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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

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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

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

Daughters Of The Muse 

As regular readers will know, I  am a spoken word poet and early last August I was proud to be part of an event which though I didn’t know it at the time would completely change my life. The event in question was  women with fierce words in which those participating were encouraged to bring a fierce word to the Scottish Poetry Library to describe something relating to the poem they had chosen to read. This event then took on a life of its own as we became a fierce tribe and now just over a year later we have collated the poems of the day into an anthology and on Monday Lesley Traynor who was the driving force behind the event was interviewed on the Janice Forsyth show on Radio Scotland. In this poem which I have titled Daughters Of The Muse I give my reaction to the interview and the pride I feel on  being part of this wonderfully talented group of women . I hope you enjoy the read. 
Daughters Of The Muse 

A woman is interviewed 

about a new poetry collection

which the interviewer called
an exciting new development

before asking how it came about 

the women replied it was the result a challenge

to produce a piece of art in a day 

needless to say she rose to the occasion

and inspiration struck 

she asked poets to bring a  fierce word 

to the courtyard of the Scottish Poetry Library 

a word which empowered them

 or made them feel good about themselves 

as a starting place to introduce their poem

though all poets were invited only women replied 

what began as an event quickly morphed into a tribe 

as sisterhood showed its power

friendships forged that Friday afternoon

have matured and blossomed as we’ve celebrated each success

from Emma’s novel  to the launch of  Carla’s spoken word event 

we are not the type of women to rest on laurels 

we are daughters of the muse 

as we proved when we signed fierce words on canvas 

to become our art 

our creation 

we are an inspiration to others 

who will follow in our paths 

and now we have this collection 

as a memory of the day  

a day we tackled the task of rising to the challenge we faced 

and accomplished it by making  words our art 

@ 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

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