Rainbow On The Green

Hey everyone. I don’t know why but I never sleep well on the night before pride. Yesterday morning I was up by 4.35 despite not going to bed till just before midnight. Maybe it’s nerves excitement or even both, but either way I was up with the birdies to welcome to Pride Glasgow 2013.

After watching too much early morning telly than is decent for a woman on a Saturday morning, I eventually locked the door of Smith and Marshall mansions at around about 10 past 11 and made my way to the bus stop where I waited far longer than i should have done for my bus to the city centre.

During my 20 minute wait a couple of older people stopped for a chat and asked where I was going. I think my outfit may have attracted attention. Well. It’s not every morning you’ll see a middle aged woman standing at a bus stop in a red dress red fishnet tights with silver shoes and bag as matching accessories.

When I told them I was going to Glasgow LGBT Pride Carnival at Glasgow Green they both told me to enjoy the day and behave myself. I say I would try to behave but me being me I couldn’t make promises. At just after half 11 I finally boarded the bus. I was on my way to join the party would bring together so many kinds of LBGT people it would create a rainbow on the green.

Eventually I got off the bus at the border which separates the East End from the Merchant City. As I walked passed the Tollbooth bar I overheard a conversation between two regulars. ‘Whit’s wi awe they marchers?’ One asked ‘och it’s just gay pride says his pal ‘it’s better than the orange walk’ smiling I shouted over too right it is Celtic fans are welcome today I should know I am one. He smiled as I walked past, and since I thought he gave us good PR, I had to show my thanks with good chat.’

Realising I had missed the start of the march, well it’s kind of traditional for me. I made way along the trongate and who should I see but the lovely Joanna Barr. It is I think fair to say that Joanna is one of those younger lesbians I mentioned earlier in the week when I posted my poem a Thorn Amongst The Roses. You know the ones who tend to see me as a trans mammy. Anyway we had a brilliant wee catch up before I went on my way to join the parade.

After walking the length of the town I joined the march just before it turned in to union street. I don’t know how it happened but for the first part of my walk I walked with LGBT youth one of whose members gave me a placard with stated I support equal marriage which I was very proud to carry all the way to the green. It was during this part of the route I had chat with one of my longest standing friends Anne Marie Kelly who was one of the event stewards.

Eventually due to my somewhat relaxed walking style, I ended up with the team from the unite trade union group where I had an interesting chat on equality, football fans and the upcoming independence referendum. As we marched through the streets of the city centre It was great to see so many workers out cheering us along the route and to hear that many trade unionists are considering a yes vote as they believe it will result in a fairer nation more at home with traditional trade union values than a Britain which is moving quickly and dramatically to the right.

As we approached pizza hut we were met with some ill mannered jeering from a group of Rangers fans who shouted some foul mouthed abuse. They probably didn’t realise that there were Rangers supporters walking in the parade. Well I hate to inform these idiots but not all parades take place in early July or need commissions to approve them. It is my considered opinion that these knuckledragging neanderthals were a total embarrassment to the club they claim to support though as a Celtic fan I can’t say I’m surprised by this.

The rest of the journey passed peacefully and on entering the green one of the LGBT youth team collected my placard and I was free to wander around the many stalls, which suited a highly sociable wee madam such as myself.

As was the case last year I visited the stalls of Better Together and Scottish Labour and enjoyed good debate with members or in Labour’s case the comrades. Oops I don’t know if I’m allowed to call them that. Well let’s be honest I think they’ve had orders from on high to ban two s words Scotland and Socialism.

One of the first chats of my day was with a better together activist who just so happens to the cousin one of my best friends. She is a thoroughly decent woman whose politics are based on the principled ideas of socialism though quite how she believes this is even possible in a country which still has and seems to be determined to hang on to an unelected unrepresentative second chamber I do not honestly know. Personally
I think she is living in a dream world and I wasted no time in telling her this. I think she was slightly stunned that I was and remain confident of a convincing victory on the day and being good at predictions I think I can safely say that after my butchery of the butcher’s apron and the Dis United Kingdom, that though we get on very well I don’t think she will be posting my nomination for diplomat of the year any time soon.

