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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

No Room For Rainbows

In my latest poem I look at what it meant to be a young trans woman in the very conservative 1980’s. To set the context to this work I should perhaps explain that as we started this  decade homosexuality wàs still illegal in Scotland and though this changed in 1981 bringing the law in to line with England and Wales where this had been the case since 1967 it was at a time when there was a climate of fear against the LGBT community and when homophobia and transphobia as we know them today didn’t exist and merely thought of as normal everyday behaviour. 

Seriously, that’s how it was back in the day.Thankfully times have moved on since those dark days and now living permanently as the woman I’ve always known I was I’ve taken a retrospective look at that part of my story and I think I’ve gained a better understanding of my mother’s issues with my trans identity by doing so. I honestly believe that my mother was a good woman who was probably afraid for my safety and that’s what shaped her views on it. 

As is the case with some poems I had difficulty in deciding the title because I had thought of more than one potential option for it. Bearing this in mind I asked my virtual villagers to make the choice for me  and it was Michelle Campbell SNP councillor for Erskine And Inchinan who was first up with her suggestion of No Room For Rainbows which I think is the perfect fit for a poem written about darker days than now. So I’ve to run with it and I hope you enjoy the read.  
No Room For Rainbows 

In the 80’s I danced to Madonna 

and sometimes to a bit of Donna Summer 

well much to my mother’s consternation 

there were some things from the 70’s 

I just couldn’t give up.  

 I wanted a bit of hot stuff 

well though this material girl enjoyed her freedom years 

dancing in my fishnets and body suit 

in the peace and quiet of my room

was the closest I could get to being me

in the days when myths and misconceptions 

were par for the course if you were LGBT

due to the climate of the time 

anti gay hate crime was worse then than now

and trans women were figures of ridicule 

so I can understand my  mother’s attitude 

in trying to wish my identity away 

write it off as a phase

but all the wishing in the world 

wasn’t going to make me straight 

at least not in the male sense of the word 

the very idea of it is completely absurd 

though I get why she hung on to it 

tighter than any child clings to a comfort blanket 

the 80’s were uncomfortable times 

for anyone considered different 

she was probably scared I’d be attacked 

as Thatcher used force 

to unite her Britain under a union flag 

made of second hand rags and material concerns 

with no room left for rainbows 

© Gayle Smith 2017

Secret Cinderella

With Glasgow Pride coming up next weekend it’s no surprise that this month’s edition of Extra Second is focusing on sexuality. As I’ve been billed to perform I thought I had better get cracking and write some poems on the topic. In this one I travel back in time to the summer of 1974 and recall the day I  started secondary school and the first real stirrings with regards to boys and being aware of being a socially awkward trans teen before I knew the term for it. I’ve given it the title Secret Cinderella, I hope you enjoy the read .

Secret Cinderella

It was the day that Nixon resigned 

and the Bay City Rollers made number one on Radio Clyde 

when I started high school

I tried so hard to fit in and be cool 

it didn’t work 

I wanted skirts not the trousers that were my fate

I hated being made to be a boy 

I couldn’t play the part 

my heart wasn’t in it 

there were limits to my acting skils 

I tried to play football but would sooner hang out with girls 

talk about what really mattered 

make up, boys, and teenage dreams 

the centrefold in that week’s Jackie magazine 

but when you lived in the schemes 

these stirrings had to be calmed if not completely quelled

Catholic or Protestant both guilt trips 

had the same destination 

a one way ticket on the road to hell 

and a child of a mixed marriage would be condemned to it twice 

secretly I would wear tights and dresses 

when nobody else was watching 

well Scotland was a different place back then

where men were men and no boys were ever allowed to cry 

even if denying the truth would have them climbing bedroom walls 

the secret Cinderella’s who never even made it 

to the school disco let alone the ball 

and wouldn’t kiss Prince Charming till their 40’s 

© Gayle Smith 2017

Token Gesture

​I write this poem as a direct appeal to Facebook to retain the rainbow pride button they introduced for Pride Month. I do this in the spirit of friendship and equality and to remind them that though the pride season may be at an end in the USA that is not the case in the UK or in many other countries in the world where many important pride marches have still to take place during the summer months. There are and it has to be said many sceptics within the LGBTIQ community who believe that the rainbow button was only a token gesture used to generate good PR for the social media site. I however am prepared to offer the hand of friendship and give the organisation the chance to show it more rainbow friendly than some people think, and hopefully they may yet prove me right. I have given the poem the title Token Gesture due not only to how the removal of the rainbow button may be perceived but also due to the fact that there are still some people who believe that token gestures are good enough to satisfy a community which is larger and more diverse than they think and that we will be happy to be tolerated whether we are accepted or not. Well  I’m here to tell these deluded and ill informed souls that is not and will never be the case.  I hope you enjoy the read. 

