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Founders Of The Feast 

On a lovely summer Saturday it was my privilege to, attend a poetry themed barbecue in honour of the world’s worst  poet otherwise known as William Topaz McGonagall. This annual event now in its 12th year is hosted by my good friends Colin and Irene Storrie who every year open their hearts and open their home for a fantastic day of poetry, music, and friendship where having celebrated the best poet in the world at our Burns Suppers in January we can focus on commemorating the self styled worst poet in the world who even on our worst days can make every one us look like a genius. That’s why I dedicate this year’s McGonagall poem to them. I’ve given it the title Founders Of The Feast I hope  you enjoy the read.  

Founders Of The Feast 

​It is one of my favourite my summer traditions 

In the land we call the United Kingdom of Great Britain 

as we gather together the many and not the few 

to have good food and companionship 

and enjoy a very sociable barbecue

   
It is always great fun, but I cannot deny 

that sometimes it is not just the food which will be grilled or fried 

as the natives of our land have a tendency get very badly burned 

when we see that big yellow object 

which is know by  metrologists and weather forecasters as the sun 

 This is however, not something about which we should complaining

as in Scotland and the United Kingdom Of Great Britain 

the weather has a nasty habit of raining 

If this is the Almighty’s idea of a summer joke 

I do not find it funny as many of out citizens 

could get caught in a downpour and end up getting soaked. 

This I fear would not be very good 

however I hope it would not spoil their day or stop them enjoying their food 

for that would be a very great shame 

especially at the poets barbecue 

which every year since 2006 

has been held to celebrate the honour of my name. 

This barbecue is not held in the Magdalene Green or the fair city of Dundee

Nor even in Edinburgh the city that gave birth to the poetic genius I was born to be 

it takes place in the heart of Glasgow’s East End 

and founded by most uniquely talented collection of friends

it is however to the founders of the feast 

I must now proclaim my gratitude

though I have heard said they prefer good companions

 to a diet of well meant  platitudes 

but alas as the my story has now reached it’s end 

I ask you to raise your glasses 

and toast, Irene , Colin, and the company of  friends.  

© Gayle Smith 2017 

One Of The Girls 

On day 27 of NaPoWriMo I look at teenage memories as made by magazines we read as girls and how what we learned between the covers of our favourite magazine went on to play a significant role  in shaping the women we’ve become.

 I was inspired to write this poem after visiting the Scottish Memories Facebook  group where members chat about what we remember growing up and after chatting to members from various demographics within the group on the topic of childhood games I decided to ask the women of the group what was their magazines of choice growing up. Needless to say I was inundated with comments and it was those comments which helped me to write this poem. 

 On completing the poem I had to find a title for it , and having came up with a few suggestions I  consulted with friends on what the most suitable selection should be. On putting it to the vote, the will of the people  decided that the best and most appropriate title  was One Of The Girls and being a believer in poetry democracy in action that is the title I’m going with. I hope you enjoy the read.  
One Of The Girls 
I was a Jackie girl. 

this was the magazine

 which shaped my formative years 

concerns and fears about not being cool enough for school 

briefly removed as I was transported to a place of dreams 

Donny Osmond would never visit the scheme I lived in 

not even on his tours of Britain 

but his posters adorned my bedroom wall 

and turned it in to shrine for my first crush 

the puppy love who made me realise I was one of the girls 

and made me go funny inside 

I blushed the impure thoughts 

I wasn’t supposed to have 

but could never hide from my mother 

I kept my secret stash of magazines

 hidden under the bed in a box filled with memories 

for older generations of girls 

 titles like  Romeo and Valentine 

reminded them of a more innocent world 

whilst those younger than me 

were caught up in the celebrity culture 

created by top of the pops 

and the weekly chart shows on the radio 

Smash Hits and Number One 

were the best sellers for the girls who just wanted to have fun 

and knew that Madonna sang songs that were made for dancing 

potential Prince Charming’s would need to have cold hard cash 

to be the material girl’s Mr Right 

and the mum’s who were brought up with Judy and Bunty 

were far removed from their daughters reality 

as some in the media expressed disdain 

that the new teens were reading stuff on sexuality 

progressive parents thought it was better 

to know the facts of life 

rather than have pregnancies due to ignorance 

changing times meant changing tastes 

on the magazine rack 

and when More arrived 

Jackie’s days were numbered 

well photo stories couldn’t compete 

with  groundbreaking content like  position of the week

it made some of my teenage reading 

look so meek and mild 

there was no longer a market for  the magazines I grew up with 

and part of my childhood died 

as I became a new woman 

with a taste for company and glamour. 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Comfort Zone 