Anyway I enjoyed good chats with political colleagues on both sides of the independence debate and it was a real pleasure to meet two of the good guys in Scottish politics Patrick Harvie Leader of the Scottish Green Party and Labour MSP for Glasgow Drew Smith. Both guys spoke at last year’s Pride at George Square and it is empowering to know that the LGBT community have such committed allies in our law making chamber.

I have to say that Patrick is a man I have always respected as I believe the three E’s he contributes to Scottish politics are vital to the debates currently taking place in our country and will be even more important in a post independent Scotland. Those three E’s are Education Equality and the Environment. Well he and his party colleagues educate the public on the need for equality and how that will help shape a better more culturally and socially sustainable environment which will in turn be beneficial to the political and economic health of the nation.

The Greens had lots of leaflets and were very kind to me as they gave me a copy almost everything they had on their table. This is valuable educational material which I will read for poetic purposes and recycle when I’m finished with them. Well Smith and Marshall Mansions as I call my home is getting better on the recycling issue and I intend to keep it that way and where possible improve our track record.

In my short chat i said to Patrick and his colleague Alasdair Duke that in our house we do try to be as environmentally friendly as possible and if I say so myself we have a very impressive record on food waste. Well as our budget has been slashed since I lost my job we tend only to buy what we know were going to like and thus we cut food waste to a bare minimum. In fact such is our shopping intelligence I can truthfully say that since the council supplied us with food caddy bins at the beginning of July we as yet haven’t had to use them even once.

In my chat with Drew I recalled that in his speech last year he had talked about the horrific impact of section 28 and its consequences and told him that this law passed during my early adulthood meant repressing my identity for a far greater time than anyone should ever need to. We even had a brief chat about football and the indy ref amnesty on Thursday night. Like me Drew said he liked that idea as after the referendum is over no matter what the result we will all need to work together for the benefit of Scotland. I couldn’t agree more with those sentiments and told him that I’ve got form on this issue as where I can find areas of common ground I always will get involved in cross party campaigns.

I also visited the equal marriage campaign and am pleased to report that the stall was very busy with many people queuing up to sign the declaration of support. This is an issue which will not go away. LGBT people want and deserve the same right to equality as anyone else that includes the right to marry.
It is my belief that if Scotland or Britain are ever to be viewed as modern mature nations who are relevant to the 21st world then this right must granted and granted at the earliest possible date.

On an even more personal note I really pleased to see the Scottish Transgender Alliance was also attracting a lot of interest. As a transwoman I have to say this pleased me greatly as it shows people want to learn about the topic though it was mainly women and younger women who stopped to get information.

As I mixed and mingled with the crowds I enjoyed a good catch up with one of my best friends Derek Read who informed me he had lost a very tall lesbian and If I found her I was to tell her he looking for her. This is earth calling Derek how in the name of god how did you manage to lose her in the first place?

Not long after my chat with Derek I bumped into another of my closest friends that one man tour de force Chris Young. Now it’s no secret that I see Chris as my baby brother bard, so like any big sister I was I ever so slightly concerned when I saw his hand all bandaged up. Naturally I had to ask him how it happened and he told he had an argument with a chisel, when doing some DIY. Honestly I worry about Chris and as a protective poetry big sister I think I really should advise him to stay away from any household object sharper than a member of the BNP.

Moving ever onwards I made my way to other stalls such as Guy to Girl a new community business for male to female transgender women which is based in Cathcart on the south side of the city. I think this will be an invaluable resource for transwomen and it’s a resource I fully intend to make use of when the need arises and will inform transwomen I know about it at the first available chance.

My next stop was the Yes Scotland stall to go and show my support for my country’s independence. This visit provided by far the most ironic moment of the day, when I was asked by a young volunteer if I would like some information on the yes campaign. When I told him I had already made up my mind up as to how I would be voting he asked who for them or us? When I told the young man that I had spent half the day terrorising those at the Better Together and Scottish Labour stalls I think it would be safe to say I would be voting yes.

Now those of you who are regular readers of tartan tights will know that the fact I’m voting yes is not exactly a secret so as you can imagine this caused me to have a wee chuckle. Well it’s good to see that even my lot aren’t taking my vote for granted.

