testified on Jamie’s behalf that the petitioner was neither male or female. Hehn told Jamie’s lawyer, Lake Perriguey, that the petition was “pushing the envelope.” Perriguey replied, “We’re not, really. The envelope just needs to get bigger.”

Read the full story at The New York Times.


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