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An Oregon judge has allowed a person to legally change gender identities, not from male to female or vice versa but to non-binary. Kristian Foden-Vencil of Oregon Public Broadcasting has the story.
KRISTIAN FODEN-VENCIL, BYLINE: Jamie Shupe is a 52-year-old retired Army tank mechanic. Shupe was born male, got married and had a child.
JAMIE SHUPE: I was in a deep, dark depression because I had boxed myself in into this male identity that I couldn't stand anymore.
FODEN-VENCIL: Three years ago Shupe decided enough is enough
J. SHUPE: I told family members we either let me out of this box or I'm shooting myself in the head. Things really got that bad.
FODEN-VENCIL: Shupe is no longer legally male or female and prefers the pronoun they. So they left the military, moved into a cabin near Deep Creek Lake, Md., transitioned by taking hormones and grew breasts. But Shupe still didn't feel fully female.
J. SHUPE: Nobody can accept this thing that you can't be female and have a penis that just makes people's heads explode. And that was another reason why I wanted out of this female classification because I have no intention of removing my genitals.
FODEN-VENCIL: Shupe is now legally non-binary first, a first for the U.S. In a Portland Park, Shupe walks with their wife of 29 years, Sandy. She says the transition and the gender changes have been tough, but they still love each other.
SANDY SHUPE: What if your spouse was in an accident, and they were totally - they were like disfigured? Would you still not love that person, just because of what they look like on the outside? That's my take on it. Jamie is still the same.
FODEN-VENCIL: Sandy says her spouse is more pleasant to be around, especially since they moved west three years ago.
J. SHUPE: Finding Oregon was, you know - all you have to do is go on the Human Rights Campaign website and look up transgender and LGBT protection laws. And the West Coast just lights up the map for protections.
FODEN-VENCIL: Shupe tears up with gratitude, but that didn't stop them from pushing for more. A few months ago, Shupe applied to the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles to be listed as non-binary. The agency refused, so they asked a Multnomah County judge for the new gender designation and won.
DMV spokesman David House says as of now the state's not fighting the decision. Instead, his agency is looking into how to comply.
DAVID HOUSE: We expect there would be a computer system change required, probably form changes. Also, it's very likely that it would require some legislative and administrative rule changes.
FODEN-VENCIL: House expects that in a few months, Oregon driving license applications will have new gender designations in addition to male and female.
HOUSE: Is it a third box or will it require multiple boxes? We just don't know the answer to those questions. We're going to need to study that.
NANCY HAQUE: Just having this change will help move us in the right direction.
FODEN-VENCIL: That's Nancy Haque, with LGBTQ advocates Basic Rights Oregon. She says while there are 50 ways to identify gender on Facebook, a third box is probably enough for now.
HAQUE: I don't think anybody's asking the DMV or any other big institution to have 50 boxes.
FODEN-VENCIL: Fifty boxes, three boxes - Jamie Shupe says they're just thrilled to have broken such a long-standing monolithic barrier.
J. SHUPE: Most of the excitement is feeling the freedom of being, like, set free of this classification system that I do not agree with.
FODEN-VENCIL: Having a third gender on an Oregon driving license is one thing, but people still have to choose male or female when booking a flight and when applying for a passport or health insurance.
Meanwhile, India just became the largest country in the world to have an official third option following in the footsteps of countries like Pakistan, Australia and Germany. For NPR News, I'm Kristian Foden-Vencil in Portland.
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