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American wins right to first legal non-binary identity

In a historic ruling, Jamie Shupe has won the right to legally choose neither female or male as their sex

Jamie Shupe, from Portland, Oregon, has won a petition to be classified as nonbinary, the first of its kind in the U.S according to legal experts.

The 52-year-old former army sergeant told the Guardian that the petition, “gives me a place to exist”. Oregon as a state allows law-sanctioned gender changes, but this is the first that recognizes a third option.

“This is the greatest victory of my life,” Shupe, who uses ‘they’ pronouns, told People Magazine. “I have won the right to legally and accurately define my sense of self and who I exist as. The judge has simply made me whole and corrected the injustices that were done to me by the medical and grossly inadequate government classification systems that I was forced to live under. Hopefully I have freed all of those like me to exist not only authentically, but legally.”

“I thought it was a reasonable classification for all the people like me who don't fit under this male or female umbrella,” they said when explaining the gender binary. They described the experience as “totally being liberated from the boundaries of being male or female.”

Kris Hayashi, the executive director of Oakland, California's Transgender Law Center, said that “a growing number of countries already recognize non-binary genders” and that this was “a historic step towards our government recognizing non-binary members of our community and ensuring they have access to identity documents that reflect who they are, just like everyone else.”

Shupe, born male, identified as female from a young age, and after an 18-year career in the army under the oppressive ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, Shupe struggled with their gender identity. At age 49, they began living as a woman.

In an email exchange with the New York Times, Shupe explained: “I was denied the right as a child and while in the military to ever explore my gender identity because of the hostility of society for violating gender norms or for expressing any form of gender variance. So I was literally doing in my 40s and early 50s what children are doing nowadays.”

After receiving hormone treatments and a name change with funding and support from the Transgender Legal Defense and Education Fund, Shupe realised later that they “didn’t fit” with either gender.

It was after moving to Portland in 2014 that Shupe decided to classify as nonbinary, as “nobody cares who or what you are in Portland.” They have no further plans to have surgery.

Shupe’s next step is to address the challenge of changing forms for driver’s licenses to include the nonbinary, according to their lawyers.