Hey everyone As it was my birthday on Friday i thought that i would take time to reflect on the circumstances which have made me the woman I am and how they have shaped not only my values and beliefs, but my hopes and ambitions for the future. Undertaking this task has not been easy, but I believe if a job’s worth doing then it’s worth doing well.
The first thing to say that i am and will always be a woman. I knew growing up in the wrong body who i really was but trying to explain that to good but culturally conservative parents was not easy especially as a young teenager in the mid 1970’s. My mother in particular resisted any talk of this despite the fact see had seen me in wearing her outfits it was the curse of having no sisters. From a very early age I knew I had to wear my mother’s dresses. It was if though she wanted a daughter but felt she had to play by the rules, and even though my friends at school were more likely to have names like Aileen rather than Alan, or Julie rather than Jim the idea that I might I want to be a girl was something my mum never really thought about. I have to say though I thought it was blatantly obvious.
Indeed such was my natural affinity towards female friendships my dad in a moment of genius once said i should be wearing skirts and tights as maybe I was meant to be one of the girls. Believe me wasn’t wrong I told him as much one day in very private moment that he may not be. I felt that though this statement was overly cautious it was also about as far as i could have gone at the time though he did find the full story later as was as supportive as any Glaswegian dad of his generation could be.
My poetry on my gender identity including. The Lemon Dress and A Trans Daughter Remembers Her Mother tends to focus on my relationship with my mother rather than that with my Dad because my mother knew far more than my dad did and yet made no attempt to discuss the issue preferring to either dismiss it as a phase or sweep it under the nearest available carpet in the hope however deluded that she could somehow wish it away.
Perhaps this is why I am so upfront and honest about as I am and if people can’t deal with I regard it as their problem and not mine. Therefore to live my life as a woman is not only something I need to do but something I deserve to without the prejudice, fear, and ignorance of a society where significant numbers of people were far too obsessed with window watching rather than getting on with their lives.
The next significant aspect in my life has been my cultural identity. To me i am both Scottish and a Global Citizen of planet earth. One thing I will never be however is British. To me the reasons for this are very simple and again can be traced back to family. You see it is I think fair to say that far being the outward looking and inclusive nation that those in the leafy lanes of Suburbia will claim it to be, i from a very age picked up the fact that those within both my family the neighbourhood i grew up in who were most proud to be British were proud of it for all the wrong reasons. They were proud of the imperial past, they were proud of orange walks, they were proud that Britain was white and protestant and mocked anyone they perceived to be a threat to their Britishness or was in any way different to them. I was told, repeatedly, often, and in no uncertain terms that I should prefer Gary Glitter to Donny Osmond, thank god I resisted that one. I was also taunted for my interest in Scottish and Irish traditional culture with the line why do you listen to that feinian crap? If you read my poem Letterkenny Memories you will understand where I’m coming from on this issue. Statements like this were often used as common refrains from an elder brother and other relatives and neighbours who not only couldn’t lead by example but couldn’t lead a queue for a bus.
These remarks were I thought such stupid comments that i wouldn’t give them the dignity of an intelligent answer which those who made them obviously lacked the capacity to understand.
I was also informed that the there was no such thing as Scottishness except for the fact we had an international football and rugby teams and could compete in the Commonwealth Games because England I think they meant Westminster allowed us to. Yes folks, i kid you not the loyal orange wing of the Labour Party were thicker than so many plates of mince and doughballs that their stupidity alone could have fed the entire developing world for 100 billion years and we would never have needed live aid. Yet to think these were the people who said that I would amount to nothing. Aye right dream on. It is fair to say that I amounted to a damn sight more than my detractors which should come as no great surprise to anyone.
