Tag Archive | Friendship

Founders Of The Feast 

On a lovely summer Saturday it was my privilege to, attend a poetry themed barbecue in honour of the world’s worst  poet otherwise known as William Topaz McGonagall. This annual event now in its 12th year is hosted by my good friends Colin and Irene Storrie who every year open their hearts and open their home for a fantastic day of poetry, music, and friendship where having celebrated the best poet in the world at our Burns Suppers in January we can focus on commemorating the self styled worst poet in the world who even on our worst days can make every one us look like a genius. That’s why I dedicate this year’s McGonagall poem to them. I’ve given it the title Founders Of The Feast I hope  you enjoy the read.  

Founders Of The Feast 

​It is one of my favourite my summer traditions 

In the land we call the United Kingdom of Great Britain 

as we gather together the many and not the few 

to have good food and companionship 

and enjoy a very sociable barbecue

   
It is always great fun, but I cannot deny 

that sometimes it is not just the food which will be grilled or fried 

as the natives of our land have a tendency get very badly burned 

when we see that big yellow object 

which is know by  metrologists and weather forecasters as the sun 

 This is however, not something about which we should complaining

as in Scotland and the United Kingdom Of Great Britain 

the weather has a nasty habit of raining 

If this is the Almighty’s idea of a summer joke 

I do not find it funny as many of out citizens 

could get caught in a downpour and end up getting soaked. 

This I fear would not be very good 

however I hope it would not spoil their day or stop them enjoying their food 

for that would be a very great shame 

especially at the poets barbecue 

which every year since 2006 

has been held to celebrate the honour of my name. 

This barbecue is not held in the Magdalene Green or the fair city of Dundee

Nor even in Edinburgh the city that gave birth to the poetic genius I was born to be 

it takes place in the heart of Glasgow’s East End 

and founded by most uniquely talented collection of friends

it is however to the founders of the feast 

I must now proclaim my gratitude

though I have heard said they prefer good companions

 to a diet of well meant  platitudes 

but alas as the my story has now reached it’s end 

I ask you to raise your glasses 

and toast, Irene , Colin, and the company of  friends.  

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Glasgow Boy 

On day 30 I reach the end of my third NaPoWriMo with a poem in tribute to the late Scottish folk singer Ian Davison who  died on Christmas day last year after a battle with illness.I first got to know Ian at a Songwriting workshop in the summer of 1995 and over the years he became a regular guest musician at the Words and Music event I now host. It is therefore fitting that I post my last poem of this year’s NaPoWriMo in honour of his friendship and his memory. I hope I’ve  done justice to a fine singer and songwriter and a gentleman I am proud to have called a friend. I have titled the poem Glasgow  Boy I hope you enjoy the read. 

Glasgow Boy 

 
A man I knew well 

a friendship formed through mutual friends and music 

Ian was a Glasgow boy 

whose clydeside roots were rooted in internationalism

his socialism flavoured songs 

 written with hope for a better world 

he saw Mandela dance 

and said there was room for us all 

as lyrics told  stories of hogmaney parties 

and the welcome we give to others 

reminding us to have a dram 

and raise a glass to friends and neighbours .

both at home and overseas 

Maryhill or McKinleyville 

it mattered not to a proud Scot 

and even prouder global citizen 

with a mission for peace 

ring fenced by a red heart and a CND membership card 

this was a man who marched in October 1982

and even the man in the Whitehouse knew 

knew the power in his songs 

as did an innocent man 

in the jails of echolon 

on whose case he educated me 

now at last his body free from pain 

I can listen to the Glasgow boy 

wrapped in the warmth of memories 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Slice Of Faith 

​On day 16 of NaPoWriMo I celebrate Easter Sunday and the inevitable chocolate feast which marks the end of lent. Those of you who know me well will  know that I not only have a strong Christian faith you will also know that  I am a chocoholic. Therefore it  will not come as a  shock to know that I dived straight in to the Easter Eggs almost as soon as the clock told me the time had come to do so.

 Truth be told I   waited less than five minutes before consuming  my first chocolate in six  long weeks (Yes Jamie-Lee I did take the Paddy’s Day amnesty but that’s allowed) and for that to be my only chocolate in six weeks is I think proof that far from being dead, the age of miracles is alive, well , and living in 21st Century Scotland. However , it wasn’t the chocolate eggs that got my tastebuds moving it was the greatest conception known to humankind aka The Blue Chair Brownie and it was when I was enjoying that culinary delight at our monthly spoken word Sunday that I knew lent was finally over for another year. I’ve given this poem the title Slice Of Faith I hope you enjoy the read. 
Slice Of Faith 
When the clock struck midnight

and  Easter Sunday had arrived 

I knew the saviour had risen 

so I think he would have forgiven me 

for only waiting three minutes 

before a cream egg broke 

my six week chocolate fast 

there was no way could I have lasted till after church 

this had to be done at the earliest possible chance 

but it wasn’t the early Easter eggs

which made my tastebuds dance 

that came in the  afternoon 

when I tasted heaven without bread and wine 

the sublime blue chair Brownie 

lingered on my lips 

briefly I thought of my hips 

and the damage this could do

but as I looked at the plate 

I knew the wait was over 

my sacrifice made 

I could now enjoy my favourite temptation 

served up with a slice of faith

 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Lessons 

On day 3 of NaPoWriMo it is time for a political poem and it may not come as too much of a shock that the  topic of choice is independence. What may however be a bit of a surprise is that the tone of the poem comes as a warning to yes supporters to learn the lessons of history to avoid repeating the mistakes and indeed disappointments of 2014. In this poem I urge our supporters to offer the hand of friendship to those voters who voted no in 2014 and set about winning them over to Yes and winning a better Scotland because of it. I have given it the title  Lessons I hope you enjoy the read 
Lessons
If Scotland is ever to see the day 

