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December 4, 2022

Mandy Nolan’s Soapbox: Confessions of an Ugly Sister

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I have never known what it is like to be invisible. I have sometimes wished that I could have a week, or at least a day, of being smaller. Of being less visible, less obvious. What is it like to be petite?

I like myself. It’s taken a long time to realise that I’m okay; to stop measuring myself against benchmarks where I always come up short. Obviously not literally. I’m a tall person. Tall people are perceived as confident and powerful and capable. It’s how I see myself. I always thought I had high self-esteem, but realised that was just my low self-esteem trying to bully me into submission. It’s a survival mechanism. It hasn’t always been easy. It’s a process. 

I am a 54-year-old full-bodied tall woman. I have never known what it is like to be invisible. I have sometimes wished that I could have a week, or at least a day, of being smaller. Of being less visible, less obvious. What is it like to be petite? I will never know. It would have been nice sometimes to go unnoticed. I have spent my life being too noticed. Like a billboard that vandals can spray their vitriol onto.

People have always commented on the way I look. Like my bigness is some sort of aberrance that means I belong to the world, not just myself. Like I’m a building, not a being, and the rest of humanity has been asked to make submissions. I’ve had the most wonderful, flattering things said to me and some less than flattering. Of course I tend to remember the less flattering. I wonder why people do that? Why they say things that could be hurtful? Or comment when it’s none of their business? The other day someone said, ‘I sometimes don’t know if you are a man or a woman.’ I was surprised. It’s not something I would ever say to anyone. I don’t think I would even think it. It confirmed something I have always known about myself, that when it comes to fitting into the Cinderella shoe of the very binary feminine, I’ve always been an ‘Ugly Sister’. Then the person recognised the silence that descended on the room and tried to save themselves with a lifeline: ‘you look like a woman tonight’. Thanks. 

Of course it was a man; a self-appointed member of the gender police. It was a man I was taller than. And a man over whom I had more power. I was high status, he was low. The inference about me being a man dressed as a woman was meant to diminish me, to make me feel less-than, to shame me.

It reminded me of what an older woman once said to me…

She had dementia, so I forgave her. She had lost the filter that edited harsh comments, although I never knew her pre-dementia so perhaps it was never there in the first place… 

She said to me: ‘It’s such a shame’. I said ‘What’s a shame?’ Then she said ‘For a tall girl you have such a pretty face.’ I was taken aback. ‘Is it not good to be tall?’ She looked at me like I was an idiot and quipped ‘No! It’s very mannish.’ I laughed. But it stuck. All these years I thought I was an attractive woman, but had I been going through life as a ‘pretty man’? An ‘Ugly Sister’? It’s clear that when it comes to narrow confines, like a lot of people, I just don’t fit the glass slipper. Fuck fragility. 

Gender and identity is vast. For many, this Cinderella shoe isn’t ours. It’s painful. It gives us bunions. We’re into Blundstones or Birkenstocks. Some of us don’t wear shoes at all. As a straight cis female this gives me the smallest insight into what it feels like to have other people pass judgement on where you sit in their binary gender world. 

I am unique. I don’t have to conform to any reductive idea of masculine or feminine.  And it’s no one’s business except mine. Show other people respect and realise that gender and sexual identity is diverse – thank god. Otherwise the world would be so bloody boring. I’ve stepped up as a Give Out champion for Queer Family – who are fundraising for flood-affected LGBTQIA+ community. Help improve mental health and reduce social isolation by supporting Queer Family.


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  1. Yes mental health is a concern..Agree Mandy !
    However our freedom of speech or the lack of it
    Is under attack again ..from the Tolerant
    Inclusive and respectful left .. 🤣🤣
    So let me get this straight , a practising Christian
    Can’t be a CEO? the bigots have one . Apparently now any mainstream Christian , Muslim or traditional Jew is not allowed to have a job in
    Australia because of their doctrines on morality !!

    • No Craig, no-one has ever said he had to stop practising his faith or to stop praying….
      They just protested against the hypocrisy of his vile bigoted bilious views spewed forth about what happens in the privacy of others’ bedrooms or in GP consulting rooms seeking a legal medical procedure. Neither are any of his business or the business of any “church” or “Christian”, and are contrary to so-called “Christian” values of loving one another & do unto others etc. It is untenable he publicly espouses such views and rejects such people whilst being CEO of a footy club that publicly seeks to include those same people. Nobody needs to hear from these interfering hate-filled hypocrites.

