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The Wrong Diagnosis 

  

In my latest poem I recall a recent incident as I take a look at arrogance, and assumptions based on stereotypical attitudes. The event in question happened a few weeks ago as I made my way to Katie’s Bar when a stranger attempted to bark orders at me and in typical Ruth Davidson fashion ordered me to sit down. Naturally I refused to entertain this attention seeker and made my way to my destination where I enjoyed a very pleasant evening in good company. However I decided to write this poem to illustrate that there are just as many ill mannered attention seekers in the LGBT community as there are anywhere else. I have given it the title The Wrong Diagnosis. I hope you enjoy the read. 

The Wrong Diagnosis 

On a quiet autumn evening

I am singing contentedly to myself 

as I walk to my pub of choice 

as it comes in to view 

a stranger shrieks at the top of his voice 

barks orders telling me to sit down 

says he’s seen me around 

really I reply

 walking on I ignore him 

he seems aggitated

 that I pay no attention to his demands 

but what he fails to understand 

is that while his scouse accent may be fine 

his Ruth Davidson style charm is something I can do without 

my world has borders 

and he’s just made the mistake of crossing them 

without my permission 

the line of respectability

has been violated

and history will show he was on the wrong side of it 

you don’t cross boundaries without permission

that doesn’t work it never has and never will

trust me I am not the kind of girl

who likes her world invaded by unwanted intruders

I don’t like the assumption  it implies 

you know boys will be boys 

and claim women as their prize 

this is male privilege of a very British kind 

which states if you ignore me

 I will diagnose you and give you a label

to which I think ‘it will be nothing to one I give you 

and trust me it will take you on a journey 

for which you wish you had never volunteered’  

but the moment he sneered at me 

I smiled knowing I held every ace in the pack 

and he could do union jack to stop me 

I played a tactical game 

because I checked his privilege 

and called him out for his arrogance 

I’d met his type before 

he had plenty to say for himself 

but nothing worth my time 

his crime was barking orders 

believing dog whistles work at his command 

and failing to understand 

a poet will always defeat 

a conservative charm school graduate 

especially one who gave her

the wrong diagnosis 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

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Selective Tolerance

I have always believed myself to have a reasonably inclusive nature and like many poets I have tried to promote the values of diversity, equality, and fairness , though like many others much to my own disappointment, I will occasionally fall short on this. However, there are some things I hope I will not be guilty of such as selective tolerance or even worse the social exclusion of others as having been at the other end of this as soneone who identifies as a trans woman I can assure you it’s not a pleasant experience. This is particularly true when it happens as it so often does in the trans community from certain types of individuals within the LGBT movement who along with some feminists and self appointed socialists not all of whom are confined to one party are the kind of people I would and this is me being kind about it wish to undertake a year’s course on equality and why it matters just so they realise it isn’t only a right for them and their friends but for us all. It is with this in mind I have written this poem entitled Selective Tolerance I hope you enjoy the read.

