Tag Archive | Attitudes

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

Advertisements

That’s Nice

This is a poem on that conversation that most poets will have had at least once in our lives when we’ve told a neighbour we’re going to a poetry night. I’ve given it the title That’s Nice as that’s the reply we are so often met with in that most awkward of moments but I’ve found more than once if you allow the conversation to flow there may come a moment when a light comes on and you change their perception of poetry. I hope you enjoy the read. 
That’s Nice

Whenever I’ve told someone I was going to a poetry night

I’ve been met with a standard reply  like that’s nice 

it’s good to have a hobby it helps pass the time 

the person is usually  trying to be polite 

but there struggling for something to say

there conversational ability limited 

by the fact they think Stanza is that team 

Celtic or Rangers beat a few years ago 

they even tried to name their star players 

I am greeted by blank stares when I add to their confussion 

by telling them Stanza has nothing to do with football

and is in fact a poetic form which poets use in our work

it’s like rhyming couplets I explain 

as the rain comes down from the heavens 

I attempt to make a run for it 

telling them that I need to be there by seven

even though the event doesn’t start till eight 

I need time to prepare my set 

they seem surprised that a neighbour they know 

will be on stage performing in front of an audience 

Oh I thought you were going to a reading 

maybe something to do with Burns 

I didn’t think you would be one of the turns 

so they ask  do you think  that poetry is for the likes of us 

of course I reply still smiling at the question 

well it showed a neighbourly interest in somebody from their community 

and that features strongly in my work 

I say I’ll let them know how the night went 

as I make a run for an oncoming bus 

it’s goes well that night it usually does

there was a good crowd the place was buzzing

as for my poems well what can I say 

I read them well my set went okay

but on the journey home I contemplate 

the events of an enjoyable evening 

and do you know my greatest achievement

It wasn’t the compliments I got from some well respected peers 

on my latest poems I had just debued 

it was that chat on my way to the bus stop

where I changed the way someone viewed my art 

I’m a girl from the schemes

who speaks from the heart

and see if by doing that I can open just one mind to poetry

as my neighbour would say that’s nice

that really is nice 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

A Warrior Wordsmith Who Speaks For The People ( A Review Of Door To Door Poet By Rowan McCabe)

Imagine the scenario. You get a knock on the door, you answer the door, and you see someone standing there with a clipboard and pen. Your imediate reaction is to ask the person concerned what they are selling and inform them as politely as possible that whatever it is you are not interested.  What happens however when far from being the predictable insurance , or double glazing salesperson you are met with reply I’m a poet would you like to tell me about yourself and what concerns you and I’ll write you your very own poem. 

My imediate reaction and i speak as a poet would be aye right so you are. So if i would be sceptical imagine the reaction Newcastle poet Rowan McCabe (pictured below) faced as he took his door to door poetry challenge round some of the roughest places  in the North East of England. 

During his year long mission Stockton born Rowan encountered a number of interesting characters and a significant number of  issues in his attempts to bring poetry to the people. Undetered our warrior wordsmith soldiered on in his quest to make poetry matter by making it relevant to the kind of audience who were put off by the poetry they were taught at school. 

As he begins the story of his poetic journey through the wildest parts of the north east, including the street once dubbed the roughest street in Stockton after being featured on the TV documentary show Benefit Street,  Rowan shares his poem on being a door to door poet and how he got the idea to do it which he says was due to boredom and wanting to do something different with his talent. As he takes us on his journey, he  tells us the story of Kyle a young man he met in a Newcastle housing scheme who would be the type of lad that polite society would cross the road to avoid. On meeting him Rowan explained his mission to be greeted by the expression what do i want with poetry ? Undaunted our door to door poet told Kyle that this poem would be his poem and be about the issues that mattered to him and he would receive a copy of his own customised poem . Gradually the man warmed  to the idea and challenged Rowan to write a poem about his girlfriend and how much he loved her .

 After finding out the information he needed Rowan wrote the poem First Date about Kyle’s first date in which he took his girlfriend to Greggs and they bonded over a steak bake. This claim was later disputed by his girlfriend who said that as she recalled it their first date was at the cinema . 

As our intrepid wordsmith continued on his journey he met a man who was concerned about immigration and had confessed to voting for Brexit , and a woman who had a passion for horses with a particular fondness for the three times grand national winner Red Rum.

During the course of his travels Rowan learned not only of the value of having good communication skills but also about being aware of the impact of The Data Protection Act when it comes to sharing online information and how even unwittingly a lack of knowledge on this topic can land you in some very tricky situations. 

Talking of tricky situtions our poet who dared to venture in to what the chsttering classes  would uncharted cultural waters learned a bitter lesson when it comes to  organisational cultute and the way it can make promises and then proceed to break them at the shortest possible notice. This through no fault of yours lead to cancel arrangements you made with others which were based on those promises and this can and did lead to a loss of trust all because someone else let him down on more than one occasion and this for Rowan meant losing relationships with potential participants he had worked really hard to build. 

Heartbreaking though it was Rowan ploughed on with his pioneering work and on meeting Alan an older man whose mother was German he discovered a man who was deeply concerned about the potential rise in far right racism in a post Brexit UK but was determined he would not be silenced despite having Swastikas daubed on his door by exactly the type of people he fears will grow in number. It was this meeting which  produced the inspiration for one of my favourite poems from the show , and Speak was a powerful poetic portrayal of why we need to be stronger than ever in our fight against this narrow kind of imperial , insular, xenophobic nationalism which in Scotland we call the worst kind of unionism.  Alan was featured on the BBC when their breakfast did a feature on Rowan’s ground breaking arts project and Rowan talked with warmth on his poem Speak which illustrates both Alan’s committment to speaking up for those people whose voices are being marginalised or ignored and Rowan’s passionate belief that door to door poetry can give them not only that voice but the belief that in 21st century Britain there opinions matter. 

This to me was the most heartwarming aspect of a show which I could very easily have overlooked had it not been for the glowing recommendations of two fellow poets whose opinions i rate highly enough to trust and Gemma Baker and Jenni Pascoe were totally right to tell me that this was a show i had to see. After an hour of poetry which was entertaining and thought ptovoking in equal measure i left raving about the talents of someone who is not only a door to door poet but a warrior wordsmith who speaks for the people. That someone is Rowan McCabe. 

Till next time

Gayle X

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 

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 

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