Note: Jones Hollister (pictured above right) applied for a change of gender marker on legal documents at the Lane County Circuit Court, only to have their request denied. They filed an appeal with the Oregon Court of Appeals, and today, we at Basic Rights Oregon, along with the ACLU of Oregon, filed a friend of the court brief to highlight other nonbinary voices and why having legal documents affirming their gender identity is so important. Learn more from Jones in their own words:

In January I went to the Lane County Courthouse to get the legal forms for changing my name and legal marker. I read the option for “non-binary” and cried. I’m nonbinary. I was raised as a girl, but I am not a she. I never have been. I’m a they.

As a child I knew I really didn’t fit anywhere in the two gender world. As a teen I found acceptance in the Unitarian Universalist church and its youth program, and with close friends. I started to use Jo as my name, as it is more gender neutral. I didn’t have a way to describe my gender until I first heard the term nonbinary. I immediately knew that it described who I am. Not man or woman, but both and also neither.

Becoming more vocal and finding acceptance

I was, and remain scared to be myself in all of my life. I fear being attacked or killed, fear losing my career, fear rejection, and fear losing friends and family. I don’t have a date when I told everyone in my life that I am trans and nonbinary. I’ve done it over the years as I’ve found better terms to describe my gender, as society has become more accepting, and as I’ve felt safer. Coming out means that I’ve got to explain to people who I am, and convince them to accept that being nonbinary is a real thing. And, quite frankly, it is pretty brutal to be told over and over that my gender is confusing and that it’s too hard to use my pronouns. It is awful to be told by strangers and family that who I am is not valid. Over the years I’ve become more vocal about my gender, despite the challenges, and the support and acceptance I’ve found has been empowering.

Being myself in all of my life

My last four years teaching, I was Mr. Jo. I let everyone assume my pronoun was he, just as I’d let them assume for decades that I was a she. I hesitated to be fully out as a nonbinary teacher. Not being called “she” was a gift, but I’m also not a “he.” I regret that choice to tell a partial truth. Over the years I have become increasingly unwilling to be misgendered, and I wanted no one to use my, at the time, feminine legal name. It became clear to me that I needed to be myself in all of my life.

When I went to change my legal name and marker in court, the judge told me that he wouldn’t let me be nonbinary. I have spent my life marking an F on forms, and it isn’t representative of who I am. I am not a female, and I am not a male. I am nonbinary, and that is why I’m appealing. I want to be legally who I am. I am appealing because none of my nonbinary siblings should be told no like I was. We should all have the freedom to tell the truth. To tell our stories. To live our lives as our authentic selves. 

What I am asking is that I be able to mark the correct box on forms. I hope that the court of appeals overturns this ruling, and allows me to do so.

Read the friends-of-the-court brief and hear from more non-binary voices: