Jamie Shupe reportedly became the United States' first legally non-binary person last week after an Oregon judge ruled that Shupe could reclassify as non-binary. Assigned male at birth, Shupe transitioned later in life to present as female, before finally winning the right to be classified as neither.
In an interview with Out Magazine, the 52-year-old retired Army tank mechanic — who prefers the pronoun "they" — opened up about their struggle with gender and how liberating it felt to be unshackled from male-female categorization.
Shupe told an excited Jacob Tobia at Out that the momentum for their fight really began early this year when anti-trans sentiment from the right was on the rise. "I was just becoming more and more pissed off and going, 'I'm fighting back. I deserve a legal definition of who I am and I'm going after it, damn it!' Shupe said. "It was that strong of an emotion."
Shupe also talked about how rigid binaries insisted upon by cisgender people created tension in the trans community, particularly now with the notorious bathroom law that North Carolina enacted (to its own detriment).
"I'm a huge advocate for gender neutral bathrooms because they protect us. They protect everybody," Shupe said. "They're the total solution but I've had trans women going off on me saying 'You're not putting me in this gender-neutral bathroom, I'm a female!' and I'm like 'I picture you standing in the hallway of a Starbucks and there are two signs saying 'bathroom' instead of 'male' or 'female' and you're throwing a temper tantrum because you're not being recognized as a female?' It's just a bathroom. I mean that's the kind of stuff that's at work here. ... If we just made it a bathroom, it strips away the bigots bothering us, everyone gets privacy, everyone gets safety, I don't get what the argument is. It's all about enforcing the binary. The binary is nothing but toxic to all of us. That's where I'm coming from. I've been traumatized by cis women in bathrooms. I'm all done with it."
Shupe acknowledged, even embraced the significance of their legal recognition as non-binary. When Tobia mentioned how the ruling reset the parameters within which people expect the trans community to conform, they said:
I didn't just reset the parameters, I got rid of them. They're nothing but toxic. We've always said that you can be trans any way you want to. Isn't that what the community says? But the truth is [legally] you can only be trans as a male or a female.
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