Tag Archive | Activism

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 

Our Stories

​With the UK pride season taking  place throughout the summer I thought I would share my  views on what the pride marches mean to me and why they have such important place in the history of  the LGBT community in this new poem entitled Our Stories.I selected this title as I believe it captures the spirit of the event as it shows that the only way any community will gain any sort of respect let alone the equality they deserve is by speaking their truths in their language.  I hope you enjoy the read. 

Our Stories 

With rainbow flags side by side with other banners

 we marched through the city  

as well wishers smiled, took photographs, blew kisses 

with only the odd look of disapproval

from those who wished to  rain on our parade

this was and is a day to celebrate who we are

in all our glorious diversity 

some may call it perversity 

but love is love no matter what 

your gender identity or sexual orientation may be 

and in the new inclusive nation we are building 

there is room for everyone to express ourselves 

in whatever way we like 

this is what pride is all about 

as we gather together we see as many differences as there are similarities

like families no two among us are exactly the same 

nor would we want them to be 

individual identity is important on days like this 

when we take risks on dancing with strangers  

kiss frogs and hope we’ll turn them in to princes and princesses

see characters in dresses and shorts 

so tight they could never be worn on tennis courts 

and meet oversized guys with oversized egos

who truly believe they could be  heroes 

when you think that life on mars has been discovered

and arrived on Glasgow Green 

It is a wonderful mixture of the beautiful and the obscene

but that doesn’t matter the most important part of the day

is to see and be seen in this colourful cavalcade

there was a time when this day and this parade

would not ,indeed could not have taken place 

we would have called a disgrace

for daring to show our faces

and public displays of affection 

would never have been allowed

now we hold hands as we march 

through city streets 

we are even allowed to marry 

politicians speak at our events 

expressing support for our right

to be who we are, 

live life without fear 

be accepted as we accept others 

because we got active became the change 

we wanted to see in the world 

by telling our stories in our words

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Frontline 

As I’m sure most of you know activism whether cultural, social, or political has always played a big part in my life. So when it was selected to be the topic for this month’s Extra Second I was naturally delighted to volunteer my services to perform at the event and have written this poem entitled Frontline especially for the occasion. I hope you enjoy the read .

Frontline 
I attend demonstratations 

for a variety of causes and campaigns

come rain or shine you will find me 

on the frontline

supporting those who need it 

on a range of issues 

local, national, or international, 

sometimes the apathetic call me irrational 

tell me I can’t   change the world

or the society of the nation I live in 

but Scotland and Britain need people like me 

people who want to make changes 

for the better 

not surrender to selfishness and greed 

I want to help those in greatest need 

give them a hand up not a hand out 

and certainly not the kind the Tories talk about 

they deserve rights and equality 

not a world where the only way is poverty 

we are supposed to be a  wealthy nation 

 not a nation for the wealthy 

the mind thyself culture 

is not just unhealthy 

it’s wrong and that’s why I’m trying as hard as I can to change it 

we can’t allow those with gold plated gates 

to lock the rest of us out 

and that’s why it’s important to voice opinions

on what happens outside your borders 

there can be no limits to justice 

we have a duty to support the oppressed wherever they are 

designer goods and fast cars

have never been my style

as my gran always told me 

you can’t take them with you when you go  

and believe me I know the truth of that story

that’s why I oppose Tory policies

you don’t solve problems by creating inequality

foodbanks  are not the solution to poverty

and  I cringe at Westminster’s attitude

 at the wealthy selling arms to corrupt government’s abroad 

meanwhile millions of citizens are ignored 

as doors of opportunity to change

are slammed shut in their faces

If this is the best we can do it’s outrageous 

especially when  cutting costs means that slowly 

the NHS  bleeds to  death

for lack of funding 

this kind of attitude is disgusting

and it’s why you’ll see me on the front line 

protesting at the wrongs of the world 

and doing whatever I can

 to change them for the better 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

All About The Cause

On day 28 of NaPoWriMo my poem  was inspired by SNP council candidate Katy Loudon after a Facebook chat in which she rightly complained about  sore feet and aching limbs after another night on the stump. Though primarily dedicated to Katy and the rest of our magnificent SNP council and General Election candidates, I think we should share it with all political activists in Scotland and the British Isles. In recognition of the work they  or should I say we, do, as I may have given away my own political affiliations in the introduction to this poem. So it is for Katie and everyone who has stuffed envelopes, put leaflets through letterboxes , went csnvassing , worked on street stalls, and  staffed campaign rooms that I dedicate this poem entitled All About The Cause, I hope you enjoy the read. 

