Tag Archive | Changes

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 

A Trans Woman Answers Her Most Common Questions 

​As you know I live my life permanently in my acquired gender in other words I’m a transsexual  woman.  Now I’m not going to lie and say  everything is a bed of roses but I will say that it is a  hell of a lot better than it was before I made the decision to transition. 

Despite this improvement in my quality of life I do still get the odd negative comment and from time to time I  am asked some very challenging  questions. These questions can come in every situation from all demographics from children to pensioners. It is  with these  questions in my mind,  I have  decided to take  what I hope  will be a lighthearted look at some of the most commonly asked questions in the hope it may raise awareness the issues faced by trans women in 21st century Scotland/ UK. So  fasten your seat belt and get ready for what I think will be an interesting journey.

(1) Why Do You Dress As A Women?

 This is by far the most common question and it’s usually though not exclusively asked by men most of whom are and I want to be kind here not the brightest stars in the sky. I try to be both polite and firm when answering this question informing the questioner that I am not dressing as a women I am living as a woman because that is what I believe myself to be.

(2) When Did You Know You Were Trans?

Unlike the last question, this one is usually asked by women the vast majority of whom want to understand your issue and see how they can support you. 

When replying to this question I tell the questioner that I’ve known since my primary school years when I was about six or seven and that was back in the  late 1960’s when all I really wanted was barbie dolls , party dresses , and to get my nails painted. So you could say that I knew I was trans long before I ever knew the term for it.

(3) Have You Changed Your Name Yet ?

 Sometimes I am genuinely shocked that  over eight years in to my transition I am still asked this question. It also surprises me that people think that it’s done by deed poll and assume that it must be expensive when neither of these ‘facts’ are actually true. They may be true for trans people in England and the other nations of the United Kingdom, in Scotland however the situation is somewhat different and dare I say it easier for our trans population. Many of those who ask this question are generally supportive of my transition and just curious to what I’ve been through and what I’ve still to go through.

(4)  What’s Your Real Name ?  

As soon as I hear this I tell the person that  Gayle is my real name and if they insist on asking the question again I call them out as a transphobic  bigot and tell them to get over themselves.  I try where possible to  be polite in  doing this but if they still refuse to back off I have a two word Glaswegian reply and the second word is off 

(5) Is It Not All About Glamour? 

This is usually asked by one very particular demographic and that is gay men who believe they are far better looking than they actually are.However when I tell them there is nothing remotely glamorous about the sexism, prejudice , and discrimination women face on a daily basis or the fact and that we are still paid less than men for doing the same job almost 50 years after the first Equal Pay Act it tends to shut them up. 

Picture (1) This picture taken on Edinburgh’s North Bridge as I leave the capital to return home to Baillieston after a great day at the fringe shows that no woman does the glamour thing every day and to think trans women are any different from other women in this respect is to be completely and totally deluded. 


(6) What Toilets Do You Use ?

I have to  say if anyone is actually stupid enough to ask this question they should still be in primary 1. To me the fact I’m living as a woman makes it obvious I should use the  Ladies Room.  I am however mistified as to why people are so bothered as where I should go for a comfort break or to check my make up. 

(7) Do You Still Like Football ?

 Yes, unbelievable as it sounds, I have actually been asked this question usually by men of certain age who have still to visit the 19th century let alone live in the 21st.  On  hearing this I gently but firmly  inform my inquisitor that it’s my gender that’s changed not my lifelong loyalties. 

(8) Are Your Boobs Real ?

This is amongst the rudest and most offensive questions you could ever ask a trans woman 90 percent of the time this question is asked by drunk men at bus stops , of the other 10 percent of inquisitors are  99.9 young guys trying to be wide when the only thing that’s wide about them are their ever expanding waistlines. 

(9) Do You Fancy Men Or Women ? 

To me my sexuality is a private matter and when I am asked this question I respond by patronising the crap out of the questioner by very carefully and laboriously explaining why Gender Identity and Sexual Orientation are not biologically linked in any way. Since this question is usually asked by men who are neither bright nor eye candy, I inform them that my primary sexual attraction is towards men but they can relax because like any other woman I happen to have standards and they come nowhere near to meeting them. 

 (10) How Did Your Family/Friends/ Colleges Take The News When You Told Them You Were Going To Be Living As A Woman ? 

