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Oklahoma governor slammed by nonbinary lawmaker for vowing to fight birth certificate ruling

An Oklahoma state lawmaker has blasted the Republican governor for vowing to fight a decision by his administration’s health department to allow for a nonbinary option on the official birth certificate.

Mauree Turner, a Democrat who represents Oklahoma City in the state legislature, is the first-ever lawmaker in the Sooner State to identify as nonbinary.

People who are nonbinary do not identify with traditional male or female gender assignments. Instead, the preferred pronoun is ‘they’ or ‘them.’

'If you have to work with people who adamantly oppose your existence, right, to the point to where we can't work together, you can't talk to me, you can't talk to me like I'm a human being, you don't see me, that damages anyone's working relationship,' Turner told KOKH-TV.

Governor Kevin Stitt and other Republican leaders expressed outrage on Thursday after learning the State Department of Health issued a birth certificate this year with a nonbinary gender designation.

Mauree Turner (left), a Democrat who represents Oklahoma City in the state legislature, is the first-ever lawmaker in the Sooner State to identify as nonbinary. They blasted Governor Kevin Stitt (right) for vowing to fight a decision by his administration’s health department to allow for a nonbinary option on the official birth certificate

'If you have to work with people who adamantly oppose your existence, right, to the point to where we can't work together, you can't talk to me, you can't talk to me like I'm a human being, you don't see me, that damages anyone's working relationship,' Turner said

Oklahoma is one of 15 states in the United States to offer a third gender option on the state's official birth certificate. The image above is a stock photo of an old birth certificate from Oklahoma

The agency issued the birth certificate in May to Oregon resident Kit Lorelied, who was born in Oklahoma, identifies as nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns.

Lorelied sued after the Oklahoma State Department of Health initially refused the request.

The department, represented by the Office of the Attorney General, reached a settlement in May in which it agreed to add nonbinary as an option on birth certificates.

Stitt condemned the settlement on Thursday.

'I believe that people are created by God to be male or female. Period,' Stitt said in a statement.

'There is no such thing as non-binary sex and I wholeheartedly condemn the purported OSDH court settlement that was entered into by rogue activists who acted without receiving proper approval or oversight.'

US states that issue nonbinary birth certificates

Americans who do not identify as either a male or a female have the option of choosing a third gender category, often in the form of the letter 'X', on birth certificates issued by the following states:

California

Colorado

Connecticut

Maine

Massachusetts

Michigan

Nevada

New Jersey

New Mexico

New York

Oklahoma

Oregon

Rhode Island

Utah

Washington

Washington, District of Columbia 

A spokeswoman for Stitt did not immediately respond to a message seeking to clarify who the governor alleged was a rogue activist.

Oklahoma is one of 15 states in the Union - in addition to the District of Columbia - that offers its citizens a third gender category on official birth certificates.

The other states that do so are California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Washington State, and Washington, DC.

Earlier this year, two transgender people sued over a new Montana law that makes it difficult for transgender people to change the sex on their birth certificates. 

Turner hit back at Stitt, accusing the governor of stoking fear among the LGBTQ community in the state. 

'If we are continuously saying like, "You're not real, you have to suppress that part of you," what is that going to do to our community?' Turner said.

'What's that going to do to our kids.' 

The state legislature's top Democrat also blasted Stitt. 

'This morning, the governor used his pulpit to attack Oklahomans. Period,' House Minority Leader Emily Virgin said in a statement.

'A national study estimated that 52 percent of transgender and non-binary young people in the United States seriously contemplated suicide last year.

'The governor's suggestion that non-binary people don't qualify as Oklahomans is abhorrent and completely unbecoming of a governor.

'Moreover, it is dangerous.'

The agreement to add the nonbinary option to the birth certificate was reached by Lorelied's attorney, the Department of Health and the Office of the Attorney General.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia currently recognize nonbinary gender status and permit such designation on identifying documents, according to Lorelied’s lawsuit.

Oklahoma's health commissioner, Dr. Lance Frye, said in a statement that the settlement was reached under the administration of former Attorney General Mike Hunter and that the agency was working with Stitt and new Attorney General John O’Connor on how to proceed.

'Should a challenge to the previous agreement be made, we will proceed accordingly,' Frye said.

Lorelied's attorney, Christopher Brecht, said his client was very happy with the settlement and that he was surprised at the outrage from GOP leaders.

'I certainly don't understand the vehement objection to something like this,' he said.

'I don't understand how this impacts binary individuals, so the swift opposition is surprising to me.'

Brecht said his client simply wanted a birth certificate that reflected who they are.

'From my perspective, having the very first thing that identifies you to the world, to have that not identify you accurately, I can't think of anything more degrading,' he said.