 

All About The Cause 
It’s all about the cause 

the vision you believe in 

the values you hold in your heart

If only winning votes was as simple as that

but those involved no matter the party

 they are proud to represent 

know politics never was and never will be that easy 

this is not a game for the queasy 

it’s damn hard work 

there is no room for shirkers in campaigns 

You can’t have the day off just because it rains

that comes with the territory

yes your legs will be sore from climbing up and down stairs

for what seems like an enternity

and fluctuations in the opinion polls

will give us all cause for hope and concern in equal measure

on our bad days even an hour can feel like forever

especially when your doing an area you don’t know well 

but by the end of the election

you’ll know it like the back of your hand

You’ll understand the risk of cats and dogs waiting to maim you

from behind a strangers letterbox

when all you wanted to do 

was push a letter through

In the hope they would read it before binning

by reading your pledges and promises

on education, health, and transport policy

The things we do in the name of democracy 

It really is all about the cause 

@ Gayle Smith 2017 

Since Life Began At 50 I Haven’t Had Time To Get Bored.

Hey Readers

Five years ago today I lost my job. I was made redundant I was told after almost 9 years of work that my services were no longer required.  Of course I was told that it was just the luck of the draw and it was due to the economic recession. Whether I believed that or for that matter ever will believe it is another matter entirely.  

So why am I the mood to celebrate rather than mourn? Why do I smile on this day rather than weep tears of anger, or at very least sorrow ? Well I have always believed that everything happens for a reason, and in this case my redundancy was no different. In a way I believe it needed to happen to allow me to move on to the next stage of my life.

Looking back on what was my final day, I arrived early and  I was given time to make phone calls to colleagues from partner organisations with whom I had built up a close working relationship. Trust me some of those phone calls were not easy to make and some got quite emotional especially with those colleagues I had known for a number of years.

After the phone calls were made I got on with the mundanities of what had been my daily grind such as data input and analysis and preparing packs for training courses I wouldn’t be delivering. This later activity, was especially difficult as delivering training courses had been my bread and butter and what put food on my table for the greater part of my time in the job I was now preparing to leave.

At lunchtime my bosses made the usual presentation you do when people move on and the gifts of gifts of a watches, handbags and jewellery were gratefully received. My manager gave me the opportunity to leave as soon as the presentation was over but I think he was glad when I stayed for the rest of the afternoon and finish what jobs I needed to complete before making my final exit at the end of the day.

So how do I look back my 9 years in what was an enjoyable but also stressful job? Well like any job it had it’s share of up’s and downs but I would like to think I was a good team player who did what needed done to assist my colleagues whenever I could.

Of course like all workplaces there were the odd clashes of personality over the years however I always managed to resolve any differences in a professional manner. Like everyone else it is safe to say I got on better with some people than I did with others, and it is only natural to say that there were colleagues I liked and others I couldn’t stand. Though to be fair, the vast majority of those I worked with were decent people I would always help if I was in the  position to do so.

As my boss said on my first day in post, working as a trainer is a thankless task as many people who attend courses particularly if those are mandatory do not want to be there  and it’s your job to deal with that hostility. Overall I was reasonably successful in this and had a 96-98 percent approval rate when my feedback forms were evaluated. So it’s safe to say this was my favourite part of the job. Well as a spoken word poet who has occasionally dabbled in stand up I have always had good communication skills and made good connections with many participants on the courses I delivered.  Indeed  there were more than a few over the years who have gone on to become valued friends on a personal level and three of them attend or have attended the same church as me.

Of course training wasn’t without its challenges and I had to do a lot of reading to keep up to speed with the latest developments on all forms of equalities. I also faced more than the occasional challenge to my authority in the training room usually from egocentric males who had far too high an opinion of themselves. Believe me this tested my diplomatic skills to the limit but gradually as I learned the job I would find techniques I could use to isolate them from the rest of the group.  Also as I got better known in the field participants who enjoyed the day would often warn me if someone from their work had any previous for trying to annoy or undermine the trainer. Believe me I had more informal informers than her majesty’s secret service and there was always someone in every training room who was ready to cover my back as and when required. 

It was during my time as a trainer that I started gender transition. It has to be said that transitioning at  work was a rewarding if challenging experience and I believe, though they would try to claim otherwise, some of my colleagues just didn’t get it and there were a few who complained about my dress sense even though I was smart and professional at all times.