I stayed at the stall for a wee while and I think I may have changed a young girl’s vote from no to yes. Well when one of the team asked her how she thought she would vote she said she would probably vote no. When asked why she said ‘It’s to do with the money, can Scotland afford it?’

Armed with the ammunition of the official statistics my colleague explained to the girl that Scotland was a net contributor to the union putting more money in than we got back and this meant we could comfortably afford to be independent. As he spoke to her about GDP and the technical stuff which those of us in politics get bogged down in to a greater degree than ordinary voters I thought it was the right time to kill this unionist myth in more voter friendly language, informing her that our parliament receives only 16 percent of the tax we pay Westminster takes from us. This in anyone’s language is daylight robbery and we need to call a halt to it on the 18th September next year.

I also used another tactic which has worked so often for me in the past. I informed her that as someone who reached her 52nd birthday just a month ago I know that many countries have gained independence from Britain since I first came in to the world and many more did so in the 10 to 15 years before. So if we were so poor as better together would like to make out then why are so desperate to keep us? I mean if you have a partner whose not pulling their weight you leave that relationship and move on to something better.

This I think was the game changer for her as she said that she would need to look in to it more and there was now a serious possibility of her voting yes. Whilst she made no promises on it I think our chat probably gave her the confidence that better together try so hard to destroy. On concluding our chat I said that we in yes Scotland would work hard to earn her trust and would not take her vote for granted. We would never be so arrogant we prefer to leave that kind of behaviour to our opponents. It’s the reason I believe we’ll win on the day the votes are counted.

I believe that the job of yes Scotland is not just to gain our country independence but to encourage dialogue and discussion amongst our people about the kind of Scotland we want to live in post independence. I was greatly heartened to have a discussion with a young man who says that though he will vote yes he does not want independence to be the end of the road but rather the beginning of a new journey. Like me he believes that austerity cannot be allowed to continue and that we must seek to find a better way to address the social and economic problems we face.

At this I decided my work was done for a wee while at least and went on another wee wander round the stalls. Well I figured there must be some I hadn’t visited and I was right. However just as I was passing that no women’s land between Scottish Labour and Better Together I was greeted by another member of my chosen family the adorable Heather Currie. Heather and her daughter Shauna who was with her mum probably to keep her in check, have always been important to me and I know Heather has not had the easiest few months.

This was one of the most emotional moments of my day and showed that contrary to the opinions of some people I do actually have softer side. I just hope that Labour lot didn’t see it after all we can’t have me showing a gentle side in the sight of the enemy. I mean god knows what dirty tricks they might use to try and weaken my resolve. Joking apart, it was great to see two very special women who will always have an important role in my life and a permanent place in my heart.

As I regained my composure I made my way to the stall of Metropolitan Community Church where I got talking matters christian with a girl called Susan who is almost as gabby as I am. Yes it’s true the age of miracles isn’t dead and we chatted for a good while about the metropolitan church the important role it play in the lives of many LGBT christians. Susan told me she also attends the united reform church and that her church is pretty liberal on LGBT issues. I said that I find the same in the Church of Scotland and it’s good to see the churches moving forward to greater acceptance of the community.

After chatting to Susan I thought it was time to enjoy the entertainment and check out the talent. I have to say I never saw a lot of hot guys but the talent on stage more than made up for the lack of talent in the crowd.

It was that of the day when I was in the mood to party and the carnival atmosphere which is so unique to pride added to the occasion. Of the acts I managed to see I particularly enjoyed the sets by Heather Small who was absolutely brilliant and the always enjoyable Robert and May Millar. As for Scott Agnew well he was as mad as ever and that is always good news. To me however the star of the show was a local lass by the name of Rozelle. This girl has the complete package, she has the voice, the look, and the personality to really go places, I think she may be one worth watching.

As the afternoon drew to a close Joanna found me as she had promised she would and I spent some quality with her and her friends. Realising I had taken only one picture during the whole day I decided to get at least one with Joanna. Her friends snapped us twice and both pictures show someone happy to be seen with her trans mammy before going to mix, mingle, and enjoy the rest of the festival.

