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Monday, March 27, 2017

Non-binary gender OSU student has nothing to do with computer science

Non-binary gender person front page Corvallis Sunday newspaper Mar. 26, 2017, p. A1

PHOTO: The front page of the Corvallis Sunday newspaper featured a story on two Corvallis, Oregon citizens who have a non-binary gender identity, including an Oregon State University doctoral student working toward a Ph.D. degree in nuclear engineering. (See story by Bennett Hall, "A question of identity: Courtney Nicholas becomes Benton County's first non-binary citizen," Gazette-Times, Sun. Mar. 26, 2017, p. A2, A4, A6-A7 posted Mar. 26, 2017)

The word binary was appropriated in the middle 20th Century by mathematicians and computer scientists for referring to the base-2 number system intrinsic to the theoretical mathematics of digital computers, which are built by using a large number of electromechanical relay switches or electronic transistor switches, which can be either turned on or off to represent a binary digit of zero or one, along with a combination of several switches configured with feedback in a way to form a binary flip-flop, which can be flipped back and forth between one of two states as a way to store a single bit of information for a long time. In contrast, humans commonly use the Base 10 number system for counting and for arithmetic calculations, which uses the ten numbers from 0 to 9, probably due to the fact that humans have ten fingers.

Until recently, I've rarely seen the word "binary" used for purposes other than computers, therefore the first time I heard of a non-binary gender identity, I immediately wondered what it had to do with the mathematics of computer science, until after I looked up the word. (See Google define:nonbinary accessed Mar. 27, 2017, which links to the article, "Genderqueer," From Wikipedia accessed Mar. 27, 2017)

Below are some selected quotes from the professional newspaper article shown above:

You've probably never met anyone quite like Courtney Nicholas. Then again, maybe you have.

Nicholas, who likes to be called Court, was named Jackson at birth and was raised as a boy. But at some point it became clear that designation didn't really fit.

"I first realized I was not a male about a year and a half, two years ago," said Nicholas, an 18-year-old Corvallis resident.

For awhile, Nicholas tried presenting as female, but that didn't feel right either.

Then, last June, Nicholas realized there was another option. In a first-in-the-nation ruling, a Multnomah County judge had just granted a petition by Portland resident Jamie Shupe to legally change sex to non-binary, meaning neither male nor female. A Polk County judge granted a similar request in November.

On March 8, Nicholas became the third person in Oregon -- and the first in Benton County -- to be granted non-binary status. . . .

"You can call me non-binary, you can call me genderqueer, you can call me agender or transgender or androgynous," they said. "I just don't see gender as being a big part of my world, my personal identity." . .

The issue has also played out in the controversy over whether to allow transgender people to choose which public restroom to use. Lawmakers in a number of states have introduced legislation that would either allow transgender individuals to use the restroom they feel more comfortable with or require them to use public facilities that match the gender they were assigned at birth. . .

Oregon courts have been split over granting that recognition to non-binary individuals. . .

Late last year a judge in Jackson County Circuit Court refused to grant a non-binary gender petition, saying state law doesn't allow it. But judges in Multnomah, Polk and now Benton County have chosen to interpret the law more broadly, to include an individual's choice not to identify as being on one side or another of the standard binary gender divide. . .

While Court Nicholas may be Benton County's first non-binary resident, they may not be the only one much longer.

Emory Colvin, a 32-year-old doctoral student in nuclear engineering at Oregon State University, filed papers last week in Circuit Court seeking non-binary recognition. Colvin, whose birth name was Emily, was brought up as a girl but didn't really identify as either male or female.

(Quoted from Bennett Hall, "A question of identity: Courtney Nicholas becomes Benton County's first non-binary citizen," Gazette-Times, Sun. Mar. 26, 2017, p. A2, A4, A6-A7 posted Mar. 26, 2017)