Six months ago, retired army sergeant Jamie Shupe became the first legally non-binary U.S. citizen after an Oregon judge granted a petition to reclassify their gender. The landmark decision, according to attorney Toby Adams, head of the Intersex and Genderqueer Recognition Project (IGRP), was a shock — no-one, she said, thought “it was going to happen his year.” By September, Adams had helped an intersex client, Sara Kelly Keenan, successfully petition for a non-binary gender in Santa Cruz, California. Keenan and Shupe remain the only legally non-binary people in the nation — for now. But demand for third gender designations, according to Adams, is skyrocketing.
In the wake of Shupe and Keenan’s success, dozens of people from around the country began contacting Adam’s IGRP Facebook page in hope of being able to change their legal gender designation. Three San Francisco residents are currently awaiting a ruling to see whether they will be granted non-binary status, and Adams says she’s in the midst of filing even more.
“The people who are contacting me, it’s very personal,” said Adams. “I hear a lot of, ‘I’m being recognized now, my entire life I’ve had to check these boxes that make me have to lie about how I really am.’ They really feel like they’re being heard and seen for their true selves … finally being respected.”
In November, Shupe went a step further and was granted a new birth certificate that read, “Sex: Unknown.” By December, Keenan too had been granted an updated birth certificate that read, “Intersex.” According to Keenan, even the California Department of Motor Vehicles is currently working toward being able to provide drivers with a third gender designation.
For Char Crawford, one of the petitioners awaiting a decision in San Francisco, these legal recognitions are a necessary part of helping non-binary individuals to be accepted by society. “Legal validation,” Crawford explained, “is an important step towards acknowledgement and acceptance in the society in which we live and work.”
Read the full story at NBC News.