To be fair most of my friends just ran with it and got used to the idea pretty quickly and I’m not really in touch with any family members so I didn’t lose sleep over opinions of people I don’t see. It was at work that I faced my biggest challenge as many of my colleges had known me for years by the time  of my transition and whilst most of them  were supportive there were a few whose attitudes belonged in the dark ages and who went out of their way to make it as difficult as possible often imposing standards on me that they wouldn’t have dared to put on any other female members of staff.  

(11) What Changes Have The Hormones Made To Your Body ? 

Well apart from giving me a bust and a lovely apple shaped figure I now have a bum which may look big in certain things and hips which a friend of mine described as powerful. There  is also the added bonus, that my face now looks  more feminine and I have no hair on my arms or legs and this look has been achieved without the need for any surgery. 

(12) Have You Ever Had /Do  You Ever Get Transphobic Abuse In Public Spaces ?

Much as I would love to say  everything has been perfect and I’ve never had any abuse I have had to deal with some unpleasant attitudes and though the transphobic comments have become less frequent over time they are no less hurtful when I get them.

Picture (2) Shows the shocking statistics on transphobic abuse. Since  beginning my journey in the run up to Christmas 2008 I have received a number of transphobic comments though the majority with the exception of the ones on my breasts happened before the hormones began to take effect. Most of the time the attempted insults are from fat ugly blokes or wee neds in shell suits who couldn’t get a date from a shop window dummy so I tend to leave them to their delusions of relevance by remembering the  words from former  American first lady  Eleanor Roosevelt who said ‘ Noboby  can make you feel inferior without you consent’.These are words that trans women need to hold close to our heart if we are ever to reduce the statistics in this picture.

(13) Would You Ever Change Back To Your Birth Gender ?

This question is usually asked by people who knew in my pre transitioned days and is always given a one word answer and that answer is no. Trust me I would never consider this in a million years. I waited too long before starting this journey and the last eight years have been the most rewarding of my life so when I say I won’t ever look back and regret the decision I’ve taken.Don’t get me wrong , living as a woman isn’t an easy life any woman will tell you that. Women face far  more challenges than men and the patriarchal system we have in place in western democracies means we are often seen as lesser than men  when  nothing could be further from the truth but to me being a woman isn’t about power or even glamour it’s about being myself. 

(14) Do You Try On Clothes Before You Them  Or Do You Shop Online ?

This question is usually asked by girls and women who want to understand what it’s like to be in my shoes and in answering I always explain why I always try clothes on before making my purchase as I want to make sure what I’m buying actually fits me. Well as we girls know size really does matter when it comes to fashion and there is no exact science to getting it right. This means me that trying it on is essential especially as our lovely hormones give us all the lumps and bumps that nature forgot and no matter how good something might look on hanger or a mannequin we have to make sure it looks good on us before we part with cash and in that respect a trans woman is no different from any other woman.

(15) Have You Ever Been Chatted Up Since Your Transition?

Yes I have and not just  by  men I have also much to  my surprise attracted occasional interest from women and though I am as a rule  more attracted to men I have to say that when it comes to chat up lines women do it better. 

 (16) Have You Ever Been Wolfe Whistled In The Street ? 

Yes I have and I find it  extremely annoying.  How anyone can take this a compliment when in reality it is men attempting to tell us they own us is absolutely ludicrous. This kind of behaviour is not flattering  it’s insulting  and offensive to women.

(17 ) Do You Know Any Other  Trans Women ?

Ths tends to be asked by those who have a low awareness of trans issues. When faced with a question of this nature I gently inform my inquisitor that  I attend trans support groups and I  know a number of trans women and trans men and like anyone who is part of any community of interest I get  on better with some than with others 

(18)Are Your Best Female Friends Other Trans Women ? 

This, like the last question,  is usually asked by those with awkwardness around trans and more  general equality issues and they are very often genuinely surprised when I tell  them my best  female friends are not trans just women I happen to get on with. 

(19) Do  You Ever Go To Straight Bars ?

This question is usually asked by males who have made a false connection between gender identity and sexuality. When I inform them that I am as likely if not more likely to be seen in a straight  bar than a gay one many seem genuinely shocked at this news though for the life  of me I can’t understand why.I mean to paraphrase Burns  A bar’s, a bar for a’ that.


Picture (3) In this shot I’m in what some people would see as the very straight surroundings of the Pollok Ex-Servicemens Club where I host the monthly Southside Words And Music night which relocated to make this our new home after our  former home (Sammy Dow’s) was taken over by new owners and we lost our original venue after 25  years. 

(20) How  Has Transitioning Changed Your Life ? 