Talking of my maternal instincts they must be really easy to spot as not long after leaving Jo I was ‘adopted’ by another three young lesbians all of whom were chatty, lovable, and ever so slightly mad. Something tells me they’ll fit right in to my family of rainbow daughters. The biggest chatterbox from my latest brood is pink haired nutter Cherry. Her real name is Emma but everyone calls her Cherry because of her bright pink hair. Trust me this one is just like me, a gabby wee madam who doesn’t need happy pills. The other newbies to my ever growing family Stephanie and Gayle are i have to say very sweet natured and quiet girls or maybe they were just waiting to Cherry drew breath so they could get a word in. Well she’s just that kind of girl and you can’t help loving her because of it.
At Cherry’s insistence more photographs were taken and with Stephanie as photographer it was her chance and to a lesser extent Gayle’s to grab the limelight. This was something she wasted no time in doing and she was quite right in my opinion.

However all good things must come to an end and as Alasdair Smith came to the stage to thank everyone for a great day we had one giant conga round the green to celebrate a wonderful day and head to the various bars to continue the party into the night or if you were lucky and not as skint as I am the wee small hours of the morning. It was perhaps fitting that the last friend I saw before heading for the bar was my wee princess and superstar Anne Marie. I think that’s as it was, as it is and as it ever shall be. Well there may be room in my heart for a lot of people but there’s only one Anne Marie.

Eventually I left the green and made my way to the merchant city where the whole place was buzzing with those in the mood to make a night of it.

As for me, I ended up in a jam packed Katie’s Bar where a group of youngsters who had never met a transwoman before bombarded me with questions on what it is like to be trans? These ranged from the obvious when did you come out? to questions on bust size it was a girl that asked that one so it was ok, style icons and did I ever think I was gay. I think the boy who asked that question was shocked when I replied that being gay had never entered my head as even back in the day I knew I was trans I just had to keep it secret. Honestly I felt like a celebrity getting interviewed in one of those an audience with type programmes. I was more than happy to answer every question as honestly as I could and it was really refreshing that they were interested enough to ask.

At the end of an eventful day I made my way back to Baillieston with only one regret. I didn’t have enough money to stay in Katie’s bar especially since Michelle McManus was going to be appearing later on to treat the crowd to a few songs which I have no doubt would go down a treat. Well it’s Michelle what’s not to love?

As l arrived back in Baillieston the streets were quiet and peaceful far removed from the madness of the merchant city. Having had time to reflect on the events of a great day, I just want to say thanks to everyone I met along the way who were part of my rainbow on the green and helped make Glasgow 2013 my best pride so far.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

From Councillors To Comedians & The Girls In The Church I Celebrate The Women In My Life

Hey everyone For the next few weeks the Sunday supplement takes a look at things from a slightly different perspective than usual as there will be no review of the press or the stories that made the headlines. The focus will shall we say be more culturally driven. This week l will at two events which make the last few days a good time for the girls & a wonderful week to be a woman. I shall also celebrate some of the women who have been powerful influences in my life & positive forces for good.

Today is Mother’s Day. This is a chance for us to celebrate the mother’s in our lives & let them know what we think of them & why we love them. My relationship with my mother was not always easy partly because of her social conservatism & partly because I was a lippy little madam. However I definitely loved her in my own unique way.

As time has gone by I see similarities between myself & my mother though I have to say I am a lot more accepting of difference than my mum & I certainly don’t have her skills in the kitchen though I wish I did & as I get older I do share her obsession with cookery programmes.

It is fair to say that we had our share of differences but she taught me many valuable lessons which have come in very handy over the years. My mother taught me to shop on a budget a skill which my flatmate has found most useful in these times of austerity. To this day she is mystified how she can give me £20 for a weekly shop & I can come back with a full shopping basket & still have change left over.

My mother also gave me my interest in helping others to be the best they can be though how she did this is more appreciated now than it was at the time. I say this as due to my mother saying I would do something it meant I didn’t have the chance to back out of babysitting my younger cousins & therefore I had to keep them entertained & maybe educate them at the same time. This skill set has come very handy for someone who is the compare of an open mic event & who also facilitates a writers group.

Also though we would never sing from the same political hymn sheet my mother did encourage me to develop my interest in politics & current affairs. I’m not sure she would be happy about me voting Yes in next year’s referendum though, but I have no doubt whatsoever her own mother would certainly approve.