This made me angry beyond all measure especially when you consider the fact that they received training on the issues around transition from the Scottish Transgender Alliance. However what disappointed me more than anything was that on receiving feedback from the trainer who delivered the sessions some of those who should have got it in terms of the equality agenda were actually amongst the least cooperative and least enthusiastic members of their groups.  Like I said I have my spies. 

That said however annoying as it was, this wasn’t the most annoying issue I had to deal with during my time with this employer that was but a minor detail when compared to the relentless quest for perfection. Being good at your job was never good enough for an organisation where everything had to be excellent.

This to me was madness especially for an organisation whose profile is nowhere near as high as they seem to think. It was this constant striving for perfection which caused me more stress than any member of the awkward squad ever did. I believe it was unrealistic to place such targets on the staff and I know I wasn’t the only one who thought so. Don’t get me wrong , there is nothing wrong with ambition but you have to set that ambition in context. No matter what your mammy might say to sooth your ego you’ll never play for Barcelona if you can’t get a game for Berwick Rangers, and you’ll never be part of the new Spice Girls if the only place you ever sing is with your pals in front of the bedroom mirror with hairbrushes for mics.

It is this attitude of having to be best and be on top form every day which makes me glad I am no longer working in this environment. There is nothing wrong with being good at your job in fact for most people that would be more than enough but the idea of striving for relentless excellence is enough to put people under so much pressure it could have a serious detrimental impact on the person’s mental well being. It is for this reason I’m glad to be out of my former place of employment.

It is ironic that my redundancy came just 15 days after my 50th birthday and hard as it was to take at the time I bear no malice to my former colleagues or the excellent organisation I was lucky enough to work for.

Of course being made redundant meant a few financial issues and at least until I got used to living with more cuts than your average Tory budget. Now I’m not going to lie and say I don’t miss the money of course I do but believe me I don’t miss the stress and when you get to your mid fifties it’s good to be a lady of leisure. Well being able to have woman time has meant I have been able to become more involved in my local community. It means I have been able to devote more time to my poetry and to my political activities be they in the SNP, Women For Independence, or the many other campaigns and causes with which I’m involved. Most of all of course being a lady of leisure has enabled me to start this blog. Yes it’s true being made redundant from my job as a trainer meant I had to look for new ways to occupy my time and that was how 9 months on from redundancy tartantights was born and believe me I’m glad it was.

Indeed it’s true to say there have been times particularly during the independence referendum when having this blog saved my sanity. Well you see I’m a gabby wee madam with opinions on everything and none of my opinions were being represented in the print or visual versions of the mainstream media and me being me I thought to myself if they won’t represent me then I’ll damn well represent myself so that is exactly what I decided to do and I have done ever since.

Now to those of you who may not be aware, I have to inform you that blogging is a very time consuming activity. At least it is if you want to do it to the standard I do and believe me I will never give it anything less than my best. It is therefore safe to say that had I still been working as a trainer this blog which has now become my passion would never have seen the light of day.

Believe me when I say that this has been a difficult post to write, However I would say that for me at least losing my job as a trainer opened other doors in the most unexpected of ways. I discovered that life began at 50 and as I started on the next stage of my journey I realised the real difference between men and women and it’s this. It has been said that a man who loses his job loses part of his identity and given the chance he will complain to the world that he hasn’t much to do.
This is in complete contrast to what happens when a woman who loses her employment you see no woman I know has ever been redundant we have far too much to do for that to happen.

Don’t get me wrong losing our job may impact on a woman in the economic sense and it will impose some financial limitations on her until she adjusts her budget but if there is one thing she will never be or allow herself to be it is bored. Even a lady of leisure will say she hasn’t the time to get bored in fact she may be busier than ever and complain that there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything that needs doing done to her satisfaction. Being a trans woman I can speak with authority on this as I’m more active now than I was when I was working and a lot more active than I was before transitioning and you know I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

Two Hours

Hey Readers On day 24 of NaPoWriMo my poem deals with an issue faced by many young trans people namely the geography of isolation. The choice of this topic came after a catch up with LGBT activist and 2014  Tartan Tights Woman Of The Year Lisa Tait .During our chat Lisa told me a story of a young trans woman who can only be herself for a couple of hours a week. Now I don’t know the name of this young trans woman nor do I know what part of Scotland she calls home. What I do know however is that she will not be the only young trans person in this position. 
As I looked back to my own teenage years in the 1970’s I realise that I too suffered from this geography of isolation. At a time when there were virtually no LGBT facilities in Glasgow and certainly none for teenagers or younger people even in the big cities I too was restricted to just a couple of hours a week to be my real self so I feel a degree of empathy to those in this position in these  enlightened times. After much due and careful consideration I have given it the title  Two Hours I hope enjoy what I hope will be a challenging and thought provoking read.

