Norrie, the first person in the world ruled by a court to be of non-binary sex, has released their autobiography, Ultrasex: (Beyond Division). In this excerpt, Norrie recalls how their former Star Observer column, Gender Agenda, came about.
Chapter 29, Queer Collaborations:
We were invited to a big final night party for Queer Collaborations that weekend. It was held in a redecorated two-story warehouse, with a couple of hundred young queers, and a fair amount of social lubrication. A lot of people came up to me to tell me they’d enjoyed the workshop, or had missed it but heard how good it was. I was hoping there might be an opportunity for a bonk here, but I figured I was either not the right sex or too old.
A young mixed sex couple offered me a toke, and I figured I could at least enjoy getting stoned. The three of us went downstairs to watch the show, some sort of avant-garde lesbian performance art thing. I didn’t actually see much of the performance, because the woman reached her arms around the man and began caressing me.
We gave anyone watching a floorshow of our own, each mouth wandering between two other mouths and four nipples, hands and arms groping inside tights and tops and underpants, three bodies standing and swaying and squirming together.
We carried on outside, until I was desperate to be somewhere we could get naked. The trouble was, I only had enough money for one train fare home, and they couldn’t take me to where they were billeted.
I went back inside to bludge cab fare for the lust-struck triangle. Someone took pity on us, and I very gratefully took the necessary dollars from them, and we piled into a passing cab, and went to my bedroom in Marrickville.
The next day, they told me of the discrimination they suffered as bisexuals from gays and lesbians. I was horrified to hear of the abuse heaped on them by those I would’ve expected to accept them. I wasn’t always sure that “gay and lesbian” included transsexuals, but I had always assumed it included bisexuals. Not so, it seemed, for many people thought that “gay” or “lesbian” meant “only gay” or “only lesbian”.
They told me of how ostracised they often felt, rejected by both straight and gay society. They couldn’t be honest about their sexuality in straight circles without activating some bigot’s homophobia, and they couldn’t go out as a couple on the gay scene without being vilified as “breeders”.
Misogynist queens thought that the guy having sex with a woman was sick and disgusting, and told him so. Separatist lesbians told the woman she was “sleeping with the enemy”, and morally condemned her.
I didn’t identify myself as a bisexual. (After all, one swallow does not a summer make.) Nevertheless, I identified very much as someone who loved bisexuals. They were the most likely to accept me as a lover (as I was both male and female), and to own up to the relationship in public (instead of hiding it as something shameful, as so often happened). I valued bisexuality very highly, and was shocked to hear of this ill treatment, particularly from gays, who should surely know better.
* * *
Following my work with the Stonewall collective, Robin invited me to join the committee of the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby. Jennifer had been at Queer Collaborations recruiting for the Lobby, and I had filled in a membership application. She told me their Annual General Meeting was on in a few days, and I duly went along to it.
The Lobby had a set number of male positions, a set number of female positions, two non-gender specific executive positions, and three general non-gender specific positions. I nominated myself for the last category.
I wasn’t sure if I could be accepted as belonging in a gay and lesbian organisation, and told the meeting this. “I’m a tranny,” I told them, “I identify as gay, but I’m not a gay man. I’m not sure whether I can be classified as a lesbian, but I did sleep with a woman last Sunday.” This last admission was, of course, a blatant attempt to gain acceptance.
They elected me, on a platform of being transsexual and possibly bisexual. I lasted seven months before I was expelled for pursuing this platform.
* * *
That Saturday, there was a meeting of TLC. Rochelle, who had been the founding spokesperson, resigned. She had become the Project Manager of Tiresias House, and said she wanted to devote her energies to this. She nominated me as her replacement. I was busy enough myself as Tiresias’s president, but no one else wanted the job. And so, I became TLC’s second spokesperson.
I was disappointed by the low level of enthusiasm and attendance at the TLC meetings I called. I thought that perhaps my increasing radicalness was to blame. I had began walking around barefoot everywhere, and dressing more tomboyish. Rochelle had suggested I should dress conservatively, but I felt too strongly about expressing myself. I lasted less than four months, before handing over the position to the first person who wanted it.
Aidy (who was to become my successor as TLC spokesperson) suggested to me that we co-write a column on transgender issues for the Sydney Star Observer. We met a few times and plotted out a proposal for a series of ten columns. We sent this proposal to the Star, and I made an appointment with the editor, Campion.
I was frightened I’d have to do a lot of work to sell the idea to him, but he was quite enthusiastic. His main concern seemed to be that we come up with a name for the column in line with the paper’s format, a double-barreled name like Happy Feet (the dance-music column), or Being Positive (the HIV/AIDS column). I was surprised he hadn’t thought of the obvious name himself, and wondered what was wrong with it.
“How about Gender Agenda?” I asked tentatively.
“Great!” he replied, and so a legend was born.
Exceprt from UltraSex: (Beyond Division), the autobiography of Norrie, (AKA norrie mAy-welby), the first person ruled by a court to be of non-binary sex (High Court of Australia, 2014). Paperback available from Amazon.com with limited copies also available from Gould’s bookshop, 536 King St, Newtown NSW. UltraSex (Beyond Division) will be relessed as an e-book on AppleBooks on 1 December 2019.