My detractors did however do me two favours without realising they had done so. The first was to make to make sure I valued my education and the second was to fire me with an interest in politics. Having had to endure too much teenage illness due mainly to epilepsy, I was a mature student before I graduated from the University of Strathclyde with my BA Honours in Geography and Politics. This however has left me with almost evangelical zeal that all people should be allowed to reach their maximum potential. Therefore I cannot express how passionate I am that the unique Scottish system of a four year degree course is maintained and that all Scottish Governments work closely with the educational authorities to improve both early learning and the high school curriculum to the best possible standard to make our record of excellence in this area is improved at every opportunity we get.
This educational advancement is important not only for the needs of our country but for needs of economic markets and the greater good of humanity. I not only want a improved education system I want one which will be the envy of the world because it shines a light of each and every citizen of our nation and allows those who are non academic to develop the skills they are good at rather than mock them for perceived areas of weakness.
I also mentioned that I am interested in politics and I make no apologies for that as I want to see a better, fairer, more prosperous world and to achieve this we must get rid of the old ways. This is why I will be voting yes in this year’s independence referendum.
To me my reason for voting yes will be to win for the first time in our history a truly democratic system of government for our people. This does not come down to what politicians or parties we like, or what we think of particular party leaders. Those choices are to be made in elections and that is for another day. This vote is in my opinion not even about politics, it is about the choice between two societies and comes down to whether we are comfortable or content with a system of patronage and corruption where between general elections Scotland will forever be an afterthought neglected and forgotten about until Westminster parties come begging for our votes, or whether we wish to create a better fairer society that independence can help us achieve.
To this end however I say to my fellow independence campaigners independence in itself is not the end game. Winning this referendum no matter how hard it will be will only be the beginning of the journey, the real hard work starts on day one of an independent Scotland. The road ahead will not be easy and we will make mistakes I am however, certain that with our talents, drive, and ambition,we can and will create the better more inclusive nation we seek to build poems such as A Nation Of Equals, and In Place Of Fear, illustrate the kind of Scotland I believe we can win for our people with a yes vote.
That said however we will have to make choices rather than have others make them for us. So it is important to know what we stand for rather than just knowing what we stand against. It is all very well saying we will save money from getting rid of trident and paying for the House of Lords where old party hacks with delusions of relevance call themselves lord snooty or lady muck. It is however important in fact I would say critical, to state where our money will spent and it my belief we must start by placing the health of our of our people at the core of this new society by saving Scotland’s NHS from the almost certain death it will face if we are gullible enough to believe the lies of project fear and vote no.
You see the provision of better health care is a particular passion of mine. Had it not been for the NHS I would not have celebrated my 53rd birthday on Friday because I wouldn’t have survived to see my 1st birthday. So you see I owe a debt to the NHS which I can never repay except by campaigning to ensure its survival which I will with every fibre of my being. Yes I repeat that I will fight to save the NHS with every fibre of my being. However it should be noted that unlike David Cameron, Gordon Brown, and Tory B-Liar I wonder who that could be, when I say I will fight with every fibre of being I actually mean it especially when you consider how much I have benefited from the NHS.
Being someone who has epilepsy which is controlled by medication, who has glaucoma which is controlled by eye drops, and has to take to hormone patches for my gender reassignment, you could say I am a walking advert for the NHS and you know what you would perfectly justified in doing so. This is why I am so passionate about saving the NHS from disaster. I am also passionate because when first my dad then my mum both died from cancer they received brilliant care from MacMillan nurses. I am passionate because I have a flatmate who has depression and has whenever needed received brilliant care from hospital staff. I am passionate about the NHS because I value the humanity of doctors, nurses and all NHS staff far more than the insanity of bankers and bombers who make up the front benches of Westminster governments who make a mess of our finances by doing more dodgy deals than Del Boy Trotter and then have the nerve to make us pay for the failure of their get rich quick schemes and to top it off march us in to illegal wars for their own personal gain. This is not the type of government I want to take decisions in my name. As I show in poems such as The Champagne Socialist, The View From Living Room Window, and Self Service Cafe I believe in equality and inclusion not segregation and exclusion.
