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Byron Shire
October 16, 2021

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: ‘Queer’ (noun) a word used to describe fabulous people worldwide

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I am a queer girl, but I am not Queer. 

But there was a time when I wondered if I was.

I was 16, I’d had a boyfriend, but I was curious about my sexuality. Ever since a basketball coach had shamed me for wanting to read a book instead of going to the cinema with the team to watch Flashdance and shouted ‘Mandy Nolan you are a weird weird girl’ I’d felt different. Like part of me was country that was unexplored, unmapped. 

I didn’t want to be colonised by expectation and assumption. The world seemed so vast. I didn’t know any lesbians. The idea of ‘being with a girl’ had not occurred to me. Because I didn’t see it – until I watched The Hunger with my best friend. There’s this incredibly erotic scene with Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon and we decided that it looked like fun; we should try it. And we did. It was sensual and explorative, and sweet. The next day at school my friend told another of our friends, thinking, I guess, that they would think it was cool, and she thought they would keep the secret. By the end of the day our liason was hot gossip. We were declared ‘lemons’.

Even now when I recall that story I feel the echo of shame. It sits under my skin. I remember being ‘othered’. It was a rookie mistake to not keep the secret. To think that a hetero-normative country town high school had the capacity to be non judgemental and accepting. We had broken an invisible rule. On reflection I realise it wasn’t the sexual experimentation that was the problem – it was that we were open about it. If you were gay you were supposed to hide it. Being out and proud undermined the status quo maintained by all the other curious heterosexuals secretly battling their own struggle with straightness.

This was the mid eighties. After a few short flirtations with girls I established that I was pretty much heterosexual, but with a window always open to the possible. I realise now that I view the world through a heterosexual lens. It’s easy – because I am a heterosexual Cis Woman. The stories I read, the films I watch, the songs I listen to… well, they tend to reinforce my experiences as normative; as belonging to the dominant narrative.

But hetronormativity is a lie. It’s only one of a myriad of ways of experiencing identity, relationships and the world.

So what does it feel like to live in a hetero-normative world when that is not who you are? How do you feel valued? How do you feel included? How do you get equal access to the same things straight white girls, like me, take for granted? 

It’s naive to think being ‘Other’ doesn’t have an impact. It’s naive to think that people who don’t identify as Cis gendered heterosexuals aren’t hurt by normative expectations. Particularly when bigoted homophobes still exist. 

Queer Family helps over 2000 Queer and Queer allied people in the Northern Rivers. This is a 100 per cent volunteer run organisation that provides support and engagement to their members. The community they work with here has a 91 per cent history of mental health concerns, many live in households with annual income under $30k, many are not in full time work and have unstable housing. 

As a Queer Community ally, I have signed up as a GiveOUT Champion (Give Out Day is Friday 15 October) and I’ve pledged to raise $5k for them to help with the operating costs of their volunteer services and support. 

Can you donate? Please join me.


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  1. Yes….
    Being different triggers peoples basic tribal instincts to fear the other.
    I believe this may once have been a protective reflex for survival.
    Whereas now when this is triggered it tends to suggest an underdeveloped brain, particularly the amygdala, the part of the brian that creates fear.
    When we are fearful , anything different to us is a threat.
    Antisocial media is deliberately designed stunt the functioning if the amygdala and keep it operating in fear.
    Look at all the tribalism been created in recent years.. all the them and us keyboard wars been fought.
    Unfortunately bigotry ( and bastardotry ) are wired into those facebook algorithms that we thumbs up to affirm our tribal group.

    I have a dream…all the kids become unplugged and their brains become free again , free from fear of not looking good enough, free from online hate and abuse, free from pressures to conform to photoshop fakery.

    Humans excel when freed from fear.
    Imagine a world where all persons are free to be and express themselves in a way that pleases them without judgement.

    • I prefer not to imagine a world like that, if you don’t mind. There’s already rather too much expressing for my sensitive disposition.

  2. I love those sentiments, Sujay, and I’ll join you in that world, hitherto imaginary, where freedom and expression abound – without the harm that can come with it. As always, Mandy gives us a solid, thoughtful column.


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