Tag Archive | Equality

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

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 

Oath Of Aillegence 

As members of parliament get back to work after the recent General Election some people including myself are questioning the idea of Honourable Members having to swear an oath of aillegence to the monarch. This to me seems and outdated practice which should be best left in the past and replaced by an oath of service to their constituents after all it is their constituents they have been elected to serve. It is with this in mind I have written this poem entitled Oath Of Aillegence I hope you enjoy what I think will be a thought provoking read. 

Oath Of Aillegence 

I pledge my loyalty to my friends 

my fellow citizens of this shared living space 

irrespective of gender, impairment, race, religion, or sexual orientation 

or any other group by which the one percent seeks to divide them by 

I swear to support the global commonweal of every land , and tribe 

I will endeavor to be on the side of justice 

and fight inequality and prejudice wherever I see it 

if the powers that be don’t like it then  so be it 

but principles matter to me 

I’ve always played fair 

and I expect the same back 

no saltire, union flag , or star spangled banner will change the fact

I swear no oath of aillegence

to any monarch or ermine robed fools.

who attempt to set the rules for  my life 

doffing  caps and bending knees are so 18th century 

yet the servile defer to what they call traditions 

claiming that this dysfunctional behaviour is what makes Britain great 

they even say it’s what makes Britain British 

are these people for real ?

they don’t have a clue about what’s going on in the world

they don’t understand what its like 

growing up a boy who wants be a girl 

in a Glasgow housing scheme 

or the fact that poverty isn’t a lifestyle choice 

they piss champagne in to gold plated toilet seats

after singing out of tune from the top of their voices

and think that by buying a charity single 

they are doing their bit for humanity 

as they merrily  count up their millions

made by the sweat of the workers

people are dying just a few miles away 

they would rather I didn’t say this

in case it puts them off their nice expensive meal 

insulated from  real world problems 

they will never know how it feels to visit a foodbank 

or buy your clothes from second hand shops

this inequality has to stop 

and though I alone can’t do much to stop the suffering or the pain 

I who grew up listening to tinsil town in the rain

know what that song really means 

as does everyone who grew up in the schemes 

and that’s why I swear no oath of aillegence to any  queen or her heirs 

I swear my oath of aillegence to the people of the world

and swear to treat them with fairness and equality 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Dissenting Voices 

On day 29 of NaPoWriMo my penultimate poem of this year’s collection deals with the authoritarian politics of the increasingly right wing British Conservative Party whose Prime Minister, Theresa May has recently  boasted about crushing dissenting voices in the United Kingdom. This is something which I find very alarming indeed as I happen to believe that debate is an essential part of the political process in any civilised democratic society. It is with my democratic values in mind that I have written this poem and given it the title Dissenting Voices. I hope you find it a challenging and thought provoking read. 
Dissenting Voices
When someone talks of dissent

rather than debate 

the spectre of hate speech 

appears like a dark shadow 

on the clouds of an early morning 

this is a stark warning 

of darker days to come 

the slow beginning of the demonsation of others

the creeping use of ghostly figures 

used to represent a past which was never glorious 

but in which we will be told we were happy 

because our country was victorious over our enemies

in this language of blame  

prejudice rears its ugly head 

time and time again

so instead of making progress 

on the journey to equality 

or helping working families find routes out of poverty 

we will collectively be known as the silent majority 

who thought it best to stay silent 

in the face of hostility from authority 

and generations to come will ask the question 

why did our ancestors not fight 

for the yesterdays that were our grandparents tomorrow’s 

they will speak with sorrow and shame 

when they see the causality list of rights 

we sacrificed at the temple of self interest 

because we thought it was the best thing to do 

to secure our future regardless of who we hurt

disabled people were trampled into the dirt 

as were those with different gender identities , sexualities , or races 

this is what happens 

when someone talks of dissent rather than debate 

couched in that language

is the place where hate begins

where fear and ignorance wins over hope 

and the road to a better tomorrow lies decimated

 before the fight for it has even begun 

yet some would want us to walk that path 

of selfishness and loathing 

ignoring the fact we have been here before

when a wolf wrapped himself in the clothes of a sheep 

so no-one could see the swastikas hidden underneath 

and a beaten people danced when they were told 

falling in to line behind the master 

there were no dissenting voices in the Reich 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

 

Snowflake 

On day 10 of NaPoWriMo I write on a topic suggested to me a few years ago by my good friend Arielle Dale Karro who said I should write on a snowflake. Little did I realise at that time just how political that term was going to become as it would be used as a term of abuse by the ultra conservative right against those of us with a liberal progressive set of social and cultural values however to quote a former First Lady of the United States Eleanor Roosevelt ‘Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent ‘ and that is something I will never give to the Alt Right or anyone else.  I’ve given the poem the title Snowflake, I  hope you enjoy the read.

