In 2016, non-binary people won a victory in Oregon when Multnomah County Circuit Court Judge Amy Holmes Hehn legally changed Jamie Shupe's gender. Now, it's officially on Shupe's driver's license. On Thursday, Oregon became the first state to create a non-binary gender marker on drivers licenses.
Shupe, an Oregon resident, is an Army veteran who was designated male at birth (DMAB) but began to transition in 2013. Shupe, who according to The Oregonian prefers to be called "Jamie" rather than by a pronoun, said that being non-binary allows Shupe to acknowledge being DMAB and having a feminine gender identity. "I'm a mixture of both," Shupe said. "I consider myself as a third sex."
Whereas gender on licenses is usually marked with an M or F, Oregon residents now have the option of marking X to indicate not specified, which includes being non-binary. The change is effective July 1 and does not need a doctor's note to take place. People will self-identify and go through the normal license replacing process.
According to Basic Rights Oregon Co-Executive Director Nancy Haque, this change is momentous, reflecting that gender is a spectrum. "Our lives are so gendered, which is why it’s important that driver licenses and other forms of IDs recognize people who are non-binary," Haque said in a statement. "Removing barriers for people is critical to helping all of us live healthy, productive lives."
For those who don't know, a non-binary gender means an individual does not identify with either the "male" or "female" label. This could mean that they identify as both, something in-between, or as neither. Non-binary identities are as varied as an individual's gender expression, meaning that two non-binary people may identify in totally different ways, just as two women or two men might. Non-binary identities have been common throughout history and around the world. According to Basic Rights Oregon, even the United Nations already uses a non-binary gender marker, X.
For Oregonians, being able to demonstrate a non-binary gender on their licenses can be the first step toward public visibility for the rest of us who are non-binary. And there are quite a few of us: According to the results of a GLAAD survey released earlier this year, 12 percent of millennials identify as trans or gender non-conforming.
For those of us who can be out safely, having an X on our license is an incredible form of visibility. Hopefully, while Oregon is the first state, it won't be the last — there is some talk that California is also hoping to add another gender. If other states follow suit, this might indicate that there's a legislative shift towards being more accepting toward queer identities. That would be a victory for us all.