On day 21 of NaPoWriMo My poem  takes a look at the topic of Privacy. I do so with the issue of locality very much on my mind and that’s why I set it in the most personal places of all, well you can’t get more personal than your street and your home. It is for this  reason I’ve run with the title suggested by my Facebook friend Karen Campbell and titled it Comfort Zone I hope you enjoy the read. 
Comfort Zone 
It’s nice here 

I have nice friends

a nice home 

and a very nice life 

and believe me that is exactly how 

I want it to stay

nothing will take me from my comfort zone 

you see I give money 

to those less fortunate than myself 

I look after my health 

take care of myself 

I know it sounds so middle class

but I’m not I’m just cautious

I’ve always been honest 

maybe it’s because I’m single 

I may mix and mingle 

as much as anyone 

and believe me this girl 

has known how to have fun 

since before Cyndi Lauper hit the charts 

with the song that became an anthem 

but as a Cosmo girl I learned early 

to value my independence 

so when I shut the door behind me 

at the end of the night 

I like to keep myself right 

lock the door on the world 

and retreat to the space I call mine 

my home  is my comfort zone 

the place I can truly be me 

and have the privacy to freely 

express myself 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Disciples 

On day 15 of NaPoWriMo my poem is on the topic of faith and was inspired by my friend and fellow poet Janet Crawford.Like me Janet is a woman of faith and church plays an important part in her life  so it really was no surprise that when I asked for suggestions for potential topics she  came up something which is deeply personal to both of us and enables me to write my personal take on the Easter story. As for  the title , there really was only one logical choice and that of course is  Disciples I hope you enjoy the read. 
Disciples 
Hanged on a cross 

an innocent man 

paid the price for our sins 

as Pontius Pilot washed his hands 

of the truth he knew 

in the heat of that Friday afternoon

he turned his face to the father 

pleaded for sinners

 asking forgiveness 

he interceded on our behalf 

the crowds laughed and cheered 

when the spotless one 

the lamb of God 

was brutally put to death 

by those who didn’t understand 

saw him as a pest 

but God knew his mission 

and that come Sunday 

he would be risen 

the conquering  son 

would give him the glory 

the tomb would be empty 

and death would lie defeated 

faith triumphant 

he would once more walk among us 

till ascending to heaven 

at the time he knew was right 

and the father made disciples of us all 

@ Gayle Smith 2017 

Soundtrack 

On day 14 of NaPoWriMo My poem looks at the importance of music in creating memories and shaping who we are. I have given it the title Soundtrack I hope you enjoy the read. 
Soundtrack 

A musical journey through my teens 

when dreams were left unshared 

by girls like me 

with no-one to confide in 

closets were the hiding place 

where I found the personal space

to keep me safe 

the 70’s were not the time 

and Glasgow was not the place 

for those born in one gender 

to say they wanted to be another 

I had many fights with my mother 

on this and other issues 

where she wanted me to keep my opinions

to myself 

but I knew staying silent would not be good 

for my mental health 

anyway , I digress 

this was a night 

when I thought of party dresses,

I never got the chance to wear 

it was a time for shared memories 

for women of a certain age 

as Jackie the musical took to the stage 

 the theatre came alive 

a chorus of voices sang about Dancing On A Saturday Night 

whilst dreaming of puppy love with Donny 

the story of our lives

 told through the eyes of the leading character in the play 

my only criticism was that there were no Bay City Rollers songs 

to get the audience singing along 

not even shang -a lang 

the song that got me wishing 

I was kissing Les  McKeown 

behind the bikesheds 

in my school lunch break 

as teenage lust replaced all previous crushes 

from now on I wanted boys to hold me close 

kiss me in the back row of the movies

and be  the kind of boyfriend 

my parents wouldn’t approve of 

to me this show was more than just a night at the theatre 

many of the songs contained within it

were signposts on a journey 

the soundtrack of my life 

the songs that helped to make me 

the girl I was and the woman I’ve become 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Discovered 

For the next 30 days my blog will be  focused almost entirely on poetry as I make my now annual attempt at the poetic marathon that is NaPoWriMo.My first poem of this year is on one of my earliest memories of being out in public as a woman. This resulted in a potentially embarrassing moment as I was discovered by a friend, however the night a happier than expected ending as I found out the friend concerned was embarking on the same journey herself. I have given it the title Discovered I hope you enjoy the read 

Discovered 

Discovered 

In the early days of my journey

by someone I didn’t want to see in my little black dress 

nervous ,  I panicked 

blushed like a  guilty teenager

who had been caught  kissing 

that boy her parents didn’t like 

I fled towards the door 

tried to make a sharp exit

 It didn’t work he caught up with me 

said I should come back for coffee 

and a chat 

before going for peer support 

quickly my embarrassment faded 

he disappeared 

it was almost time for the meeting 

cheered up I made my way upstairs

I went to the ladies and found her 

discovering herself 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

A Trans Woman Answers Her Most Common Questions 

​As you know I live my life permanently in my acquired gender in other words I’m a transsexual  woman.  Now I’m not going to lie and say  everything is a bed of roses but I will say that it is a  hell of a lot better than it was before I made the decision to transition. 

