An Oregon judge’s groundbreaking decision this month to grant a legal sex change from female to “non-binary” has hit its first roadblock–at the state’s Department of Motor Vehicles.
While Oregon law doesn’t specifically limit sex to male or female, the DMV’s computer system only offers those two options, and officials say that making a system wide change won’t happen overnight.
“We have statutory and administrative rule changes, we have to change our computer systems and contact our external partners,” DMV spokesperson David House told The Oregonian. “It’s not as simple as flipping a switch.”
Experts and officials say the June 10 ruling appears to be the first legal recognition of non-binary gender identity in the United States. Oregon Army veteran Jamie Shupe petitioned the court for a change from female to non-binary, which Shupe told The Oregonian is a better fit than male or female.
“I was assigned male at birth due to biology,” Shupe told the daily newspaper. “I’m stuck with that for life. My gender identity is definitely feminine. My gender identity has never been male, but I feel like I have to own up to my male biology. Being non-binary allows me to do that. I’m a mixture of both. I l myself as a third sex.”
Shupe’s attorney Lake James Perriguey, who has a long track record of LGBTQ rights victories including successfully overturning Oregon’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, hinted at larger paradigm shift beyond the recognition of a third gender.
“What Jamie has done is unique,” Perriguey told The Oregonian. “I don’t see how a person’s gender has anything to do with driving, it doesn’t, but biometric data is used to track people, for better or worse.”
The United States may be behind the curve in recognizing a third legal sex–Australia, Bangladesh, Denmark, India, Nepal, and New Zealand each offer options beyond M and F–but decoupling legal sex from identity documents altogether would change the legal landscape for transgender and non-binary people.