Two Hours

For two hours a week
she is allowed
to be confident
proud
say out loud
who she knows herself to be
express her female identity
for the rest of the time
she must hide
what others see as her shame
forbidden to use her name
or say to the world
she’s a girl
she comes from a village
where everyone knows
each other’s business
for him as she is seen
by a society wedded to sobriety
to want to be a lassie
just can’t be right
in the eyes of those
who refuse to see her
for who she really is
skirts and tights hidden
from disapproving eyes
she hates lying to herself
but sees no other way
to survive
the geography of isolation
faced by so many trans teens
outside the big cities 
mean it’s tougher than it should be
to live the life she craves
dreams have to wait
it’s frustrating not being allowed
to be who you are
you can’t go shopping for lipsticks or bras
but she copes hoping one day
the world will understand
and just let her be
I remember when that girl
was me
back in the mid 1970’s
with no trans groups or facilities
I had to rely on my mother’s goodwill
I loved reading Jackie
wearing dresses with frills
I dreamed one of being
one of the girls
but my mother dressed me
like a middle aged wife
claimed woman’s own
was what my life would become
thanks mum I thought
it turned out she was right
tan tights and navy skirts
not my choice
as the uniform for attention
nonetheless
wearing them helped me
to blend in
when I eventually did transition
looking back
I longed for the chance
to go out dancing
with the girls
but my weekends
were spent romancing my dreams
when you lived in the schemes
you had to be content
with your secrets
I kept mine hidden
out of sight of others
for fear being discovered
my reward was in knowing myself
and sharing two hours
of private time with my mother

@ Gayle Smith 2016

NB This poem was written on day 24 but couldn’t be posted till now due the fact I had to deal with ongoing issues and provide assistance to a friend. 

A Woman’s Voice

Hey Readers On day 17 of NaPoWriMo my poem covers the topic of voting and why it matters especially for women. The topic was inspired by fellow blogger Hannah Rose Williams who asked me to find a post which explained why voting matters Realising I had written many posts but never one which specifically examined this issue I decided to tackle it in poetic style. I have given it the title  A Woman’s Voice I hope you enjoy the read.

A Woman’s Voice

An X on a ballot marks your engagement
with democratic participation
your right to make a choice
to shape the destiny of your nation
make a decision on who you want to govern us
and more importantly why
don’t believe the lie that voting doesn’t matter
or the media spin that all politicians are the same
and you can change nothing
you can  you have and you will
the suffragettes won the vote for women and girls
when politics was viewed as a private members club
reserved for men of wealth
where women’s issues were never discussed
let alone debated
our foremothers chained themselves to railings
to gain a stake in society
so forgive me if I say
I will not go quietly in to the night
I will exercise my right to vote
to give women a voice
let our leaders know the choices
I make
and why I reached my decisions
on the issues that matter to me
you see, I put leaflets through letter boxes
for my preferred candidate
in the Scottish election
and power walking does wonders
to shed the winter pounds
the political ground is ours to claim
and by ours I mean yours and mine
as women of all shades and opinions
speak our truths  on housing, crime and poverty
where there is injustice or inequality
you will see me with banners or placards in hand
at city centre demonstrations
this is part of my every day reality.
usually though not always on Saturday’s
as I campaign for changes
which will make our country a safer place to live
for my friends to bring up children
and for me to walk the streets in safety
the progress we have made did not happen overnight
concessions are not won without a fight
think of the rights that women have gained
we would never have got them
if we hadn’t complained
about topics we believed were important
from abortion to the tampon tax
we’ve kept a cool head whilst stating the facts
from Mary Barbour to Rosa Parkes
our foremothers have played a part
in shaping a better society
on equal marriage and human trafficking
it was women’s voices which spoke with compassion
just as it was at the birth of civic nationalism
when Winnie and Margo showed Scotland
our women deserved respect
in the face of macho Labour hostility
now times have moved on
and women of stature lead
my country’s three main parties
with others in positions of prominence
in Scotland, Britain, and the world
this is why I say to women and girls
get involved in politics
claim democracy as yours
and remember nothing is solved from the sidelines
don’t look for someone to blame
or believe that we’re all the same
don’t fall for the lies
no matter if you’re
from the shires or the scheme
dare to dream that you could be the one
to shatter the glass ceiling
then on polling day
engage
and let your voice be heard.

@ Gayle Smith 2016