By Brook Shelley

It’s a hard time to be a queer and transgender person in America. It’s been harder before, but for many folks, especially those who are younger, this is the first time in your adult life you’ve had Federal leadership that was actively opposed to your rights. If you’re like me at all, you probably have felt very frustrated, and then sought out ways to help make things just a little better for your friends, loved-ones, and communities. 

Working with Basic Rights Oregon for the past few years has meant a lot to me, particularly considering current Federal leadership. With firm resolve, lots of hard work, and amazing people, we’ve managed to win some key victories for transgender and queer folks in Oregon. And we’re not done.

Basic Rights Oregon Co-Chair Brook Shelley, Oblio Stroyman of Trans*Ponder, J Gibbons, Attorney Ed Reeves, Neola Young and Erica Wegener of Outside In testified at the House Hearing on HB 2673.

I don’t know about you, but I love winning things, especially in the face of odds and adversity. Our community needs so much, and is hurting in our state, so these victories felt sweet, and gave me more energy to continue fighting.  These victories include:

  • Simplifying the Name Change Process on Oregon Birth Certificates: On May 31, 2017, Governor Brown signed HB 2673A, a new law that simplifies Oregon’s existing name change and gender amendment process for birth certificates. The new process provides an administrative option that is less expensive, more private and easier for transgender Oregonians. The new law will be effective Jan. 1, 2018.
  • Equal Benefits: HB 3060 was signed into law in June 2017 requiring contractors working with the state of Oregon to have policies and practices in place prohibiting discrimination against their employees. This law, carried by Rep. Ann Lininger, includes preventing health care discrimination based on an employee’s gender identity.
  • Third Gender Marker on State IDs: Effective July 1, 2017, the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles will begin offering a third gender marker on state identification cards, making Oregon the first state in the country to recognize non-binary identities. The third marker will be X for not specified. 
  • Self-attestation for gender marker changes on state identification cards. The DMV also changed its procedure for gender changes on state IDs, allowing Oregonians to self-certify their gender change without a letter from their provider. This was a huge and quiet win for our community—our state government is for the first time trusting and respecting us.

I also wanted to remind you of that last year we worked with the Oregon Department of Education on guidelines for school districts on how to support transgender and gender non-conforming students. The guidelines are among the most comprehensive and inclusive in the nation putting students first. These are particularly important now, as the Federal government continues to pull back protections and enforcement of past education policies affirming transgender students. 

These victories were the result of many courageous transgender and non-binary Oregonians coming forward to share their story with legislators and other policymakers.  Thank you to everyone who lobbied, testified and wrote letters of support. 

Our organizational focus is on racial and transgender justice, and we’re also proud to be part of One Oregon, to further immigrant, Muslim and refugee justice in Oregon. These are intersecting communities. Communities that are often targeted for harassment, scrutiny, housing-discrimination, and violence. We want that to end, and I am proud to be part of the fight for rights, and justice. 

I hope that the victories we’ve had in Oregon lately have excited and provided a breath of fresh air for you too. If you too want to fight, want to get involved, and want to help, Basic Rights Oregon has so many volunteer opportunities around the state, and can always use more financial partnership. As we said after marriage, and will continue to say: “We’ve won, and we’re not done.” 

Brook Shelley is the co-chair of Basic Rights Oregon’s Board of Directors