A Benton County judge has ruled that a transgender person can legally change their sex to “non-binary”, rather than male or female, in what is the first non-binary designation case win in Corvallis. The ruling has ordered the State of Oregon Registrar to change the sex on the petitioner’s birth certificate from male to non-binary.
Court Nicholas knew from an early age that they did not identify as a female or a male. During their childhood, Court presented themself as more masculine, but tended to do more feminine things. “I always perceived myself as me.” Court said, “I didn’t really think of my gender identity until I went through that awkward middle school age”.
After reading about Oregon resident Jamie Shupe, who was the first person in the United States to have their sex status legally changed to non-binary in June of 2016, Court knew they wanted to apply for non-binary status. Court was only seventeen years old when they went to the Benton County Courthouse and asked how to go about the process of changing their gender. The clerk at the Courthouse said there was no such process for minors in the State of Oregon. Court then began doing research online and found a valuable resource on the Oregon State Bar website called The Problem Solvers (www.osbar.org/public/ris/). The Problem Solvers program connects young persons between the ages of 13 and 17 with Oregon lawyers that volunteer to offer free legal information and advice.
“I filled out a form looking for a lawyer and then the State Bar, or an automated system, contacted me with Lorena Reynold’s name and information.” Court said. “Originally, I was just going to have a consultation but she offered to do it pro-bono. I didn’t have to testify. We went in prepared for a two hour case with all these people to testify and with hearing prep, but the judge signed it after 10 minutes. It was Judge Matthew J Donohue.”
When asked how she felt about the ruling, Corvallis attorney Lorena Reynold’s had a lot to say: “There is nothing new about folks living in the space between male and female. They have always been part of our families and communities. What is different is that we are finally recognizing the impact that archaic laws have on the lives of real people who deserve to be seen and recognized for who they are. Allowing this small administrative change is a step towards ending the harassment that puts non-binary folks at risk every day. Right now, every time someone who presents as non-binary has to show their ID, they put themselves at risk because their appearance does not match their gender designation. At the bank, the airport, when they use a credit card, if they get pulled over for speeding. Everyday interactions that I take for granted force them to disclose private information.”
Court’s parents, Lisa and Jay Nicholas, have been very supportive of Court throughout the process. “It was so ordinary, I don’t remember a specific day or event, and it just seemed to evolve. It has been so normal to us,” Lisa said.
After being asked why they petitioned here in Benton County, Lisa went on the say: “The process of actually pursuing the non-binary designation is pretty recent [historically]. There’s just a handful of people. Court’s the first in Benton County. It’s a great way to open doors up for other people. That was one of the reasons for not just simply filing in Multnomah County, where it was a pretty sure thing. Court felt very strongly about filling down here [in Benton County]. You start doing it all around, and pretty soon, it’s safe for others to follow suit.”
During this process, Court has turned eighteen years old and is currently looking towards the future. Having the legal recognition of non-binary designation is the first step a person has to take to change their and birth certificate and driver’s license. Court said, “Now I have that step out of the way. For once I can change my forms.”
By Jennifer Moreland