Selective Tolerance

 
force fed ignorance by the press over the years 

trans people have been used to create

a fear of otherness

outsiders who belong somewhere else

anywhere else but not in our communities

this is emotional insecurity masquerading as the voice of the people

the cloak of prejudice is a well worn rag 

I am not a man in a dress 

I am not mentally ill

ever since I was an 11 year old 

member of the Osmonds fan club

I identified first as girl then as woman 

I don’t need to be lectured on biology

I know my limitations but fight for equality for all 

I believe in inclusion yet I am often excluded from the rainbow 

 by screaming queens who are trying and failing to be macho

gay male transphobes in working class Glasgow

give me much more abuse than straight men 

I call out fake feminists for what they are

and socialist imposters who lecture me on internationalism

whilst claiming my gender identity 

is a choice

believe me when I say  

they will hear my voice telling my story 

no doubt there will be some who will tell me 

to calm dowm and be quiet 

trust me with hormones running riot 

this is not an advisable course of action 

I am who I am and will forever be 

I reserve the right to be me 

wild, untamed, unashamed

rebellious but willing to conform 

when the time or the man is right 

no longer content to fight myself

in a war I can never hope to win 

I see the sour faces of those who call me sinner 

who can’t look themselves in the mirror

 are too afraid of what they might see

I’m happy to be me because I know

fear kills dreams faster than anyone can run 

and their haunted looks have been fashioned by the malice  of a society 

which places too much importance of sobriety

and doing what you need to fit in 

and being a trans woman is not considered 

by those who crave the formality of binary genders

and falsely link gender with sex and sexuality

when no such link ever existed

but force fed on ignorance 

those who want equality for some but not for others 

should look to the history books 

uncover the words of pastor Neimoller 

and remember he warned us

of those who have an agenda 

which won’t stop till they’ve completed 

the elimination game

a game they can only win if we play by their rules

and accept selective tolerance as our normality 

© Gayle Smith 2017

A Woman’s Choice

I have written this poem for one very simple reason and that is to express my support for the me too campaign which is highlighting the problems of harrassment and sexual assult against women. Trust me these are issues which need to be addressed if women are ever to receive full equality in society. I’ve given it the title A Woman’s Choice I hope you enjoy the read .

A Woman’s Choice 

When I came out as a woman 

I was asked inappropriate questions 

about who I’d prefer to have sex with 

in other words did my transition mean I was a lesbian 

I don’t think some people got it

so at the risk of what they called playing gender politics

I tried to explain that sexuality has nothing to do with trans identity 

I was making a decision to live my life my way

you know the way it works for me 

I would still support Celtic and The SNP

just as other women would support neither both or maybe one 

we all different but have some things in common 

and in 21st Century Scotland and the UK

one of those things is and let’s be honest about it

 the fact that women still get sexually abused or harassed 

as cavemen find it funny to make comments about bodily parts 

or what a woman wears

trust me I’ve received stares and  comments 

in bars and on the streets 

none of which were soliticed 

about my breasts and my bum

if you think wolfe whistles are welcome

your living in a fantasy world 

and to think I’ve heard people say 

I should be flattered as these unwanted attentions 

is beyond my comprehension

I can’t understand why anyone would enjoy this behaviour

it is like giving permission to be judged 

and that is something I reserve my right to reject

I claim the title woman and say loudly and proudly

Women deserve respect 

maybe you’ll get it on the day we judge you 

tell you what to wear to work

critisise the length of your skirt 

when there is no dress code for any other employee

yet the minute you wear anything an inch above the knee 

you are told men will look to see what they can see 

can they not understand 

that the problem lies with men not me 

a women should be free to wear she likes

and not be treated like objects of desire 

male lust is a fire  which is not

a woman’s responsibility to extinguish

they need to do that for themselves 

but the patriarchal structures in our society

somehow suggest this is a woman’s fault 

It is not and never will be 

we will not take the blame 

for attitudes so ingrained our country 

some men turn ugly when women say no 

claiming she really means yes 

so let me say it straight no women 

is ever asking to be raped, assaulted, or harrassed 

because of the way we are dressed

this is wrong it has to end 

we can’t go on pretending it doesn’t exist

and risk the next generation of girls growing up

believing it is acceptable to be treated in this way 

we have to say we are women 

not objects of desire

we will not tolerate being viewed 

through the window of male privilege

it is not your right we are not your toys 

so let make it clear when it comes to intimacy 

 or who we interact with 

it must always be a women’s choice 

© Gayle Smith 2017

The Chance To Be Me 

I wrote this poem yesterday for National Coming Out Day to give my view as to why a day I wish didn’t need to exist is still actually necessary.  This is day for taking steps and having that conversation you know the one you’ve wanted to have with a college. friend or family member but never quite got round to or maybe it’s about them saying to you it’s okay I’m on your side and dont worry everything’s going to be fine. After a lot of consideration I have decided to title this poem The Chance To Be Me as that is what coming out gives to so many people the chance to tell the world this is who I am . I hope you enjoy the read.

The Chance To Be Me 

On national coming out day 

no doubt some people will say 

why does it matter 

well let me explain 

coming out matters so that no one will ever need to be ashamed

of who they are or who they are attracted to 

but it’s political correctness gone mad 

or so we’re told by those who claim 

being LGBT is a lifestyle choice 

when we try to voice our concerns 

at this myth 

we are told to sit down , stay silent 

think ourselves lucky we are tolerated

we should be grateful for this 

but kissing our partners in public 

that’s not on nor will it ever be 

tabloid press and TV decide the way society is mirrored 

yet for so long we were only bit parts in the stories narrated through soaps and plays 

those days are the days some people yearn for 

ignoring the fact that many a secret was hidden behind the net curtains 

people were hurting unable to be who they were

ask yourself is that the kind of country you want to live in 

where people are labelled and suppressed

because of who they love.