      Yet again you introduce spurious arguments and twisted facts about an issue that had nothing to do with the article, and again have missed the point.

      • M Clarke. Could you give an example where Mr Thorburn has spewed forth vile, bigoted or bilious views. I can only find evidence of his acceptance, tolerance and inclusion towards the LGBT community.

        • DF, if Andrew Thorburn is indeed accepting etc of LGBT community as you write, then how do you square his leading and representing an organisation, his Church, that has the opposite view.
          Andrew Thorburn had a conflict of interest on his hands, he had to resign one or the other position of his Church or Essendon Football Club.

        • Do your own homework David.
          If you had have googled Church on the Hill site & listened to their proselytising sermons they posted long before he drew unwanted scrutiny & they were removed in shame & embarrassment, you would know exactly the kind of sh*t they go on about. He’s their chairman.

        • M Clarke. You suggest Thorburn spewed forth vile bigoted bilious views, then offer zero evidence to support your attack. [because there is none]. I know who the bigots are in this exchange and it is not Thorburn

      • M.Clarke .. you can’t make this up
        What you put foward.. so it is untenable
        For the you Muslim women who for the
        2nd year running sat out the Pride round
        Due to her religious beliefs..?

    • If the CEO of the Essendon FC was a Muslim, it is highly unlikely this conversation would be happening. The rabbid left is full of hypocrites.

  2. Try getting a job as CEO (or anything else) for a religious institution if you are gay or trans gender or a prominent advocate of LGBTQI rights. You wouldn’t align with their values and for this they have exemptions to EO Acts. But that’s not bigotry??

    Alas a major sporting club can’t seek to have its major roles filled by people who align with their values.

    It’s a clash of rights. In any tussle between the values of inclusivity versus the values of exclusivity, I’d rather back in the former.

    • To the contrary Lizardbreath .. it would be absolutely more likely that a LGBTQ individual
      Would obtain Employment unchallenged .
      It is against the law to discriminate
      Over one’s religious beliefs or sexual preferences
      This is clearly outlined in every contract i have
      Signed for Employment purposes.. the
      Circumstances surrounding this CEO’s on-boarding
      And the ultimate outcome are illegal..!
      The bigotry is overwhelming…this will be heading
      To the courts as it should be on principle alone
      Also the disregard for freedom of speech..

      • You’re wrong! And you keep making this inaccurate claim. Having looked at a few employment contracts doesn’t give you a comprehensive knowledge of the law, the EO Acts and the relevant exemptions but it would be a good idea to check these out before confidently spouting the same stuff.

        The arguably bigoted views of some religions are protected by such exemptions. An AFL club, because it’s a secular organisation, does not enjoy the same privileges even though they have enormous social influence and and have a formative role in many young lives. They are not afforded protection for the ethos of diversity and inclusivity that is so important in the societal role they fill.

        No doubt there are investigations going on about the legality of Essendon’s role in this and who knows the outcome. That doesn’t alter what would appear to be the huge anomaly that the bigotry of one group is protected while the anti bigotry of another poses a legal question.

        Something a bit wrong here hey and the relevant laws need a whole rethink.

          • Okay, now I am clear who you referring to.

            Barrow, your original point that a Christian can’t be a CEO is obviously a false one.

            Andrew Thorburn, whether he Christian, Muslim, Athiest or Kalathumpian it is irrelevant.
            Barrow, the difficulty is in the ‘details’ which always seem to elude you.
            The problem that Andrew Thorburn has / had is that he can’t be representing two organisations at the same time that have conflicting / misaligned values or views with each other.
            It is a quite simple proposition to understand, that of conflict of interest.

      • Barrow, freedom of speech is not freedom to speech hate, as we see from Federal Parliament with Pauline Hanson being investigated by Australian Human Rights Commission for her ‘advice’ to Greens Senator Mehreen Faruqi.

  3. I have heard and seen your reaction, Mandy. An old friend of mine faced the same kind of stupidity. Where do these sleazebags come from?
    I’d bet his feeling of an inferior self was the cause. Low grade. Spiteful. Pitiful… some mothers do have ’em.


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