My gran was a firebrand leftie who never once voted Labour but introduced me to real socialism & taught me my family history. This was a woman who would if alive today rip any of the Labour/Tory coalition to shreds to such that they actually would break their necks as they fled in panic from her rage. She would invoke the names of names of Keir Hardie, James Connolly, & John McLean to remind them of the workers they’ve betrayed & if any of them was stupid enough to try & take her on she would simply turn up the power & I have no doubt leave them screaming as they disappeared into the distance.

It is to me one of life’s great ironies that this radical left winger who would make Dennis Skinner look like the archangel Gabriel & who once called Tony Benn a posh boy who was using the Labour for his own career voted Liberal for most of her life as they promised Scotland ‘a damn sight more power than those other idiots’ I quote verbatim. I am sure Liberal Democrats like Caron Lindsay, Sophie Bridger & Jo Swinson would find this highly amusing that it was their party or at least its forerunner which could hold her heart at least until the SNP arrived on the scene. if I’m honest though which my mum & gran taught to me to be I think it was the cause rather than the party that my gran really supported.

So as you can see I come from a line of strong women who gave me many gifts which would serve me well in my future. Women I fought with, argued with, learned from, respected, & loved. These are women who gave me memories, told me stories, & taught me songs, & poems that’s why I remember them today, tomorrow, & always.

Looking back a couple of days Friday was International Women’s Day. A day where we celebrate the achievements of Women in all aspects of life. So rather than trot out a list of the usual suspects. I’m going to name a list of women who are or have been in my opinion key drivers for a better world.

I’ve mentioned the influence of my mum & my gran in shaping me to be who I am. There are however others & amongst them is an MP who fights not only for fairness & is totally & completely driven by her passion to promote a more positive self image for girls & young women. This image is far removed from the fictional celebrity lifestyle they often told they should aspire to. This is a visionary with a vision for the young women of the future not to be force fed this diet of deluded dreams & the world is a better place because women like Jo Swinson are in it.

Another women who also believes in marching forward in the name of equality is like Jo Swinson a Liberal Democrat who will fight against sexism & stereotypes & for equal marriage & the right to make choices. Its the force of nature that is more commonly known as Sophie Bridger.

In Alison Thewliss the SNP are lucky to have a young councillor who really does listen to the voice of the voters. Having campaigned with her I know how well respected she is in the area she represents & it really isn’t difficult to see why. Alison has a very engaging style with the public & any time I have trod the streets of the Carlton I have witnessed first hand how well thought of she actually is.

Now I have a question for my readers when is a politician not a politician? The answer is when they are former SNP MSP Anne McLaughlin. You see Anne is so much more than an ordinary politician. Well if there’s one word that doesn’t describe Anne its ordinary. A passionate campaigner for community based organisations Anne devotes much of her time to helping
to organising events for the Glasgow African-Caribbean Centre. These included A Multi-Cultural St Andrews Night, an open mic for Burns night & celebrations round the 50th anniversary of Jamaican Independence. This takes not only imagination but also time, effort, & commitment. Luckily for the centre has all these qualities & more, as I said she is so much more than just a politician.

In the world of entertainment there are many talented women who have empowered me not only become a better poet & performer but to be the women I am today & none more so than of Scotland’s finest most cultured stars Viv Gee. I have known Viv since the late 1990’s when she hosted that brilliant Sunday afternoon event that was Sunday Rhymes at Bar Brel. A poet with a razor sharp Viv likes to entertain & inform with her unique style of delivery which to me makes her show at the Glasgow Comedy Festival one of my must see events.

Another poet on my list of women who have supported me with friendship is the one & only Jenny Lindsay. Like Viv I have known Jenny since my pre transition days & it was during darker days than now that Jenny’s kindness was truly appreciated. When you are a poet whose star is rising it is sometimes easy to forget where you came from but Jenny remembers her roots & that’s what gives her not only strength but also the respect & admiration of her peers.