It should therefore come as no surprise that I worked as an equality trainer with disability as my specialisation. It was a job I enjoyed and the real buzz came not on the day I delivered the training but weeks or months later when recognised by a participant on a course they would tell me how much they enjoyed the day and how it benefited them in their career.
One of the reasons I was given the job was I told because of my background in performance as I was an established performance poet at the event I now compare who had tried my hand at comedy and had in the words of my former boss the gift of the gab. Though it is fair to say our contrasting backgrounds meant we would clash on the odd occasion I have to concede he may have been accurate in this assessment of me.
As you may have noticed I can go on a bit. Well I am a poet so I have plenty to say for myself on any and every topic of interest. To me poetry and creative writing in general comes from the most personal place in your heart. This is I think particularly true of poetry which is why out of all the creative arts this is the one which has given me my voice with which I speak to the world or at least all who are willing to listen as I did as recently as last night the Glasgow National Collective session last night where I along with others took the stage for Scotland in support of our independence movement I read
two poems. The first of these poems Twenty Four Romanians was on one the favourite topics of project fear, yes that’s right immigration. Well we all know how they love talking about foreigners rather than global citizens. It’s such a shame for them that we in the yes camp are a lot more liberal minded on this topic and so many others.
My second poem I Am National Collective sets out the reasons why I am so proud to be a part of this brilliant movement to bring democracy home listing what the visions I do support and making more than a passing mention of those I find unacceptable and which illustrate why the United Kingdom has never been truly united except for those and such as those in the Westminster Village. Needless to say this poem went down a storm but to be told by a Romanian yes voting Scot that they had enjoyed Twenty Four Romanians was my personal highlight of a fantastic evening.
So now you know what kind of poems I write, it’s time to mention my poetic influences. In reality, I would have to say they are far too many to name but this list of containing just a few examples provides a balanced mix of established and performance poets. Names which spring to mind include Robert Burns, Edwin Morgan, Seamus Heaney, and Liz Lochhead, Anne Connolly, Jenny Lindsay, Robin Cairns, Viv Gee, Matt Panesh, Colin Will Jim Higo, Sophia Blackwell, and Chris Young. No doubt most of you will have heard of the more well known names amongst those I’ve named. If however there are names in this list who are less familiar to you go on the internet and research them, I have a feeling you may just like what you find. If you read my poem A Life Of Rhyme you will understand before you read the suggested poets you may see why I admire and respect the quality of their work.
As for my own poetry it is most definitely an ambition of mine to get a collection in to print. I believe I have a good enough body of work. As for what poems would go in to the anthology I’m afraid that is a decision I would have to leave to others.
As with writing in general, it is fair to say that the old truth about writing about what you know still holds true and my poetry reflects my interests which by the way are far more varied than some people may like to think as they search for a box to put me in which will in their eyes justify their stereotypical view of society be it in Scotland, the UK, or the wider world. I am you if you like the woman who can’t be stereotyped, though I must admit I am amused at just how hard some people try.
A classic example of this occurred when a very gullible woman who seriously needs to get out more asked on my transition are all your friends the same as you? by which I suspect she meant are all my transsexual .This I thought was a very stupid question it was about as daft as me asking if her friends were thick, you know as she so obviously was. I however would never be so rude or ill mannered as to take that line of questioning. I do have to say however, I have a particularly caustic sense of humour and these people are often the victims of it whether they know it or not. You see I won’t accept labelling of any kind and judging me on only one aspect my personality may not be the smartest move you’ll ever make.
So having dismantled this kind of prejudice and dealt with outdated attitudes better left in the stone age I think it is safe to say I have many different friends gathered over the course of my rich and varied life from my many communities of interests. I have friends from school, my local community, the theatre, the words and music scene, politics both in my own party and rival ones, church the LGBT scene, and far too many other places to mention in the space of one post on my blog.
So there you have it a potted history of my story so far. From liking pink instead of blue to taking the stage for my country I am the woman who will never be cast in the stereotypical roles and believes that the journey to the future will always be worth the risk.
Love And Best Wishes