or that some of us dress diffently 

from what’s considered normal

by those with the biggest stake in society 

who preach sobriety whilst living alternate realities

they have the wealth and means to disguise 

coming out matters because it puts an end 

to lying  just for the sake of others

it’s about discovering yourself 

and having the right to be who you really are. 

coming out means I can go to church

or walk in to that bar as the woman I am 

there is no longer a need to pretend

to be someone I’m not or never will be 

I am still the same person you’ve always known

 I still write poetry and hate snobbery and inequality in all forms 

do not be afraid to talk to me 

or ask any questions you feel you must 

trust me to be honest in my answers 

know that I will speak my truth and own it 

coming out as trans was the best thing I have ever done 

it was the moment I stopped running away from myself 

and admitted who I was, am, and ever shall be 

It gave me the chance to be me 

and that’s why on this day and every day 

coming out matters and it matters more than you think

© Gayle Smith 2017

A Journey Through Mixtapes And Wilderness Years Led A Nearly Wed Girl To A Decent Proposal (A Review Of Fifty Grades Of Shame By Sophia Blackwell )

As always seems to be the case I was a wee bit late on arriving on the last Saturday of the fringe. Note To Self: This is not a tradition it’s a habit I need to get out of.  

My late arrival meant I missed the opening few minutes of Sophia Blackwell’s excellent show Fifty Grades Of Shame . It was perhaps no accident that the first poem I heard her perform was titled Mad. In this poem Sophia invokes a woman’s right to scream at the injustices we face due to a combination of sexism, glass ceilings,  and attitudes which should have been left in the days of the cave dwellers. 

Sophia followed this with a piece written in her childhood which was better than some material I’ve heard I’ve heard from many so-called adults and perhaps showed just how good the childhood Sophia was destined to be. 

She then performed a poem which transported me and the rest of the audience in the banqueting  hall of the Banshee back to a simpler time when we had no mobile phones, or Facebook , or Snapchat to entertain us and had to rely on more basic pleasures like making mixtapes in an attempt to impress the one we fancied. 

In her poem entitled Mixtapes Sophia (Pictured Below) looks back on those days with a mixture of fondness and honesty and the lines ‘ The language of tapes was pure interpretation . Songs were the flags you hid your face behind’ .  were in my opinion particularly revealing  and disclose the  kind of teenage truth we will only admit when the passing of time makes it comfortable to do it. 

Picture (Sophia Blackwell rocks the Banqueting Hall of the  Banshee Labyrinth during her show Fifty Grades Of Shame )

From this our poet moved on from her teens to her twenties with the kind of effortless ease only a gold star performer can posses with her poem The Wilderness Years. In this poem written in the form of a conversation to her gran, the poet shows that her rebel spirit didn’t die on her 20th birthday. Indeed if anything, it grew stronger  and has gone on to shape the woman I know and am proud to call a friend  In the opening lines of this poem Sophia boldly sets the mood with  the words ‘No  granny no maybes I’m not getting married or toeing the family line’ By  doing this she is telling the granny she loves that she is her own woman and will make her own decisions on how best to lead her life. In this brutally honest poem Sophia Blackwell has the confidence not only to admit her mistakes but to own them.   Later on, in the last verse of the poem she looks on with empathy on her granny’s issues with her lesbianism with the lines ‘And I like how you ask how she’s doing sometimes , I know what it costs you I do’. This demonstrates the poet’s understanding of the generation gap on LGBT issues in a way which enables her to be  sympathetic without being patronising. 

Having tackled her early years, Sophia moved on to explore the complex dynamics within lesbian relationships in her poem Everyone I’ve Ever Slept With where she writes candidly about those awkward situations which lesbians sometimes find themselves in where they go to  dinner parties and realise that they have slept with a significant number of those in attendance. As the poem progresses you are taking on a journey   through the teasing and tempting back to a place of faithfulness where the count goes down from what ever number she had in her head to the only one who matters. 

Talking of faithfulness Sophia addresses the issue with some  poems on equal marriage and starts this section of the show with a poem about an ex girlfriend. The kind of  ex she describes as the one only who communicates with you by passive aggressive texts who said when Equal Marriage was legalised ‘Now that we could I would have ‘ . In the name of god I ask you what kind of attitude is that to show to a former lover ?  Not a very nice one in my view but it motivated Sophia to write the bitingly brilliant poem Nearly Wed. This one hits the ground running right from the get go and opens with the lines ‘ You said you nearly married me , that’s really not a thing. I must admit it worried me, what would nearly married be? This is something I’ve often thought about and I came to the conclusion that it would be like nearly winning that race in which you eventually came second by quite a distance. 