I think transitioning has changed me in more ways than I ever thought possible.I am happier ,  more confident and more relaxed than ever and I am far more tolerant of people who had I met them in my pre transitioned state I would barely have given the day. I am also a lot open to expressing my emotions and showing feelings which I would previously felt that I to keep hidden. As a friend I  have known since childhood said to me becoming the woman you should always have been has given you the chance to be yourself and I’ve never heard anyone sum it up so accurately. 

Make no mistake gender transitioning is a very big decision and  nobody who undertakes  it will be prepared for all the challenges it can and will  bring them. There are even in  these enlightened times a lot of myths  and misconceptions around trans issues so it was with this in mind that I decided to write this post and give honest replies to some of the most common questions  I’m asked as a trans woman I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my answers to them.  

Love And Best Wishes

Gayle X

What A Difference A Year Makes (A Personal Style Review Of 2015)

Hey Readers As I look back on the year we are just about to consign to the history books I honestly believe I leave this year a different woman than the one who welcomed it in. I think I can trace a significant number of the changes back to late spring/early summer as my life became a lot more female focused. By this I mean I became a lot more involved in women’s campaigns and attending the launch of the SNP women’s manifesto was one of the highlights of what was a great election campaign for Scotland’s women.

Picture 1 Women With A Message.
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It was at this event more than other I have ever attended I realised that when women fight together we really are unstoppable. After the election, I made two decisions which would impact on me to a far greater extent than I realised at the time. The first of these was to become an active member of Women For Independence I had been a virtual member since the groups formation during the early days of the independence referendum campaign and in the aftermath of post election success of the SNP was I thought the right time to get involved in my local branch of the movement.

Being involved with such an empowering group did wonders for my self confidence and after a few quiet months we are ready to go in to the Scottish Elections making sure that all political parties will know what Scotland’s women want us to raise as issues of importance in the fight for a more equal fair and socially just society which we demand for the women and children of our nation.

The other decision which changed me for the better was to participate in as many blogger chat groups as possible. This was a very positive step for me as it tended to bring out the maternal side of my nature and having friends and contacts from the other nations of the British isles many of whom were young enough to be daughters brought my gentle side which was especially handy was some hard-line unionist was expounding their theories on how Scotland was in their opinion too wee, too poor, or too stupid to run our own country. Personally, I think these people if I have to call them that, have such a deep seated self loathing and inferiority complex that their real problems lie not with Scotland’s abilities but their own and the too wee, too poor, too stupid syndrome isn’t what they think about Scotland but rather what they think of themselves. Honestly there are times when these people would, but for my naturally kind hearted disposition send me in to a full blown virtual rant. Fortunately however my blogging bairns know me well and know when to step in and get me out of these potentially difficult situations.

Indeed it is through my involvement with the blogging community that I have gained not only new friends but also style advisors and a deeper understanding of the hopes, fears, and concerns of both individuals I lucky enough to know and their communities and localities.

With regards to my poetry 2015 has been a year of both progress and changes. At the start of 2015 you could predict with a fair degree of accuracy that I would be spending most Thursday afternoon’s leading The Tollcross Writers Group and I would spend my Thursday evenings at Glasgow Writers Group at the Gallery of Modern Art. Now Tollcross no longer exists and and my visits to GoMA have become a lot less frequent than used to be the case.

In what was an easier decision than I thought it would be I decided to pull Tollcross because someone who did not have the authority to make such decisions was going about telling their friends that the group was moving to another venue and that I had better tell them when the group was starting back after the summer break. To say I was furious at this petulant attitude would be putting it mildly so I decided to cancel the group for the foreseeable future as a lesson to certain people not to get above themselves. This decision tough as it was to make shows the difference between the woman who saw in 2015 and the women who is getting ready to embrace whatever challenges 2016 may bring. You see last year I would have procrastinated over such a tough choice and probably soldiered on but this was the year I took action to show that if you tramp on my toes or seek to undermine me in any way there will be consequences and they will be entirely of your own making.

In another change to the poetic landscape of the city it was time to say goodbye to Bards in the Park which died of natural causes as nobody seemed to want to turn up anymore. This was also a year of change for Words and Music. Little did we know as we celebrated 25 years in the wee back room and that by July the Sammy’s we knew and loved would become Lebowskis but fortunately as we get ready to bring in the bells the event is still going strong at least it is for now.

However, as one door closes another two or three open to take their place. My Saturday afternoons which were once the preserve of Bards, have now been taken over by T-Time a trans related event which I find to be a great source of peer support. Thursday afternoons at Tollcross have now been replaced by Wednesday nights at the Blue Chair cabaret.