when we become an independent self governing nation 

we must learn the lessons of the last campaign 

we cannot afford to win the day 

and lose the future 

economics may be not my seducer 

but it is effective for many 

and that penny needs to drop  

we have to recognise its power 

or the flower of Scotland will never truly bloom 

our country will not be won 

by slogans, clipboards, and demonstrations 

though they will play a part 

we must use the head and speak from the heart 

be inclusive of all communities 

and not be afraid of tackling deeply held prejudices 

amongst our own supporters 

as to why we think the way we do 

this will be a challenge 

but it has to be faced 

we can’t simply wish it away 

and hope our opponents are magically cured 

of the loyalties which bind them to  union 

this is why we never won last time 

we need to engage and say clearly and with honestly 

we can offer no guarantees 

but neither can our opponents 

and we need to call them out 

when they claim otherwise 

there are no such thing as certainties 

to pretend that the present is set in stone 

is not the solution 

we were told we would never leave 

the European Union 

yet Brexit and the isolation it will bring 

will turn us more selfish and right wing

as gradually the UK becomes ever more insular 

with xenophobia masked as the new patriotism 

this is a vision I do not share 

I despair that our civic Scotland will be under threat 

and every word we say will be scrutinised 

the smears and lies have already started 

winning the future is not a job for the faint hearted 

we have to offer the hand of friendship 

to those who voted no in 2014 

not accuse them of killing our dreams 

in moments of anger and frustration 

it is too easy to throw about words like independence and nation 

without explaining why we would better than Westminster 

at running our own affairs 

I want to live in a country that cares 

for our most vulnerable citizens 

not a United Kingdom based on wealth patronage and privilege 

that’s why my identity is Scottish not British

I don’t want to live a land which still fantasises  

about a past when they called other countries colonies 

whilst keeping their own people poor in the name of empire 

 telling them they should be proud 

they couldn’t feed their families 

I don’t want to live in a country 

where people are devalued due to race , religion , gender or sexuality 

where diversity is demonised 

and difference is viewed with fear 

to me  these kind of attitudes

are barriers to the progressive society 

I’ve always believed in 

I know there will be some in both the SNP and yes

who will be uncomfortable with me 

because of the way I dress 

and the fact I am a woman with a trans past 

but I’m prepared to take the chance

 that our very different versions of what independence should mean 

will be keenly contested in elections in which Scotland’s voters matter 

as for now I’ll accept them as allies 

in defeating the spin and patter 

coming from unionists with agendas 

the way the Tories have been behaving 

they might as well start singing no surrender or Rule Britannia

or giving pensioners free photographs of Margaret Thatcher

rather than trying to pretend 

they give a damn about our country 

we need to debate them on the issues

we need to win ugly 

by convincing those voters who are willing to listen 

that Britain belongs in the past 

though I admit it  may have been good for some 

 this battle needs won 

not for Auld Lang Syne 

nor memories of old 

we’ve got to be bold for the future generations

those growing up 

and others still to see the day 

it is their future that’s at risk 

we can , we must, we will do better than this 

when we learn our lessons 

the future will be ours. 

@ Gayle Smith 2017 

Discovered 

For the next 30 days my blog will be  focused almost entirely on poetry as I make my now annual attempt at the poetic marathon that is NaPoWriMo.My first poem of this year is on one of my earliest memories of being out in public as a woman. This resulted in a potentially embarrassing moment as I was discovered by a friend, however the night a happier than expected ending as I found out the friend concerned was embarking on the same journey herself. I have given it the title Discovered I hope you enjoy the read 

Discovered 

Discovered 

In the early days of my journey

by someone I didn’t want to see in my little black dress 

nervous ,  I panicked 

blushed like a  guilty teenager

who had been caught  kissing 

that boy her parents didn’t like 

I fled towards the door 

tried to make a sharp exit

 It didn’t work he caught up with me 

said I should come back for coffee 

and a chat 

before going for peer support 

quickly my embarrassment faded 

he disappeared 

it was almost time for the meeting 

cheered up I made my way upstairs

I went to the ladies and found her 

discovering herself 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Shipwreck

As regular readers will be aware Mental Health is a subject which is close to my heart as my best friend and flatmate has depression and her illness can have a very debilitating impact on her life.  In this poem entitled Shipwreck I look on the struggles of someone who deserves a much better life than she’s had.  I can only hope her best days have still to come.  
Shipwreck 

In the still of a Sunday afternoon

I relax after church

as I sip my coffee I am aware 

the peace I currently enjoy

could be shattered at any minute

my patience stretched to the limit 

as my friend’s illness 

comes to pay a visit 

to someone who deserves much better 

than the hand she’s been given to play

in the game of chance we call living 

broken by circumstances

she endured in her early years 

she has suffered in ways I will never comprehend 

no matter how much I try 

suddenly her screams break the calm 

the day of rest means little to those with depression

a roaring tide engulfs her face 

any hope of tranquility, now a distant dream 

eventually the storm will lift 

as peace returns to her life 

she will survive the earthquake

which caused her mind to explode

and walking on eggshells

 I will clear the debris from the shipwreck 

which lies stranded on the beaches of humanity 

© 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