Token Gesture 

As  a token gesture 

we are given  a rainbow button on social media sites 

I ask myself does it give us the right 

to express ourselves with pride 

fight for equality during pride month

surely that can’t be right 

or is it simply a sign that the ultra conservative right 

who champion traditional values

 will tolerate our existence 

on the grounds they can’t wish us away 

there are those among us who are nervous of anyone who is 

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, 

or anywhere else on the spectrum 

they are still apprehensive 

when they see us holding hands , kissing, 

or daring to show any public display of affection 

and believe me they are more numerous than you would like to think 

the boys wear blue and girls wear pink brigade 

still use God to excuse their views on equal marriage 

personally as a Christian I find that so 19th century 

what don’t they get about the fact that the world has moved on 

and so has the church 

I remember a colleague commenting on the length of my skirt 

I replied that I didn’t come to work to flirt 

I go to the dancing for that 

and anyway there wasn’t any man in the office 

 I found attractive enough to waste my lippy on 

but men might look at you she claimed

honestly she should have been ashamed 

to even suggest that anyone would be so unprofessional 

as to look at me in that kind of way

when I was only doing my day job 

but this is this kind of thing I had to face

disgraceful yes , but not surprising 

when you consider the attitudes which are out there in wider community 

some of them are a cross between mythology and lunacy 

are usually grounded on hand me opinions 

from tabloid and television screens

where reality is lived through soaps and the six o clock news 

which many take as fact without ever questioning why 

meanwhile we watch as equality dies 

and we travel back in time to a past 

when life was colder and crueller 

and those considered different are labelled by triangles 

as one by one colours are removed from the rainbow 

and tolerance replaces acceptance

as the new normality 

and those who can will control the buttons 

we no longer are able to push. 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Tears And Secrets 

​On day 17 of NaPoWriMo I’ve did what every poet does and let the muse take me where it will. On this occasion, it decided to take me back to a pivotal moment on my journey to womanhood when I decided I had to transition or bust. 

This is an important landmark in any trans person’s life and I was lucky to have a fantastic support network of friends most of whom came from tight knit world’s  of the  spoken word poetry, and traditional music communities. When you add in friends I’ve made through church,  politics, the LGBT scene, and a few others I’ve made along the way you can see I’ve been very fortunate to have the support I have. 

Others however have not been as lucky as me and it’s for them I write this poem in the sure and certain knowledge that had I not been blessed with such a wide and diverse circle of friends the women I described in it could have been me.After discussing potential titles with my friend Jenny Eeles  I have given it the title Tears And Secrets which I hope conveys the struggle faced by many trans people and in particular trans woman I hope you enjoy what I think will be challenging and thought provoking read.  

Tears And Secrets 
He was never the type to step too far from familiarity 

let alone experiment with gender or  sexuality 

at least not in public 

worried about others and their opinions 

he kept his secrets behind closed doors 

until the bottle of pills that  lay beside him 

meant it could be ignored no longer 

this was stronger than anyone thought 

ready or not he had to face his fears 

and through a river of tears

explain to those he loved 

that she was who he wanted to be 

it wasn’t for glamour 

 she wasn’t blessed with the figure 

to be model material

she just wanted to live her life her way 

she wasn’t gay or playing dress up 

this was who she was 

the girl who asked Santa Claus 

to make her like mammy 

finally out in the open 

as the river became an ocean 

the waves crashed against the sand 

the road to understanding started 

in a hospital ward where a young nurse painted the nails 

of the aunt she always knew 

but kept secret from family and friends 

and on trend with style advice 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Snowflake 

On day 10 of NaPoWriMo I write on a topic suggested to me a few years ago by my good friend Arielle Dale Karro who said I should write on a snowflake. Little did I realise at that time just how political that term was going to become as it would be used as a term of abuse by the ultra conservative right against those of us with a liberal progressive set of social and cultural values however to quote a former First Lady of the United States Eleanor Roosevelt ‘Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent ‘ and that is something I will never give to the Alt Right or anyone else.  I’ve given the poem the title Snowflake, I  hope you enjoy the read.

Snowflake 

As the snow falls from the sky 

on the coldest and frostiest morning 

the world has been given a warning 

the ultra conservative right have found their voice 

wearing the mask of liberty 

and freedom of choice 

they encourage you to find yours 

targeting the gullible and the insecure 

they talk of a return to traditional values 

this would be fine if those values 

were yours and mine 

but they are not 

I do not want to turn the clock 

back to the 1950’s or even to  Victorian times 

when sexuality was repressed 

and women had to behave in a certain way 

when we talk of progress 

they refer to us snowflakes 

the implied sentiment being 

that we are delicate little creatures 

who can’t handle criticism 

believe me nothing could be further from the truth 

ever since the days of my 1970’s youth 

I have campaigned for change

to make my country and others more inclusive 

 it hasn’t been an easy fight 

from apartheid to the Indy ref 

racism to climate change 

I’ve taken stances others called strange 

I prefer the term visionary 

I always fought with dignity 

and I was never alone in my fights 

yet now the loners and sociopaths 

who masquerade under the banner of the alt right 

call me snowflake 

give me transphobic abuse 

call it home truths when they abuse others 

from different ethnic groups, races, religions or genders

can’t see the irony of chanting  no surrender 

when their ancestors  surrendered to Thatcher 

as they do to Mrs May 

If they think Brexit or Trump 

can save the day 

they are fooling only themselves 

like pawns in a game of chess

they are expendable 

to be used and disposed of 

once they have served their purpose 

for the blame game their leaders needed to win 

populism must always have scapegoats 

and useful idiots to  serve the cause 

it likes nothing better

than those not smart enough to know

there being conned

the terminally confused 

who parrot what they are fed by the established order 

in the press and on TV 

yet they call me snowflake 

thinking they insult me 

but they don’t realise 

no snowflake ever falls alone 

on its journey from the skies 

we arrive as a team 

sometimes there are  just enough of us

to send a warning that you shouldn’t attempt  to go too far 

but if you venture to places 

you were warned not to go near 

let us be clear we will send you an avalanche 

and you will see our power 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

The F Word 

On day 8 of NaPoWriMo my thoughts turn to feminism and why it’s so important in the fight for a better more equal world. I thank my friend and fellow SNP member Lorna Craig (pictured with me at the 2016 SNP Equalities Conference) for suggesting this idea and a certain teenager  in my local church for inspiring me to believe she really can change the world. I hope you enjoy the read. 

The F Word 

This f word is not a sexual act 

it is a word used to promote a vision of a better society

by using simple facts 

to explain why women need equality 

and why we are determined to get it 

yet some girls have been socially conditioned 

to resent it 

the right wing press demonise it 

claiming it is half baked and does nothing for women 

that titled nobility can’t do better 

this agenda is designed to keep women in poverty 

voiceless in a Dickensian  style democracy 

where they are cooking, cleaning , and occasionally dreaming 

of a better life than this picture presents 

this f word empowers us  

to reject the idea that we should be tied to  kitchen sinks

and teaching girls that to wear pink 

should be their ultimate aspiration

in life 

telling them to watch

This Morning and the Real Housewives of wherever 

is neither smart nor clever 

girls have the right to get educated and persue a career 

the idea that women should smile sweetly 

if a man open doors and calls them dear 

not reply I as I once did 

that I wasn’t dear just expensive 

or high maintenance 

is totally and completely wrong 

I get angry at the sexism in the outdated suggestion 

we should restrain ourselves 

and be modest at all times 

especially in our fashion choices

we shouldn’t  raise our hemlines

let alone our voices in anger 

that some girls are missing school 

because of lack of access 

to female sanitary products 

this is abhorrent in the 21st century 

yet the tabloids still show women bearing breasts on page 3

for the titillation of white van bloke 

this is no joke 

if girls can be objectified in this way 

it’s no surprise we are still denied equal pay for equal work 

tackling these patriarchal structures 

is something we can’t afford to shirk 

or another generation of girls 

will be sentenced to the death of their dreams 

not fulfilling their potential 

or being as influential as society needs them to be 

in shaping and creating a better world for us all 

this f word is not just a word

it’s a call to arms to advance women’s rights 

we must use this word as a weapon 

in the struggle for fairness 

it will be key in defeating the couldn’t care less brigade 

the bullshit battalion of the apathetic army 

and this why every mammy

 should teach their daughters its power 

when used wisely womanhood will flower like never before 

this is a word we can’t ignore 

have you guessed it yet ? 

do you know it’s name ? 

did they blame you for using it 

call you a lesbian or communist 

a traitor or fifth columnist 

for standing against the established way of thinking 

if they do any or all of these things 

ask them why they are so afraid of feminism ? 

the F Word that chills them to the  bone 

©Gayle Smith 2017