Despite this improvement in my quality of life I do still get the odd negative comment and from time to time I  am asked some very challenging  questions. These questions can come in every situation from all demographics from children to pensioners. It is  with these  questions in my mind,  I have  decided to take  what I hope  will be a lighthearted look at some of the most commonly asked questions in the hope it may raise awareness the issues faced by trans women in 21st century Scotland/ UK. So  fasten your seat belt and get ready for what I think will be an interesting journey.

(1) Why Do You Dress As A Women?

 This is by far the most common question and it’s usually though not exclusively asked by men most of whom are and I want to be kind here not the brightest stars in the sky. I try to be both polite and firm when answering this question informing the questioner that I am not dressing as a women I am living as a woman because that is what I believe myself to be.

(2) When Did You Know You Were Trans?

Unlike the last question, this one is usually asked by women the vast majority of whom want to understand your issue and see how they can support you. 

When replying to this question I tell the questioner that I’ve known since my primary school years when I was about six or seven and that was back in the  late 1960’s when all I really wanted was barbie dolls , party dresses , and to get my nails painted. So you could say that I knew I was trans long before I ever knew the term for it.

(3) Have You Changed Your Name Yet ?

 Sometimes I am genuinely shocked that  over eight years in to my transition I am still asked this question. It also surprises me that people think that it’s done by deed poll and assume that it must be expensive when neither of these ‘facts’ are actually true. They may be true for trans people in England and the other nations of the United Kingdom, in Scotland however the situation is somewhat different and dare I say it easier for our trans population. Many of those who ask this question are generally supportive of my transition and just curious to what I’ve been through and what I’ve still to go through.

(4)  What’s Your Real Name ?  

As soon as I hear this I tell the person that  Gayle is my real name and if they insist on asking the question again I call them out as a transphobic  bigot and tell them to get over themselves.  I try where possible to  be polite in  doing this but if they still refuse to back off I have a two word Glaswegian reply and the second word is off 

(5) Is It Not All About Glamour? 

This is usually asked by one very particular demographic and that is gay men who believe they are far better looking than they actually are.However when I tell them there is nothing remotely glamorous about the sexism, prejudice , and discrimination women face on a daily basis or the fact and that we are still paid less than men for doing the same job almost 50 years after the first Equal Pay Act it tends to shut them up. 

Picture (1) This picture taken on Edinburgh’s North Bridge as I leave the capital to return home to Baillieston after a great day at the fringe shows that no woman does the glamour thing every day and to think trans women are any different from other women in this respect is to be completely and totally deluded. 


(6) What Toilets Do You Use ?

I have to  say if anyone is actually stupid enough to ask this question they should still be in primary 1. To me the fact I’m living as a woman makes it obvious I should use the  Ladies Room.  I am however mistified as to why people are so bothered as where I should go for a comfort break or to check my make up. 

(7) Do You Still Like Football ?

 Yes, unbelievable as it sounds, I have actually been asked this question usually by men of certain age who have still to visit the 19th century let alone live in the 21st.  On  hearing this I gently but firmly  inform my inquisitor that it’s my gender that’s changed not my lifelong loyalties. 

(8) Are Your Boobs Real ?

This is amongst the rudest and most offensive questions you could ever ask a trans woman 90 percent of the time this question is asked by drunk men at bus stops , of the other 10 percent of inquisitors are  99.9 young guys trying to be wide when the only thing that’s wide about them are their ever expanding waistlines. 

(9) Do You Fancy Men Or Women ? 

To me my sexuality is a private matter and when I am asked this question I respond by patronising the crap out of the questioner by very carefully and laboriously explaining why Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation are not biologically linked in any way. Since this question is usually asked by men who are neither bright nor eye candy, I inform them that my primary sexual attraction is towards men but they can relax because like any other woman I happen to have standards and they come nowhere near to meeting them. 

 (10) How Did Your Family/Friends/ Colleges Take The News When You Told Them You Were Going To Be Living As A Woman ? 

To be fair most of my friends just ran with it and got used to the idea pretty quickly and I’m not really in touch with any family members so I didn’t lose sleep over opinions of people I don’t see. It was at work that I faced my biggest challenge as many of my colleges had known me for years by the time  of my transition and whilst most of them  were supportive there were a few whose attitudes belonged in the dark ages and who went out of their way to make it as difficult as possible often imposing standards on me that they wouldn’t have dared to put on any other female members of staff.  

(11) What Changes Have The Hormones Made To Your Body ? 

