This is Norrie.
We are going to learn about Norrie because Norrie is part of a social web and virtual
Norrie is part of the genderqueer community
Let's learn about what that means.
Genderqueer is sort of an umbrella term for people who think that your important bits are in
your head, not your body.
Genderqueer means people who don't easily fit into the categories of male and female, so
these include transgender people, hermaphrodites, who we now call intersex, and people
who don't have a gender at all.
For example, this person here has a manly body with a manly brain. Pretty dull, but some
people enjoy it.
And this person here has a lady brain in a manly body, and that must be annoying, because
surgery is expensive.
But Norrie is here, right in the middle.
Norrie doesn't see themself as male
or maybe both.
Norrie calls themself neuter or nongendered.
Think of it as being a mental hermaphrodite, or a mental bisexual.
Anyway, one day Norrie went to the NSW Department of Births, Deaths, and Marriages.
"Hello" said Norrie, "I would like to change my legal details please. I would like to be
registered as having no gender at all."
And the person at the desk said "Ok, that will be $87.50 please, plus a $12 processing fee."
And then people all over the world were very happy, because they were part of the
genderqueer community, and the genderqueer community is on the internet.
The internet's pretty important for people like Norrie, because people like Norrie are pretty
Transexual people are about 1% of the population, and intersex people are about 2% of the
population, and who knows how many people there are who are mentally neither one or the
So because these people can't get together geographically, it's nice that they can meet up
I did an interview with Norrie about the importance of online communities, and this is what
I asked Norrie how important web-based communities are for genderqueer people.
Norrie said that it's been "a boon for people expressing and exploring life outside the
standard gender rules. People are able to be themselves safely on line, and are able to
connect with others who may be a minority no matter how geographically scattered they
I asked if these communities will increase social activism.
Norrie said that yes, they think it will, as people are encouraged by the successes of others
and have others to support them. It's hard and pretty frightening to have a protest on your
own, but people are braver if they have friends helping.
Then I asked if Norrie themself would have gone and did what they did without the support
of an online community.
Norrie replied that yes, they would have, because they've been doing that kind of thing for
20 years. Norrie used to write for a newspaper, and ran workshops in Sydney on sex,
gender and transgender issues. Although Norrie said that they've received massive support
from people all over the world, and that's been very encouraging.
I asked if the worldwide coverage to Norrie's victory changed their life.
Norrie said that although they've enjoyed revelling in the narcissism, they've also felt
humble to get soundbytes and media attention when there are so many activists around the
world. I get the feeling it's been a bit overwhelming, but that Norrie feels that this has to be
done to get the message out there.
The last thing I asked was about social support. The suicide rate for transgender people is
about 50% and the unemployment rate is 80%. I asked if social networks can help bring
these numbers down, or if online communities can be just as harsh as real-world ones.
Norrie said "I think any social network is better than none, and I presume stats would
support the hypothesis that virtual social networks encourage far less suicides than they
prevent. There are a lot of people still acting out their pain, and they can be found in any
forum. we just have to teach our children to place their own value on themselves, and
caution against the foolishness of basing our value too much on what other people think of
us. And for goodness sake get other the idea that most people fit sex A or B perfectly,
leaving others fated to always be no more than second best. Everyone is physically
different, everyone is their own unique personality, there is no "normal" we either are or
aren't, we are all wonderful variations on how life can manifest as loving creative playful
sexy intelligent social beings."
So it seems like the internet is useful for getting uncommon people together and promoting
mental health. That's nice.
Do you remember how Norrie went to the government and got and got officially recognised
as having no gender?
Well since it was in the papers all over the world, Conservative Christian groups heard about
So they got a bunch of people together and made a big fuss.
A week later Norrie got a call from the Attorney General office.
"We made a mistake!" they said. "You're not allowed to have no gender. You have to be one
or the other."
So although social networks made activism more organised and global, it also made
opposition to that activism more widespread as well. So maybe nothing has really changed.
So that was all about Norrie.
(all accessed 4.04.10)
Interview conducted with Norrie via email, 3-5.04.10
On Sun, Apr 4, 2010 at 11:44 AM, Kim, The Amazing. <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Thanks so much for getting back to me, and hope you're having a lovely Easter holiday.
I'll get the RMIT queer officers to send that letter to you whenever they recover from
their chocolate hangover.
Here are the best questions I could think of. Don't worry about answering them all. And
thank-you - I very much appreciate this..
How important are are web-based communities to genderqueer and gender-variant
individuals? Is it different to a world without such networks?
The internet has been a boon for people expressing and exploring life outside the standard
gender rules. People are able to be themselves safely on line, and are able to connect with
others who may be a minority no matter how geographically scattered they may be.
Previously isolated, culturally and geographically, members of minority groups can now
interact regularly through the internet. Do you think this will influence social activism?
oh, you covered that.
Yes, it will increase the effect of social activism, as people build on each other's stories and
successes and inspiration.
Would you have attempted your campaign without the support of an online community?
I started my campaign before the internet much existed, back when I ran workshops on
sex, gender and transgender at Queer Collaborations around 1992, first using the mass
medium of print in the Sydney Star Observer's Gender Agenda column 1992-1993. But the
massive support from the online community has been very encouraging, and instrumental in
furthering this agenda. And I'm a nerd, I <3 facebook : ) The internet era is the era for me
Has the worldwide coverage to your victory and the subsequent events affected your
It's been fun, and luckily i have the time to deal with most of the interest, and narcisstic
enough to enjoy the attention and not freak out too much at being on magazine covers, but
the best moment so far was watching the Colbert Report with my best friend and shrieking
in delight when he led it off with my story.
Unpicking the nonsense story of gender based restrictions and promoting freedom for
everyone regardless of how they may or may not fit the gender based expectations of
others has been my aim for about twenty years, and it's quite humbling to see the wide
support for this, I am just one voice that has been given sound bytes, but there are so
many others living their lives bravely and freely with various diversities of sex and/or
gender, and many many others yearning for this freedom.
I am, however, still hoping to hug Barbara Waters, who has done so much to present the
stories of transgender and intersex people in a symathetic light, and is just a wonderful
social engineer/jouralist/panel host.
I'm in wikipedia, fulfilling Isaiah's promise of the faithful eunuch being given a name
everlasting ; )
The suicide rate for gender-diverse people is depressingly high. Do you think virtual
social networks can help prevent deaths, or is the online world just as unforgiving as
the real one?
I think any social network is better than none, and I presume stats would support the
hypothesis that virtual social networks encourage far less suicides than they prevent. There
are a lot of people still acting out their pain, and they can be found in any forum. we just
have to teach our children to place their own value on themselves, and caution against the
foolishness of basing our value too much on what other people think of us. And for
goodness sake get other the idea that most people fit sex A or B perfectly, leaving others
fated to always be no more than second best. Everyone is physically different, everyone is
their own unique personality, there is no "normal" we either are or aren't, we are all
wonderful variations on how life can manifest as loving creative playful sexy intelligent
What's your favourite breakfast food?
I start with a witches brew of hot water, honey, lemon and apple cider vinegar, and half an
hour later I have cereal in iced coffee ; )