The luxury of being nonbinary

Uber-privileged celebs like Emma Corrin have no reason to be so glum.

Julie Burchill

Julie Burchill

Topics Identity Politics UK

I know that actors are meant to be ‘chameleons’, but Emma Corrin is a remarkably consistent and – if I may use a rude word – binary one. Best known for her brilliant turn as the young Diana in The Crown, Corrin appears to have two distinct faces when off set, rather like the masks that traditionally represent the dramatic arts – Melpomene, the muse of tragedy, and Thalia, the muse of comedy.

Her face in posed photographs is invariably as solemn as Melpomene. Not least as she uses every interview to explain ‘the difficulties of “discovering” their (sic) gender identity while working as an actor’, as a Daily Mail headline had it in 2022. Corrin announced her she / they pronouns to a waiting world on Instagram back in July 2021, before switching to they / them a few months later. As she told the Mail: ‘My identity and being nonbinary is an embrace of many different parts of myself, the masculine and the feminine and everything in between… It’s hard to be discovering something in yourself at the same time you’re navigating an industry that demands a lot of you, in terms of knowing who you are.’

In a more upbeat mood, she once told The Sunday Times: ‘I don’t know where my gender exploration is going to go and I don’t really want to think about it, I just know that I feel more comfortable in myself than I have in a long time.’

I too have been struck by how ‘comfortable’ Corrin looks recently – especially in the numerous unposed images of her out and about with her boyfriend, actor Rami Malek. Whenever she is on LA lunch dates, London date nights or strolling on Venice beach with her beau, there is not a hint of mardy Melpomene instructing us to address ‘them’ as ‘Mx’. Instead, we see laughing Thalia. In such photographs, Corrin’s life doesn’t look hard or demanding at all. Rather, she looks like what she so obviously is – a privately educated person from Royal Tunbridge Wells who has worked consistently to ceaseless praise since leaving Cambridge. But you can bet your sweet nonbinary bippy that come the next interview the long face will be back and sensible people will have to control the strong temptation to tell her to just cheer up.

A fellow thespian with a little more to be bitter about is Corrin’s fellow ‘nonbin’, Sara Ramirez. She’s currently griping about being axed from the recent Sex and the City sequel for talking ill-informed tosh about Gaza. Nothing to do with Che Diaz, the character she played in And Just Like That…, being widely considered the worst character in television history, then? Corrin, to give her credit, is still in her twenties, when we espouse lots of silly things because they look good on us, like Maoism and love bites. But Ramirez is almost 50. How could someone get to her age and still be so thick? It seems to contradict everything that clever Mr Darwin so painstakingly explained to us. How does she dress herself and brush her own teeth, as she heads out to be photographed with a trans flag at a Queers for Palestine rally?

Ramirez identifies as bisexual. Corrin says she is ‘queer’ and likes ‘people’ of all genders, which is much of a muchness. If we were still living in the vulgar old 20th century, then instead of being glum and nonbinary, both these women might instead have been cheery bisexuals. Rather than agonising over their gender identity, they would have revelled in having twice the average dating pool to choose from. But sadly, the phrase that my generation wafted about so smugly – ‘Everyone’s bisexual’ – has made the word seem too common to those who are anxious about their status. The nonbinaries want the world to know that they don’t shop at Lidl / Aldi like everybody else, they only frequent the Waitrose / Whole Foods of ‘queer’.

Even those who still embrace the word bisexual don’t appear to be over the moon at being the easiest-pleased at the sexual all-you-can-eat smorgasbord. A young novelist called Madeline Gray moaned in The Sunday Times recently: ‘I’m bisexual – but the world felt friendlier when I passed as straight.’ Her essay touted her new autobiographical novel, Green Dot, which is about – get ready for it – falling in love with a married man! Move over, Joan of Arc, and tell the force-fed Suffragettes the news – this is a whole new level of heroine-ism.

Who on Earth needs to create problems so much that they gripe about being bisexual, of all things? It’s like a dog complaining about having two dicks – jackpot! Sadly, it’s completely in line with youngsters nowadays making such hard work out of something that was once as easy as falling off a log and landing on a perfect stranger.

The youth of today aren’t just shunning bisexuality. They’re also doing it later, doing it less, doing it with bits of plastic or pornography rather than real-life human beings. Could this be down to boredom, now that everything is allowed? Could it be fear, having been scared witless by watching strangle-porn on their smartphones at the age of eight?

Could it be that a one-size-fits-all attitude to sexuality has imposed an uncomfortable straitjacket on us? George Michael summed up this outlook well in ‘I Want Your Sex’: ‘Sex is natural, sex is good. Not everybody does it. But everybody should.’ Perhaps some of us were meant to do it loads, some of us sometimes and some of us not at all.

Or is it just part of Generation Catastrophise’s miserable attitude to everything? We saw this mentality recently when ‘climate change’ (followed by ‘war’) was selected as the ‘Children’s Word of the Year’ for 2023, according to a survey by Oxford University Press of more than 5,000 children across the UK.

Whatever the answer, there was something gloriously easy about sex in that brief shining summer between the invention of the Pill and the coming of AIDS. It was summed up for me by the late Paul O’Grady saying: ‘People ask me how I’ve got a daughter and I say, “The same way your mum and dad had you! Someone held your chips and you cracked on with it in the bus shelter.”’

And how wonderful the era of casual gender-bending was, before the rise of trans and the invention of nonbinary. Everyone from David Bowie to Boy George just did their thing with a nudge and a wink, for pleasure and profit, with no need for ‘validation’. Could that gloriously wanton celebration of nonconformity, ‘Rebel Rebel’, still be played on the radio today? Or would the lyrics have to be ‘doctored’ to reflect the neurotic new medicalisation of sexual ambiguity? How about these for new lyrics:

‘You’ve got your mother in a whirl
You’re a boy who likes dolls so you must be a girl
Being gender-critical is so overrated
Let’s get you to a clinic and have you castrated.’

To sum up, there’s never been a better time to be a bisexual woman or a gay man in the West. Not so much in great swathes of the Muslim world, but hey, I’m sure Queers for Palestine can sort that out. Tragically, being a lesbian is not so great anymore. Lesbians are ceaselessly harassed for the first time in history in the name of ‘being kind’ and ‘progress’ by vile transvestites seeking to break down the boundaries lesbians worked so hard to establish. But then, being a lesbian is just something that affects women, so who cares?

As for all you poor, suffering showbiz bisexuals and nonbinaries, give it a rest. Luxury beliefs are bad enough, but in a world where world war seems just around the corner, luxury gripes are even more annoying. Emma Corrin must be one of the most fortunate people on Earth – young, beautiful, successful and rich from doing the thing she loves best for a living. Now that is privilege. Maybe it’s her awareness of this that causes her to ceaselessly interrogate her gender and sexuality. What a pleasant problem to have!

Julie Burchill is a spiked columnist. Her book, Welcome To The Woke Trials: How #Identity Killed Progressive Politics, is published by Academica Press.

Picture by: Getty.

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Topics Identity Politics UK


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