Still on the subject of matters matrimonial Sophia told us that weddings were her biggest unpaid gigs as many friends had requested wedding poems to commemorate their special day. To illustrate the point she shared a poem she wrote for a friends wedding. The poem entitled When It Finds You Celebrates the ordinariness of love and by doing so explores the very depths of human emotion. 

Finally, having found the woman of her dreams and decided it was the time they should marry Sophia wrote her own proposal poem for the woman who would become her bride and as she said she wanted it to be better than any she had written for her friends. Personally I think she managed this with effortless ease, and her poem which is appropriately titled Proposal, contains the kind of heartwarming imagery that gives you that warm, fuzzy, feel good kinda feeling from first word to last. 

This was followed by what I think was the final poem in the show entitled  Christmas In July. This to me is one of the best love poems I’ve ever heard some of the imagery contained within its verses are absolutely stunning in their simplicity, authenticity, and beauty. I particularly like the opening lines of the third stanza. ‘So let the years go by because that’s how years behave, and from cradle to grave these are the days that we save’  I selected these lines because whilst they acknowledge that times move on they also remind us of memories made by sharing precious times with loved ones. 

At the end of a show which I thoroughly enjoyed, I look back not so much on a spoken word event but a look at life as experienced by a powerful and passionate poet. Indeed if  I were to summarise it in a sentence, I would say that a joutney through mixtapes and wilderness years, led a nearly wed girl to a decent proposal. 

Till next time

Gayle X

Other Voices

A long time ago in a haunted banqueting hall I promised Fay Roberts a poem. For those of you who don’t know who Fay Roberts is allow me to culturally enlighten you.  You see not only is Fay a valued mentor and friend, she also hosts Other Voices every year at the PBH free fringe and Other Voices which gives a platform to LGBT and other performers who are under represented on the bills on mainstream poetry nights is one of my favourite spoken word events not  just at the Edinburgh fringe but anywhere. So with this in mind  I made Fay a promise to write a poem to say in  my words what other voices means to me and I’m delighted to say that promise has now been honoured with this poem which strangely enough entitled Other Voices I hope you enjoy the read. 

Other Voices

Other voices 

far away from mainstream stages

come see us performing without fear 

poets who identify as LGBT 

some who proclaim boldly 

their queer or non binary status,

love us or hate us come and see us first 

before making your decision on how we should be perceived

we have stories to share with you

some of which you would never believe

listen to our words let us woo you 

with our tales of adventure, heartbreak, love, and lust 

place your trust in us to be your guides

in the majestic underground cave 

that is our spiritual home 

at this crazy time of year

come and see us perform without fear

far away from mainstream stages 

hear the sage advice that you will never give yourself  

it may even be good for your mental health 

and make you start a poetic journey of your own 

on the other hand you might just become 

a regular audience member 

we have no agenda except to entertain 

listen to us seduce  your ears with sentences 

rapped with rhyme and reason 

and delivered with the rhythm method 

we will pepper the air with salty phrases

if the need arises

 but should that be the case 

 it will be done with style 

we will make you think, cry and smile

 as we provide you with an hour of fun filled frivolity

in the banqueting hall of Madame Fay’s boudoir 

and when you see the brightest stars

the stars that  will dance but never lie 

when you are mesmerised by  them in an evening sky 

long after the show you came to see 

you will hear the cry of the banshee

and when you least expect it 

 you will remember us 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Tapestry

In my final poem for this year’s pride I bring my story up to date by relating the events from the 1990’s to the present day. I’ve given it the title Tapestry as it completes my story so far. I hope you enjoy the read. 
Tapestry

It’s been a long journey to get to where I am 

though from the 90’s onwards 

attitudes began to get better 

slowly at first, but they speeded up 

when we reached the millennium bell

things had been improving bit by bit

as more people began to be open 

to say without fear I am what I am

a friend of Dorothy who walks the yellowbrick road

in red shoes of whatever style I like

the T was finally included 

in what had been thought of as LGB rights

for me the journey would take just a few more years 

with smiles and tears along the way 

now in my 50’s I can safely say

I’m having the time of my life 

I’m more daring than I ever believed I could be 

yet at the same time respectable 

when the occasion demands 

no longer content to bury my head in the sand

I face the world and say 

this is me take it or leave it

but you won’t change me 

I only go back to the past

to collect memories which I join together 

crafting with care the tapestry of my story 

© Gayle Smith 2017