Picture 2 Some Of The Girls At T-Time
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Picture 3 The Team At The Blue Chair
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As for my greatest achievement in the year just passed I would have to say it was taking and successfully completing the NaPoWriMo challenge in April where I had to write 30 poems in 30 days. This and I have to say it was a challenge and a half but the reward I got from attempting it was a fantastic buzz and that made it all worthwhile. Still on poetry I let some valued friends suggest a topic for me to write about or suggest a title for an already written poem to assist me in the creative process. This idea was spread throughout the year and not just used for NaPiWriMo Particular thanks in this endeavor goes to Audrey Marshall, Becky Bedbug, Bob Leslie, Caron Lindsay, Jenny Lindsay, Jenni Pascoe , Jodi McKenna, Kirsty Nicolson, Margaret MacMillan, Morgan Horn, Samantha Hands, Saffron Dickson, and Stephen Watt for their help and support

It goes without saying that Election night was also a highlight for me with my party doing not too badly in Scotland but for me despite my party’s successes the real highlights of 2015 were not political nor indeed were they poetic. No on this occasion my favourite moments of the just ended were actually very personal and the last ten days in November summed my 2015 brilliantly as I attended trans women’s cultural event in Glasgow Women’s Library, the reclaim the night march protesting at male violence against women, and Girls Day Out Show at which I enjoyed one of the best days
of my life. So as I look back on 2015 I really believe its a stronger more confident woman who faces the future than was case last year or at any time in my life. So here’s to 2016 and whatever it may bring us. I hope it’s a good one for you and those who matter most to you and you continue to read tartan tights throughout the coming year.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

A Personal Revolution In The Way I Live My Life

Hey everyone I would like take this opportunity to wish all friends and readers of tartan tights a happy successful New Year. I hope if 2013 was a good year for you that your good fortune continues in to this year and if wasn’t one of your better years I hope your luck will turn in the coming 12 months.

Speaking personally 2013 was a mix of great highs and some devastating lows but as a rule it got better the longer it went on though there were some exceptions to this especially in November in which I had to put it mildly a very challenging couple of weeks.

As I look forward to the coming year I hope this will be a year of positive, and progressive year for both myself and my country and we will both find our voices in this next chapter of our histories.

This is an exciting time to be Scottish and I hope we do not shirk from the challenges our country faces. For some apathy will be the easy way out and they will choose stick to the familiar landscapes they know rather than risk they what they see as a having to create a portrait on a new but blank canvas. Should they choose to take this route on the 18th of September and decide that painting by numbers is safer than using their imagination I hope it is not a decision they will later come to regret though personally I believe that it would be and it wouldn’t take the usual suspects long to start their whining. This I suggest is time brave heads rather than faint hearts.

On a more personal level I can see both opportunities and challenges in the year ahead and in many ways my year may mirror that of my country. I believe it is a year where I need to become more focused on my writing and also in my cultural networking though this was an area in which I did well in 2013 making many new friends and contacts particularly within the spoken word community. This is a trend I aim to continue in the coming year. I also intend to get out and campaign for Independence for reasons I’ve already explained and take a far more active role within the trans community than has been the case and get more involved in both cross party campaigns and my local church.

On other issues health is a priority and exercise is going to take a prominent role in the coming year as I have ambitions to drop a dress size in the year ahead. Well I think I need to as I have a number of events to attend a 40th Birthday party and a wedding and I want to look my best on such occasions. I also have the small matter of an admirer in my local area and if I want to keep him interested I went to look at my confident best.

As for my social life it is fair bet to say that it will be centred round cultural and political activities but I’m also going to make sure I make time for my women friends as I believe this is especially important for me. After all, as every woman will tell you there are things we just don’t share with men. Well we wouldn’t want to make them blush I mean the poor boys just wouldn’t know how to cope.

So that’s just a selection of things I want to achieve or at least attempt to achieve in the year that the bells have just rang in. Now I don’t know if you’ve noticed but the fact I’m talking about achievements rather than resolutions is a departure from the tried, tested and fatally flawed Scottish tradition. The reason for this is a simple one, this is the year Scotland has the chance to reject the failures of the past and move on to a better brighter and bolder vision of the land we want to be. Whether we take that chance is up to the voters on the 18th September. However, no matter what Scotland decides, I have made my choice to move in a more forward thinking way which is why I will not make promises which would probably be broken by the end of the month and have opted instead for a personal revolution in the way I live my life.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X