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Judge denies request for gender-neutral designation

After a Portland court granted a man's request to legally change his gender to non-binary in June, Medford resident Amiko-Gabriel Oscar Blue had high hopes she could also secure a non-binary designation.

But on Thursday, Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Benjamin Bloom denied Blue's petition for a gender designation change.

Bloom said he does not believe Oregon law allows him to grant a neutral or non-binary gender designation.

"I don't think statutes give me that authority," he said.

Blue got the same response in 2015 when she went before Jackson County Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Mejia. Mejia said at the time he was saddened to turn down Blue's request and personally would have been happy to grant her petition, but he didn't believe such a ruling would have been legal under Oregon law.

This summer, Multnomah County Circuit Judge Amy Homes Hehn made national news when she granted Jamie Shupe's petition to change his gender to non-binary. Experts believe it was the first ruling of its kind in America.

Homes Hehn did not present a lengthy legal rationale for the move, but said in a brief ruling that notice of Shupe's request had been made to interested parties, Shupe had undergone appropriate gender transition treatment and no one had shown cause why the request should not be granted.

Bloom said he was aware of the decision in Multnomah County, but does not think Oregon law allows him to grant Blue's petition.

"When the laws change, feel free to come back," he told Blue.

After the court hearing, Blue said she will continue her fight.

"I'm going to come here every year no matter what," she said.

Blue said Bloom treated her with respect during the court hearing, asking whether she wanted to be called Mr., Mrs., Miss or Mx. — a relatively new, gender-neutral term — and then used her preference, Mx.

Blue also prefers the plural pronouns "they" and "their" when people refer to her. The Mail Tribune is using the singular pronouns "she" and "her" for clarity due to the lack of gender-neutral singular pronouns.

Blue said she was surprised by the Jackson County judge's denial, because the Multnomah County judge approved a similar request.

"I was really disappointed in it. I did hope for a different decision," she said.

Blue said suicide rates are high among transgender and gender nonconforming people because of social stigma and violence.

"At the core, what I am trying to do comes down to survival," she said.

Blue said she has never identified as male or female. People who don't identify with one gender, or who don't have a gender identity that is perceived as acceptable, are often shut out of social participation. Social isolation breaks people down both mentally and physically.

Blue's court hearing came during Transgender Awareness Week, during which individuals and organizations around the country are raising visibility and awareness about transgender and nonconforming gender people and the issues they face.

Blue said she was also wearing a safety pin on her shirt collar to show solidarity with minority groups targeted by hate.

— Reach staff reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.

Amiko-Gabriel Oscar Blue, left, is supported by friend Sophia Mantheakis after a judge Friday denied for a second time her request to change her gender to non-binary. Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta