Archives

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

Ten Days

As pride gets ever closer this poem looks at the story of a princess and a trans girl. Only ten days separated me and Princess Diana. Ten days, and different world’s.Though never a royalist it would have been impossible for a trans girl only ten days younger than Diana not to gush over her glamorous lifestyle not to mention wardrobe but sometimes fairytales are not  quite what they seem and at a time when I was struggling to confront my gender identity issues,  her life appeared to be less complicated than mine It is fair to say that perhaps I didn’t  realise how much pressure she was under or how lucky I actually was. As is often the case when I’m finding it difficult to select a suitable choice of title I let a friend make the call for me. On this occasion the friend in question was a member of the Blue Chair poetry family Molly Frawley who agreed with my original choice of title Ten Days as this shows both the few  similarities I had with Princess  Diana and the even greater differences between us. I hope you enjoy what I think you’ll find a thought provoking read. 

Ten Days 

I was never a fan of the Royal Family 

but as a young trans woman coming to terms with my sexuality 

I was subliminally influenced 

by Princess Diana who was only ten days older than me 

you see I  liked the way she carried herself

even though one of her dresses 

would cost ten times my family’s combined wealth

if everyone put all our money together

getting engaged to a Prince on Valentine’s day

seemed like the most romantic fairytale ever 

till I remembered that fairytales only happened in panto 

not to 19 year olds from forgotten housing schemes 

in remote parts of Glasgow 

and to be honest I never fancied her man 

well I couldn’t be doing with a guy

who spent more time talking to plants 

than he did getting in to my pants

no matter how rich he was 

that kind of man could never be my type 

he was more Mr Wrong than he could ever be Mr Right

now I don’t why but I always thought the marriage was a sham

It was too great a contrast 

like David Attenborough meets Wham 

and that it was never going to work in the long run 

Diana knew the meaning of girls just wanna have fun

not just the lyrics 

while his stiff upper lip made him typically British 

and I do mean sexuallly repressed 

when she got married I focused on her dress 

and how I would love to have worn it

for my  wedding to the groom of my choice 

she gave me the strength to admit to myself 

I fancied boys not girls

well I was too busy wanting to be one 

to look at them in that way 

of course, in those days 

If I aired those thoughts folk would have just have assumed I was gay 

nobody even considered girls like me could exist 

so I transported myself to the dream world 

of a girl who was just 10 days older than me

when her death came I was saddened 

though not as surprised as some 

I thought it best to say nothing

play dumb and watch Blair hijack her death 

cry fake tears for the queen of hearts

the people’s princess 

the girl who made another girl smile 

as she showed me style and high fashion

the kind of outfits I would have loved to have worn to the dancing 

if only I had the chance 

but the princess who was only ten days older than me 

was the girl who had everything

until she realised that sometimes princes turned in to frogs

and not every fairytale has a happy ever after 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Signature

It’s no secret that as someone who is actively involved in politics and has been for over 30 years I have signed my share of petitions on a number of different issues. My signature has supported campaigns on everything from demanding the end of apartheid in South Africa to the right to equal marriage, and the end of period poverty. So when someone asked me if I thought signing petitions mattered and could be viewed as political activism I had no hesitation in saying that it could and I wrote this poem entitled Signature to illustrate the point. I hope you find it an enjoyable and thought provoking read. 

Signature 

Someone once asked me

does signing a petition count as activism 

I told them it did 

they seemed happy with my answer

if slightly confused  

on realising this  I explained why our signature matters

I shared stories I had heard of injustice in South Africa 

when Nelson Mandela was labelled a terrorist 

by Margaret Thatcher

when all he wanted was  his people to have the right to rule their land 

I said that signing petitions was 

a way of raising awareness to make people understand

why things needed to change 

but would stay the same 

If we didn’t sign up to express our discontent .

I explained that this is direct democracy in action

and without this kind of participation 

it’s no exaggeration to  say 

Palestine would still be ignored

the lion rampant would never have roared for democracy 

governments could neglect child poverty 

and remain  inactive on tackling the gig economy.

equal marriage would have remained a distant dream 

and no it’s not the preserve of smaller parties like the greens 

It’s a valuable way of bringing issues from  the fringe to the mainstream 

of changing attitudes over time 

at street stalls or online 

authority knows

the power of your signature.

