An Oregon judge today declared Jamie Shupe could legally shed the designation of male or female, Shupe felt free.
An elated Shupe said “I have my life back,” “I’m not a male. I’m not a female.” As a transgender person with male biology and distinctly feminine traits, I believe myself to be a unique variation of nature. I am not ashamed of who I am. I was not born into the wrong body. My genitals are not a birth defect. And I am not to be sterilized by psychiatry and a medical establishment that has run amok.
Army Sergeant Shupe, 49 years living as a man
After a historic court ruling, I am free. I am the first non-binary person in the United States to be officially recognized. I refused to be classified. And now, I’ve been vindicated.
Shupe appears to be the first person in the United States who has successfully petitioned for a non-binary gender classification.
“Classic gender markers don’t fit everybody,” Gorenberg said, calling the petition significant for helping people “exist without labels that don’t accurately describe them”.
At a recent support group meeting in Portland, where Shupe lives, a young woman tearfully thanked Shupe for broadening the conversation about gender classifications. Shupe, a former army sergeant assigned male at birth and listed as female in discharge papers, told the woman, “I didn’t do this just for myself.”
Shupe, who prefers the pronoun “they”, grew up in southern Maryland, in a family with eight children. Shupe recalls feeling like an outcast, being admonished for acting like a “sissy” and without any role models, struggling to articulate feelings of a gender mismatch.
Jamie Shupe, 3 years living as a woman
At age 49, retired from the military, married to a woman and raising a daughter, Shupe began to unravel.
“I felt like I was at a breaking point,” Shupe said, “like I was trapped.”
With a supportive spouse, Shupe moved to a secluded cabin in the woods and began taking hormones.
“I figured I was a transgender woman. My thinking was, well, I’m not a male,” Shupe said.
Sandy Shupe said the transition was difficult at times.
“This is the person I’ve spent most of my adult life with,” she said. “We have a child together. I have always said, old age and rocking chairs. That’s still my thought, old age and rocking chairs. When you love someone, you want them to be at peace with themselves.”
‘They’ Jamie Shupe: “I’m not male. I’m not female”
Later, Shupe realized the female designation also didn’t feel right.
“No amount of hormones is going to make me look like a female,” Shupe said, taking off a headscarf to reveal a bald head. Shupe doesn’t have plans or the desire to undergo surgery.
“Now, I’m suddenly telling my spouse I’m the same thing she is? It didn’t make sense to me. I didn’t have the intricate knowledge like I do now that I could be other things.”
Shupe wanted another option, a third classification, and found an ally in Portland lawyer Lake Perriguey.
“I knew the law well enough to know there is no exclusion, it’s not a complicated statute,” Perriguey said. “It’s two lines. People change their names, the process to change your sex identity is the same as changing your name.”
Perriguey said initially he didn’t realize the historic significance of the case.
“Not being a person of transgender experience, I didn’t realize how confining the legal limit on your gender identity could be,” he said.
Jamie Shupe, happiest gender neutral
Shupe understood there are others with similar struggles and felt compelled to take the case to court, steeling for a long-drawn-out fight.
Instead, the petition was granted swiftly.
Multnomah County circuit court judge Amy Holmes Hehn granted the petition last week, writing: “The sex of Jamie Shupe is hereby changed from female to non-binary. Notice of this legal change shall be posted in a public place in Multnomah County as required by law.”
Shupe’s legal tab was $1,056.
Now, at 52 years old, Shupe said, the petition “gives me a place to exist”.