Well apart from giving me a bust and a lovely apple shaped figure I now have a bum which may look big in certain things and hips which a friend of mine described as powerful. There  is also the added bonus, that my face now looks  more feminine and I have no hair on my arms or legs and this look has been achieved without the need for any surgery. 

(12) Have You Ever Had /Do  You Ever Get Transphobic Abuse In Public Spaces ?

Much as I would love to say  everything has been perfect and I’ve never had any abuse I have had to deal with some unpleasant attitudes and though the transphobic comments have become less frequent over time they are no less hurtful when I get them.

Picture (2) Shows the shocking statistics on transphobic abuse. Since  beginning my journey in the run up to Christmas 2008 I have received a number of transphobic comments though the majority with the exception of the ones on my breasts happened before the hormones began to take effect. Most of the time the attempted insults are from fat ugly blokes or wee neds in shell suits who couldn’t get a date from a shop window dummy so I tend to leave them to their delusions of relevance by remembering the  words from former  American first lady  Eleanor Roosevelt who said ‘ Noboby  can make you feel inferior without you consent’.These are words that trans women need to hold close to our heart if we are ever to reduce the statistics in this picture.

(13) Would You Ever Change Back To Your Birth Gender ?

This question is usually asked by people who knew in my pre transitioned days and is always given a one word answer and that answer is no. Trust me I would never consider this in a million years. I waited too long before starting this journey and the last eight years have been the most rewarding of my life so when I say I won’t ever look back and regret the decision I’ve taken.Don’t get me wrong , living as a woman isn’t an easy life any woman will tell you that. Women face far  more challenges than men and the patriarchal system we have in place in western democracies means we are often seen as lesser than men  when  nothing could be further from the truth but to me being a woman isn’t about power or even glamour it’s about being myself. 

(14) Do You Try On Clothes Before You Them  Or Do You Shop Online ?

This question is usually asked by girls and women who want to understand what it’s like to be in my shoes and in answering I always explain why I always try clothes on before making my purchase as I want to make sure what I’m buying actually fits me. Well as we girls know size really does matter when it comes to fashion and there is no exact science to getting it right. This means me that trying it on is essential especially as our lovely hormones give us all the lumps and bumps that nature forgot and no matter how good something might look on hanger or a mannequin we have to make sure it looks good on us before we part with cash and in that respect a trans woman is no different from any other woman.

(15) Have You Ever Been Chatted Up Since Your Transition?

Yes I have and not just  by  men I have also much to  my surprise attracted occasional interest from women and though I am as a rule  more attracted to men I have to say that when it comes to chat up lines women do it better. 

 (16) Have You Ever Been Wolfe Whistled In The Street ? 

Yes I have and I find it  extremely annoying.  How anyone can take this a compliment when in reality it is men attempting to tell us they own us is absolutely ludicrous. This kind of behaviour is not flattering  it’s insulting  and offensive to women.

(17 ) Do You Know Any Other  Trans Women ?

Ths tends to be asked by those who have a low awareness of trans issues. When faced with a question of this nature I gently inform my inquisitor that  I attend trans support groups and I  know a number of trans women and trans men and like anyone who is part of any community of interest I get  on better with some than with others 

(18)Are Your Best Female Friends Other Trans Women ? 

This, like the last question,  is usually asked by those with awkwardness around trans and more  general equality issues and they are very often genuinely surprised when I tell  them my best  female friends are not trans just women I happen to get on with. 

(19) Do  You Ever Go To Straight Bars ?

This question is usually asked by males who have made a false connection between gender identity and sexuality. When I inform them that I am as likely if not more likely to be seen in a straight  bar than a gay one many seem genuinely shocked at this news though for the life  of me I can’t understand why.I mean to paraphrase Burns  A bar’s, a bar for a’ that.


Picture (3) In this shot I’m in what some people would see as the very straight surroundings of the Pollok Ex-Servicemens Club where I host the monthly Southside Words And Music night which relocated to make this our new home after our  former home (Sammy Dow’s) was taken over by new owners and we lost our original venue after 25  years. 

(20) How  Has Transitioning Changed Your Life ? 

I think transitioning has changed me in more ways than I ever thought possible.I am happier ,  more confident and more relaxed than ever and I am far more tolerant of people who had I met them in my pre transitioned state I would barely have given the day. I am also a lot open to expressing my emotions and showing feelings which I would previously felt that I to keep hidden. As a friend I  have known since childhood said to me becoming the woman you should always have been has given you the chance to be yourself and I’ve never heard anyone sum it up so accurately. 

Make no mistake gender transitioning is a very big decision and  nobody who undertakes  it will be prepared for all the challenges it can and will  bring them. There are even in  these enlightened times a lot of myths  and misconceptions around trans issues so it was with this in mind that I decided to write this post and give honest replies to some of the most common questions  I’m asked as a trans woman I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my answers to them.  

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X