The gifts of kindness, loyalty & respect are three of the most precious gifts you give to anyone & its fair to say that Catherine Baird, Heather Currie, Kathryn Metcalfe Maryanne Hartness, & Linda Grant, have given me these gifts time after time & they’ve done it without needing to be asked. It is therefore no real surprise that I see this motley crew as my chosen sisters each of them stars in their own unique way.

When ever I’ve been feeling slightly less than my best I have always found solace in the world of music & some of the friendships I’ve made amongst the women of the traditional music community have given me strength to face challenges & cope with difficult issues with dignity. The support I have received has from all concerned has been nothing short of brilliant & though there are too many names to mention there one is one I think I need to. Laura Wilkie has it is fair to say been an absolute rock who has supported me every step of the way & seen me through some of the toughest times of my life. I remember a Friday night in the June of 2011 when unable to go out despite having the choice of three events to attend, & still shaken at the news of my impending redundancy I phoned Laura in an effort to cheer myself up. Sensing there was something wrong Laura got me to open up & chat about what was bothering me & though I burst into tears it was probably exactly what I needed & by the end of the call some half an hour later she had worked her magic as only she can & left me looking forward to seeing her perform with another friend Rachel Sermanni the following week.

Being a self identified transsexual woman the cause of equal marriage is one which I have to say I hold close to my heart. The legislation to bring this about was brought before the Scottish Parliament by the woman I believe to be the best politician in these islands I refer of course to Nicola Sturgeon who was until recently Health Minister in the SNP Scottish Government. I have nothing but the highest possible praise for a women I am proud to have campaigned for at every election since God knows when. However whilst Nicola may be an effective ally on this issue, I believe its greatest champion & most powerful advocate comes from within the LGBT community she is a gabby wee madam I’m proud to call a friend & believe me if I was allowed to select my own family she & her twin sister Louise would certainly be two of my daughter the name of this star is Laura McLachlan. From the SNP conference to the studios of channel 4 Laura has represented her cause with passion pride & dignity & is committed to making equal marriage a reality for those who want the same rights as their heterosexual family & friends

Others who have played significant roles in assisting & empowering me are far too many to mention but there are few woman in my local parish church such as Diana McNaught & Sheena Campbell whose friendship & support have been invaluable to me
This is also of true of Emma Haney who for some reason believes I am her second mother. To say Emma is a loyal friend would I think be the understatement of this or any millennia. Let’s put it as diplomatically as is possible when it involves Emma if she catches anyone giving me a dirty look she will in no uncertain terms tell them to go & wash their face & that’s me polite about it. Emma may never qualify for the diplomat of the year
award but believe me when I say she is a major asset to have on your side & there’s not a day that passes I’m not greatful she’s on mine.

Like Emma my flatmate & friend Janette is a wee bit on the lippy side but after 13 years of friendship I wouldn’t have it any other way. Refreshingly honest Janette doesn’t mince her words she calls a spade a spade & not a gardening implement. To say her sense of humour is a wee bit risky is putting it mildly, however her kindness & loyalty more than make up for it

Last but not least I couldn’t talk about women who have influenced me in my life without including the woman without whom there would be no Words & Music Pamela Duncan. Since first meeting this remarkable women in 1993 she has encouraged & supported me in my development as a poet a performer & most of all as a woman. In perhaps the greatest compliment anyone has ever paid me, Pamela said just about a year or so after my transition ‘you know being a woman really works for you. It suits you I mean you seem a lot more relaxed & confident in yourself. Some of us were worried for you’ she said in that way that a mother or auntie would say ‘ but not anymore & I’m really happy for you. I kid you not hearing that from a woman I admired & respect was such a boost to my confidence it was better than winning the lottery jackpot.

So as you can see there are many women who have in different ways enriched the quality of my life by contributing in some way or other. Though they may not know what they have done the important thing is I do & I am very greatful for it. So as I look back on a good week to celebrate women I make no apologies that I have celebrated the women in my life.

You see I believe that whilst it is good to acknowledge the achievements of a woman on a global scale & to recognise that mother’s day & international women’s day are important in serving a particular purpose, we should perhaps remember that being women is something we should celebrate every day. After all being a woman means more than cards & flowers its part of our identity & it makes us who we are. So forgive me if I say that from councillors to comedians & the girls in the church I celebrate the women in my life.

Love & Best Wishes
Gayle X