© 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 

Speak To The Night

On day 26 of NaPoWriMo my poem looks at women’s safety and is based on the story of what  happened as I waited for a bus on my road from an enjoyable Last Monday at Waterston’s and why I was grateful to have the companionship of another woman at the bus stop as drunks and beggars stopped to give us their chat. Like it or not I do feel vulnerable in this situation and if there is one thing I’ve noticed since I started living as a woman it’s the fact that  you never see men get this kind of unwanted attention. This is as every woman knows one of the perils of living in a blatantly patriarchal society. Believe me the need for feminism in 21st  Century Scotland/ Britain is as strong or maybe even stronger than it’s ever been, I wish it wasn’t but it is. 

 As you can imagine thinking of a title for this poem wasn’t easy which is why I called on the services of my friend and National columnist Nadine McBay who suggested the title should be Speak To The Night which I think describes perfectly how my companion and I felt as the drunk guy approached us, so that is the title I’m running with. 
Trust me when I say that this is a very difficult topic to talk about as no woman should ever feel vulnerable on any streets in a so-called civilised society but the fact is many of us do and that’s why I had to write this poem.   I hope you find it  a challenging and thought provoking read.  

Speak To The Night 

At a bus stop, two women wait 

for different buses to take us

on homeward journies 

in the distance a drunk man appears 

we show no fear 

but hope he won’t stop for a chat 

unfortunately, he does exactly that 

evening girls he says you alright 

the silence broken he speaks to the night 

I worry my tartan tights may attract attention 

he slurs words beyond my comprehension 

my younger companion assures him we are fine 

 eventually he gives up  taking the hint 

we just want to be left alone 

he staggers on convinced we are either lesbians 

or a mother and daughter out for some women time 

as he goes in whatever direction

the wind blows him 

a begger approaches asking if we have any change 

we politely say we have none 

he shuffles on his way 

as we both complain about the unseasonably cold weather

we enjoy a blether 

 about what men would call women’s stuff 

finally a bus arrives 

I feel  guilty on leaving 

a girl I don’t know 

to face the night alone 

and like a mother I pray 

she gets home safe 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Private Property 

On the day the UK is plunged in to political uncertainty and Prime Minister Theresa May decided to go the country and call a General Election despite claiming there would be no such election till 2020 you may be surprised to know that my poem for day 18 of NaPoWriMo is not about my thoughts on the upcoming election but on something which I see as far worse and degrading to women and that’s the sex for rent scandal which has come to my attention through the work of National columnist Vonnie Moyes. I have to admit I was genuinely repulsed when I heard of this practice and the fact is happening in the early 21st century in a so-called developed country is something I find both bewildering and sickening. Indeed such was my anger at this act of Victorian style barberism that I had to write a poem on it to make my feelings clear on the issue. I have given the poem the title Private Property I hope you find it a challenging and thought provoking read.

Private Property

 

It shouldn’t be allowed 

not in a civilised society 

but this is the horrible reality 

for young women in Scotland and Britain today 

we can’t just wish it away 

it’s happening and it’s happening now 

as women struggle to get on to the housing ladder 

unscrupulous males are acting as  landlords 

offering sex for rent

accepting only girls who show pictures 

maybe a flash of leg 

 or a page three shot in  bra’s and knickers 

they and only they will be given a bed for the night 

they will gain this reward 

in  return for satisfying 

their owners pleasures and demands

this is a picture too disgusting to paint  

yet these men ask us to understand 

that they are doing women favours

I disagree,

 you see, I believe every women has the right to shelter 

it is a basic human need 

we cannot condone those who use greed 

to exploit the housing crisis 

for their own immoral ends

we can’t  let this go on 
if we do how long will it be 

before someone is killed by this madness

my sadness on hearing this story 

has given way to anger 

and those who believe

 they can have their own private dancers 

must be shown the error of their ways 

this is not a business arrangement

it’s human trafficking 

 and it needs to be called out for what it is 

we need to tell the guilty 

you can’t get away with this

no man has the right to take 

a women’s kisses 

we do not live in caves 

we will never be slaves 

this crime has to end and end now 

no woman will ever be a cash cow 

we should never be rented out 

our bodies are private property

© Gayle Smith 2017