Statements from House Speaker Charles McCall and Senate President Pro Tempore Greg Treat said the settlement amounted to unauthorized overreach by executive agencies.

State Senator Micheal Bergstrom, a Republican from Adair, has filed a bill for the upcoming session that would require male and female to be the only options on birth certificates.

More than one million American adults identify as nonbinary, first-of-its-kind study finds 

More than one million American adults identify as nonbinary, according to a new study from the Williams Institute.

The institute, under the direction of the UCLA School of Law, analyzed data from two previous studies collected between 2016 and 2018, and determined that there are now 1.2 million nonbinary LGBTQ adults living in the country in a first-of-its-kind study.

Nonbinary people do not identify as either male or female, and many use 'they' or 'them' pronouns. 

Bianca Wilson, one of the authors of the study, said the new estimate is meaningful to show lawmakers exactly who they are affecting when they pass legislation to protect against gender-identity-based discrimination.

'That number says: "This is part of who you're talking about when executive orders are signed to protect people against discrimination,'" she told The Washington Post. 

A study by the Williams Institute revealed that a majority of nonbinary people were younger than 30, lived in a city and were experiencing mental health issues

A majority of those surveyed in the study reported to be younger than 30, living in a city and were living below the poverty line.

More than half of the respondents were white, the study shows, with 16 percent reported to be multiracial, 15 percent Hispanic and 9 percent black. 

Seventy-six percent of the respondents were reported to be between the ages of 18 and 29, with more than one in 10 LGBTQ adults between the ages of 18 and 60 identifying as nonbinary, according to the study.

More than three-quarters were 29 or younger, the survey showed, and nearly 90 percent were living in a city.

Although most identified as cisgender - meaning they identify with the gender correlating to the sex they were assigned at birth, 32.1 percent of transgender adults identify as nonbinary.

'Younger folks are helping to push the language for how to talk about gender in ways that go beyond the man-woman continuum,' Wilson said, noting that it will be interesting to see if the older LGBTQ generations start using nonbinary terms, rather than traditional ones like 'butch,' 'femme,' or 'queen.'  

'It's fair to assume that on the older end of the spectrum, this might be an underestimate,' she said. 'And that might be about the right language to describe how older folks think about nonbinary identities, but maybe not with these labels.'  

Singer Janelle Monae came out as nonbinary last year. They are pictured here performing at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles in June 2018

Helena Darwin, a researcher at Stony Brook University, said not everyone who is nonbinary considers themselves transgender either because they 'do not consider themselves to be "trans enough" to claim group membership alongside transmen and transwomen or otherwise consider their gender experience to be qualitatively different from the transgender experience.' 

More than half of the respondents said they have been physically or sexually assaulted, and nearly 94 percent have considered suicide, with about 40 percent saying they have attempted it.

A majority had also reported being hit, beaten or sexually assaulted at some point before they were 18, the study concluded, and most felt they were more disrespected than others over the year prior to the survey.

Many also experienced 'chronic stressors,' like not having enough money to make ends meet, being alone too much and having strained or conflicted relations with their parents.

They also reported experiencing higher levels of stress when they were growing up. Eighty-two percent said they faced emotional abuse, 40 percent said they experienced physical abuse and 41 percent reported being sexually abused before the age of 18.

Additionally, the nonbinary adults reported having high rates of mental health concerns, with 51 percent reporting symptoms 'consistent with serious mental illness.'

Wilson said it would make sense for nonbinary individuals to experience higher rates of psychological distress than the larger population, as that is is in line with research conducted on the larger LGBTQ community. 

Former Disney Channel star Demi Lovato posted a video to Twitter earlier this year indicating that they are nonbinary

She said more research would be needed to determine whether nonbinary people are more susceptible to these issues than binary LGBTQ individuals.

'Research has shown that the stress from being a minority - stress from being a sexual and gender minority in particular- is related to psychological distress,' Wilson said. 'And being nonbinary is a unique kind of gender-minority experience because you are constantly surrounded by binary-identified people.'

But being nonbinary does not lead to mental illness, according to Joel Baum, who oversees professional development at the nonprofit Gender Spectrum. Instead, he told the Post, many nonbinary people may experience mental illness due to the way they are treated by society.

'Much of the mental illness is in reaction to treatment, not in-and-of-itself because someone's nonbinary,' he clarified.

The study comes amid growing recognition of nonbinary individuals, with the Supreme Court ruling last year that employees cannot be fired based on their sexuality or gender identity, and Joe Biden signing an executive order stating that the term 'sex' in anti-discrimination laws includes gender and sexual identities.

Several cities and states are now beginning to offer gender-neutral identifications on drivers' licenses, The Washington Post reports, and the world's first-known nonbinary mayor took office last month in Wales.