On Friday afternoon, a hugely exciting report by Mary Emily O'Hara of The Daily Dot revealed that a landmark moment has just occurred for gender in the United States. Specifically, for those people who identify as nonbinary, non-conforming to the prevailing culture's male-female gender classifications. As O'Hara detailed in disclosing the historic news, a circuit court in Oregon has ruled that Jamie Shupe will be allowed to legally change their gender from "female" to "nonbinary," making this the first time a court has so recognized the nonbinary community.
First things first, do yourself a favor and check out O'Hara's full report ― it's fantastic, and it hammers home what a colossal step this is for Americans who don't conform to the traditional gender binary. Thanks to the ruling by Judge Amy Holmes Hehn, Shupe will now get to have their true gender recognized by the state, and it could open doors for legal recognition of nonbinary people across the country.
That's not to say that the issue is settled law at this point, though, because issues that fall along conventional lines of political tumult are always ripe for appeal, and the Republican Party (and American conservatives on the whole) have been very resistant to progress on gender identity over the past several years. You don't have to look any further than the anti-transgender so-called "bathroom bill" that went into effect in North Carolina to know that.
But the battle for sober-minded legal reforms and judicial victories that respect the rights and identities of minority, oft-overlooked, and stigmatized groups has to start somewhere, and Shupe's success is a huge step in the right direction. Needless to say, the fact that this news comes by way of a court ruling is significant, too ― with this ruling on the books, there's now some precedent for nonbinary residents of other states to rely on, if they want to mount similar efforts.
And if this recognition were ever extended to the federal level ― a far cry from the judicial and political reality as it is now, but a possibility strongly brought to mind by Friday's news ― it would not only be a stirring civil rights achievement, but it would also help the country become more informed about its nonbinary residents. Both in terms of increased visibility and the opportunities for learning it provides, and in representation; at present, the U.S. census only allows respondents to select "male" or "female," a binary choice that overlooks a whole lot of people.