Recognizing the spectrum

Cat Frink // The Torch

Known for blazing trails, Oregon was the first state to decriminalize marijuana; physician assisted suicide; and the first state to formally recognize a third gender on its state-issued identification cards.

In June 2016, Judge Amy Holmes Hehn ruled in favor of allowing Jamie Shupe to legally identify as neither a male or female, but as non-binary. Shupe, a Portland Army veteran said, “I have my life back. I’m not male. I’m not female. I am free.”

Shupe then went to Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles to obtain identification. DMV computers did not recognize anything but M or F for gender designation. The department did not know if it had the legal jurisdiction to make the change.

Dave House, Department of Motor Vehicles Public Affairs Director states, “We studied Oregon statutes and assessed what our computer system needed in order to accept something other than  other M or F. We also talked to other states and provinces and found that X was a standard already in use abroad and recommended by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators. In fact, Canadian province, Ontario, just implemented the X as a third option earlier this year.”

The investigation showed the third option for gender designation could be used without judicial amendment. The DMV discovered the change could be made in the “rulemaking” process.

“We are excited by the DMV proposal because it is an important step in recognizing what we already know to be true. Gender is a spectrum,” Amy Herzfeld-Copple, the co-executive director of Basic Rights Oregon said.

The computer system was changed as well to ensure the third gender designation would be a smooth shift from only M and F. The DMV also gave prior notice of the change to offices that need to access information for the courts, such as law enforcement.

May 12 was the last day for public comments in the Oregon rule-making process regarding the proposed gender designation change for the Oregon DMV.

“It appears there are not obstacles to our proposal and we expect the Oregon Transportation Commission to vote for approval at its June meeting, then to offer the X ‘not specified’ option for gender to begin in July,” House said.