Snowflake 

As the snow falls from the sky 

on the coldest and frostiest morning 

the world has been given a warning 

the ultra conservative right have found their voice 

wearing the mask of liberty 

and freedom of choice 

they encourage you to find yours 

targeting the gullible and the insecure 

they talk of a return to traditional values 

this would be fine if those values 

were yours and mine 

but they are not 

I do not want to turn the clock 

back to the 1950’s or even to  Victorian times 

when sexuality was repressed 

and women had to behave in a certain way 

when we talk of progress 

they refer to us snowflakes 

the implied sentiment being 

that we are delicate little creatures 

who can’t handle criticism 

believe me nothing could be further from the truth 

ever since the days of my 1970’s youth 

I have campaigned for change

to make my country and others more inclusive 

 it hasn’t been an easy fight 

from apartheid to the Indy ref 

racism to climate change 

I’ve taken stances others called strange 

I prefer the term visionary 

I always fought with dignity 

and I was never alone in my fights 

yet now the loners and sociopaths 

who masquerade under the banner of the alt right 

call me snowflake 

give me transphobic abuse 

call it home truths when they abuse others 

from different ethnic groups, races, religions or genders

can’t see the irony of chanting  no surrender 

when their ancestors  surrendered to Thatcher 

as they do to Mrs May 

If they think Brexit or Trump 

can save the day 

they are fooling only themselves 

like pawns in a game of chess

they are expendable 

to be used and disposed of 

once they have served their purpose 

for the blame game their leaders needed to win 

populism must always have scapegoats 

and useful idiots to  serve the cause 

it likes nothing better

than those not smart enough to know

there being conned

the terminally confused 

who parrot what they are fed by the established order 

in the press and on TV 

yet they call me snowflake 

thinking they insult me 

but they don’t realise 

no snowflake ever falls alone 

on its journey from the skies 

we arrive as a team 

sometimes there are  just enough of us

to send a warning that you shouldn’t attempt  to go too far 

but if you venture to places 

you were warned not to go near 

let us be clear we will send you an avalanche 

and you will see our power 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

The F Word 

On day 8 of NaPoWriMo my thoughts turn to feminism and why it’s so important in the fight for a better more equal world. I thank my friend and fellow SNP member Lorna Craig (pictured with me at the 2016 SNP Equalities Conference) for suggesting this idea and a certain teenager  in my local church for inspiring me to believe she really can change the world. I hope you enjoy the read. 

The F Word 

This f word is not a sexual act 

it is a word used to promote a vision of a better society

by using simple facts 

to explain why women need equality 

and why we are determined to get it 

yet some girls have been socially conditioned 

to resent it 

the right wing press demonise it 

claiming it is half baked and does nothing for women 

that titled nobility can’t do better 

this agenda is designed to keep women in poverty 

voiceless in a Dickensian  style democracy 

where they are cooking, cleaning , and occasionally dreaming 

of a better life than this picture presents 

this f word empowers us  

to reject the idea that we should be tied to  kitchen sinks

and teaching girls that to wear pink 

should be their ultimate aspiration

in life 

telling them to watch

This Morning and the Real Housewives of wherever 

is neither smart nor clever 

girls have the right to get educated and persue a career 

the idea that women should smile sweetly 

if a man open doors and calls them dear 

not reply I as I once did 

that I wasn’t dear just expensive 

or high maintenance 

is totally and completely wrong 

I get angry at the sexism in the outdated suggestion 

we should restrain ourselves 

and be modest at all times 

especially in our fashion choices

we shouldn’t  raise our hemlines

let alone our voices in anger 

that some girls are missing school 

because of lack of access 

to female sanitary products 

this is abhorrent in the 21st century 

yet the tabloids still show women bearing breasts on page 3

for the titillation of white van bloke 

this is no joke 

if girls can be objectified in this way 

it’s no surprise we are still denied equal pay for equal work 

tackling these patriarchal structures 

is something we can’t afford to shirk 

or another generation of girls 

will be sentenced to the death of their dreams 

not fulfilling their potential 

or being as influential as society needs them to be 

in shaping and creating a better world for us all 

this f word is not just a word

it’s a call to arms to advance women’s rights 

we must use this word as a weapon 

in the struggle for fairness 

it will be key in defeating the couldn’t care less brigade 

the bullshit battalion of the apathetic army 

and this why every mammy

 should teach their daughters its power 

when used wisely womanhood will flower like never before 

this is a word we can’t ignore 

have you guessed it yet ? 

do you know it’s name ? 

did they blame you for using it 

call you a lesbian or communist 

a traitor or fifth columnist 

for standing against the established way of thinking 

if they do any or all of these things 

ask them why they are so afraid of feminism ? 

the F Word that chills them to the  bone 

©Gayle Smith 2017