White Tights A Navy Skirt And A Figure Like Caroline Calderwood. (Taking A Look At The Shang-A-Lang Years Viewed Through The Mirrors Of Time)

Hey everyone It’s hard to believe that it was 39 years ago today that I started secondary school. On that day Thursday 8th August 1974 two events were taking place on different sides of the atlantic which would help define the 70’s when looking back through the mirrors of time. The first was that Richard Nixon would have resigned as American President by the time I got home from school, the second was more local and it was the great news that
five boys from Edinburgh would reach number 1 in the Radio Clyde chart. They were of course Woody Eric Alan Les and Derek who were collectively known as the Bay City Rollers.

They like me were at the beginning of a journey, the only difference being that whilst mine would lead would take me the horrors of maths and science and the joys of English and Geography. There journey
would take them to Top of the Pops, which would to lead to fame fortune and global success. Oh I almost forgot to mention that it would do wonders for the tartan industry and the sale of flared trousers.

However only one of these events and I give you a clue it wasn’t Nixon’s resignation would make any impact on my life. Well I wasn’t really concerning by the fact that a guy called Gerald Ford was now in charge of running America, no I was much more interested in who would rule the space on my bedroom wall and that there may new posters to put up alongside or maybe instead of those of the Osmonds.

I started the big school as my mother called it, with a heart full of hope, a head full of dreams, and a spirit which couldn’t be crushed. Looking back I have to say it was just as well I had that spirit because as I was to find out on my journey I was surely going to need it to navigate my way through the turbulent years of my teens which had began during that year’s summer holidays.

As with any teen those years were not easy though I will admit that as a trans teen a secret I had to keep hidden those high school years were a challenge. It didn’t me long to realise I was bonding far better with the girls in my year and above than I was with any boys. This in 1970’s Scotland was not considered ‘normal’ and according to some psychopathic gym teachers I would have the ‘pleasure’ of meeting during my formative years, I was a disgrace who I needed toughening up.

This of course was wrong what I really needed were white tights a navy skirt and a figure like Caroline Calderwood. Caroline was easily the prettiest girl in my year and though she didn’t know it she was also my style icon, role model, and heroine. Well when your body says your male and your heart screams female you really need someone to look up to.

I would also have liked a wee bit of time to get to know the ever changing me and encouragement to accept and embrace every change as and when they occurred. But as I think I’ve already hinted there was a problem with this idea. You see though I may have been ready to face the world it was clear that the world wasn’t ready to face me or see me in the way I wanted it to. However I was nothing if not determined and began my school with hopes far beyond the imagination of most working class children that one day I would change the world and I wouldn’t let the world change me.

Looking back I think it was obvious to many of the girls that I shared many of the same dreams as them. However, though this was joked about as I gradually gained girl friends it was always done in code and if they sensed I was in any danger of being taunted or outed they would quickly mention football if saw a boy passing in case they overheard something which wasn’t meant for their ears. Well I didn’t hide the fact I was a fan of The Bay City Rollers, The Osmonds , or David Essex. Though perhaps in hindsight it may have been better in the short term had I done so.

However having moved up a class after the Christmas some of my new classmates such as Ellen Bradshaw Josie Thomas and a few third year girls gave me both the friendship and the bravery pills to get out there and be as true to myself as I could be considering the social and cultural constraints of the times.

The fact there were no good looking guys in my first year class helped me settle in quicker than might otherwise have been the case. Trust me my musical heroes had no competition in my year though there was a really cute guy in the year above he had strawberry blonde hair and looked great in football shorts. His name was Jamie and he was my first crush. This would last for at least a year though there were three 4th year guys who were pretty hot there names were Brian, John and Peter with John gaining extra points for having the nicest smile and talking to me every time he passed me. Honestly that boy had no idea what he did to my knees.

Anyway I soon settled in and figured out the habits of disguising one’s true feelings were learned early in a country where macho style presbyterianism still hung over our society like the darkest and most menacing of clouds.

It is I think true to say that things have definitely changed since those dim and distant days in which many people who didn’t quite get the irony of the scriptwriters held up characters such as Rising Damp’s odious landlord Rigsby or Till Death Us Do Part’s racist rent-a-gub Alf Garnett as true ‘British’ heroes. Honestly if you were a wee bit on the gullible side like some of my mother’s in-laws 1970’s comedy’s could be perceived as a Daily Mail reader’s wet dream. So with attitudes like that permeating all levels of our society it is perhaps no great surprise when I say I had to hide my identity as well as my back catalogues of Jackie and other teen magazines.

Also dear readers I must inform you that it was during the period I think of as the Shang-A-Lang years that we discovered Jim Davidson though why remains a mystery, and though it will be hard to believe Bernard Manning was still considered good family entertainment. As you can see from these examples this meant stepping outside the social and cultural norms was deeply frowned upon so one tended not to do it if was in any way avoidable.

As I gradually got used to my new surroundings I realised that though a million miles away from the comfort of primary school, this new world opened up a whole new range of opportunities for me. Not only was I able to lust after boys in the years above me I was also free to learn about exciting new topics such as Modern Studies, and French which I enjoyed even if I wasn’t very good at languages. I do have to admit though I did find all the technical and scientific stuff just a wee bit on the dull side. As for maths well that did come in handy when I needed a sleep. Well even I couldn’t be good at everything.

This was one of the most valuable lessons I learned during my formative years and it was probably more influential than any individual teacher in terms of what shaped me into the women I have become.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle XXX

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