Hey everyone On the day my political inspiration gains the job she was always destined to hold I offer my warmest congratulations to Scotland’s new First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
The first woman to hold the post she defeated Scottish Conservative Party leader Ruth Davidson whom I thank for having the decency to give Nicola a contest. Politics when all is said and done is about democracy and with Ruth Davidson providing an alternative vision of Scotland Nicola got the democratic vote I know she would have wanted and the democratic process was legitimised because of it. Yet on a day when I should be celebrating a famous victory for democracy Scotland and perhaps most importantly of all for Scotland’s women I can’t help but feel just a touch of sadness.
My sadness has nothing to do with the departure of our former minister Alex Salmond. That was September 19th when with great humility and dignity he made his resignation speech and set in motions the events which would see his deputy of ten years take over the reins of both their party and our country. On this day however my first thoughts are not at Hollyrood but here in my flat at the outer edge of Glasgow’s east end and with a flatmate who is a world away from having the power that a woman she has met on a few occasions will now use wisely on Scotland’s behalf.
This is I suppose the tale of two woman my Flatmate and our new First Minister and Janette and Nicola are and I say this without reservation the two most inspiring and capable women I know but the worlds they inhabit could not be more contrasting. Though they do have some similarities, the roads they have travelled could not be more different. Nicola now the most powerful women indeed the most powerful politician in Scotland, Janette struggling with the difficulties which come depression. Yet they both started their journeys with a sense of optimism as they left their respective schools in the mid to late 1980’s.
Yes that is one of the similarities my flatmate and the new First Minister they are both around the same age. There is in fact only a year and five days between them with Nicola marginally the elder of the two. So what similarities do these women share? Well for a start they were both Wham fans during their formative years. Another similarity is the fact that they both come from working class families and are formidable forces who are highly persuasive when it comes to getting there own way and both have always had my best interests at heart. That unfortunately is where the similarities end, so why has life turned out so differently for two of the most genuine women I know?
That is I’m afraid far too complex a question for anyone who is not at very least a qualified psychologist to answer. I however have my own thoughts to offer on this issue. You see Nicola was encouraged as I was to develop her talents and skills and to do what my granny would have referred to as make the most of herself. There is no doubt she has done exactly that as now she takes her place as First Minister of our nation. It is in my opinion no coincidence one of the biggest cheers of her maiden leaders speech came she made a very personal commitment to education to a delighted SNP conference.
This is a very important issue for Nicola Sturgeon who like myself was the first member of her family to go to University.
In contrast, Janette had a more challenging childhood as she grew up knowing what poverty was after her parents separated before she and her siblings had reached secondary school age. Unlike Nicola, Janette did not get the chance to attend university as she had to earn money to bring in to the family home. Janette did not due to circumstances beyond her control get the opportunities afforded to Nicola or myself. This is why I fully believe Nicola when she says her focus as First Minister will be to ensure that every child and teenager in Scotland will be given the chance to fulfil their potential. Believe me Nicola Sturgeon will focus every day on creating a kinder more socially just society and by tackling and eliminating the beast of poverty anywhere and everywhere she finds it. Why am I so sure of this? Well the reason is pretty clear you see Nicola Sturgeon knows that had life turned out differently that it could have been my flatmate who was in her position this afternoon and that she could been have been in my flatmate’s.
The fact that Nicola has the humility and good sense to know this and the ambition to do something about it shows that she will be a powerhouse First Minister who will not rest until our country is not only a more equal country but a fairer, kinder country. This is important to her and the benchmark will be how we treat our most disadvantaged and vulnerable amongst our number including those like Janette who live fighting the day to day battles which come with depression.
Make no mistake depression is society’s hidden curse and if I hear one more clown telling with someone with depression to cheer up I will be a very angry woman. This is a devastating condition and helping and supporting people who experience it takes a mixture of diplomacy and self control as sometimes those have this condition may try to mask it by hiding their pain through alcohol. There are also many misconceptions about people who have depression being a danger to others. Let me make my feelings clear on this the only person Janette is a danger too herself. This is a woman who is intelligent caring and compassionate who for 14 years has been my best friend and this coming Sunday we celebrate 13 years as flatmates. As for how long I have known our new First Minister just let’s say it is longer than I have known my flatmate and diplomatically leave it there.
As I as say both Nicola and Janette are two of the most inspiring and capable women I know. Both were there for me in difficult days and both supported in my decision to change my gender identity. Both have encouraged me in my writing and performing as they know that my poetry is as important to me as my politics. In fact I often combine them both as my poems are sometimes a wee bit on the topical side. Also I have to say if I’m getting too hot and bothered about a political issue Janette will often tell me to write a poem about it and Nicola would more often than not like the poem I wrote. That is if with her busy schedule she ever had time to read it.
To demonstrate Nicola’s ability to get her own way I offer this poetry related tale from the past. One night I popped in to that well known cultural hub that is and ever shall be known as the Tron Bar. Whilst relaxing at the bar before going to a night at the theatre with friends who should I bump into but Nicola and fellow Glasgow MSP who now represents Glasgow Kelvin Sandra White. During our conversation Nicola was heaping very flattering praise on my poetry. Now I should have known this was going to lead somewhere and sure enough it did as our now newly elected First Minister asked me to recite a certain poem of mine to let Sandra hear it. Naturally being a performance poet I jumped at the chance and read the poem I know Nicola wanted me to select and by doing so, made sure I remained in her good books.
As you may know it is World Transgender Remembrance Day tomorrow and therefore I think it is fitting to include a supportive trans related memory of my favourite politician. This involved a chat at a Glasgow candidate hustings not long after my transition when I informed Nicola that a party supporter told me I would need to revert back to my birth gender in the run up to the forthcoming election as nobody would take me seriously. To say Nicola was furious that I was insulted in such a way especially as the person concerned was an alleged supporter of the party would indeed be putting it mildly. Far too mildly if truth be told she was furious at this slight on my character and told me not to worry about it. In a quote which will live forever in my memory our new First Minister assured me that the voters you speak to will judge you on the content of your character and not on the content of your wardrobe and that is exactly as it should be.
Be in no doubt, in Nicola Sturgeon the equality movement has gained a powerful ally who will be a voice for positive change in our nation.
That change will come because Nicola Sturgeon has the ability to persuade the people of Scotland to see things they may have missed. This is a First Minister of passion and purpose. The passion to bring about a better Scotland it is her purpose to make it happen. Knowing women like myself Janette and many others both inside and outside the political village who have or are overcoming barriers and living the best lives we can will inspire our new First Minister to create the Scotland she has always wanted to build. As from now the job of building that Scotland belongs to a history making First Minister, the first women First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon and I for one don’t think there is anyone more capable of making a success of it.
Love And Best Wishes