Tag Archive | Language

The North British Cringe 

Four years ago to the day I marched with 30,000 others  through the streets of Edinburgh in support of my country’s independence . Alas when the vote was held we were defeated by the forces of apathy and fear and our nation remains what the author John Steinbeck described in a conversation with President Kennedy as an unwon cause. It is my opinion that one of the key reasons for this is what some people refer as the Scottish cringe. You know the idea, that we alone of the nations on earth are too wee, too poor , and too stupid to run our own affairs. It is my considered opinion that this is a form of cultural oppression and this cringe is anything but Scottish. Indeed I believe it was in fact born in Westminster by those who are absolutely terrified to see Scotland become an independent nation namely the British establishment whose vested interests in our country be they economic or political make them and their all too willing servants  overtly hostile to our independence. It is for this reason that I have written this poem and given it the title The North British Cringe . I hope you enjoy the read. 

The North British Cringe 

We are told by the establishment and their friends in the press

Scotland is not oppressed 

Well if that the case 

why is Scotland’s population

which was a 1/3 of England’s at the formation of the United Kingdom 

now less than a 1/10 

they cringe when I tell them 

 there pro union argument makes no sense 

yet when we contest this notion we are scorned 

told we are idealistic but ill informed

but it’s our accusers who are deluded

the idea of not being oppressed because we’re Scots is misguided 

If you don’t believe me let’s look at the evidence 

we’ll start with the rough wooing in the period leading up to union 

When The Ailen Act was passed by a Westminster government 

determined to secure their unity at all costs

even their anthem talks about crushing rebellious Scots

then there was the banning of the Gaelic, the pipes, and the tartan after the 45

this is a ban unionists choose to ignore 

preferring to bang on empty drums about the sashes their fathers wore 

whilst never mentioning the privileges it brought them 

too many in Scotland are ignorant of our history 

so I’ll start by informing them 

that much to our disgrace 

this prohibition of our language, culture , and tradition did take place 

and wasn’t lifted until 1782

almost 40 years after Culloden 

if that wasn’t an attempt to keep us downtrodden I don’t know what is 

It was a deliberate attempt to show resistance was futile 

and the beginning of a campaign to keep Scotland in our place

the more fanatical sycophants

even tried have our country’s name wiped from existence

and replaced by North Britain 

I still believe this to be your career unionist’s wet dream 

but this girl from the schemes 

is wise to Westminster and there never never ending lies

whilst the truth cries tears at the endless myths and misconceptions 

their parties will use to gain votes at election time 

these practioners of the dark arts 

are well versed when it comes to the crimes of  deception and duplicity 

as we can see when they use their carefully worded propaganda

they fraudulently call British history 

this has been manufactured in the interests of the elite 

by their friendly Oxbridge historians

I afford them no credibility especially the Tory ones 

the hope and glory brigade

 who will claim we played a part in shaping the new world and the politics of empire 

and maybe we did but not in the way they would have you believe

you see there was no voluntary migration to Canada in 1773

In the real world this has another name

It was called the clearances 

as tens of thousands of families were evicted from their land 

to make way for sheep 

yet you dare to tell me we are not oppressed 

I weep when I think of the martyrs of Tolpuddle 

or the massacre at Peterloo 

but I do so in an international context

 as I ask with respect 

why I was taught about these events at school

rather than the Paisley mill girls 

or the fact that Scottish radicals 

were executed by cold hearted killers 

for demanding independence in 1820

these facts are hidden from our young 

just in case knowing them, might turn them against this precious union

the myth that took centuries to build

by those skilled in the art of the cringe 

the 90 minute patriots who claim we can’t possibly be oppressed 

as we are allowed to wear kilts

and support our national football team 

though when I remind them we can’t watch Scotland games on TV

I am told I am fanatical SNP

and unpatriotic to Britain

they make fools of themselves 

by going on about British highlands , whisky, and bridges

and saying that by being allowed to vote 

we can’t possibly be undermined in a way 

this is the garbage spouted by those Proud Scots 

 who read The Daily Mail , watch EastEnders and Match of the Day 

the ignorance of these people astounds me and suggests 

they know nothing of the place they are ashamed to call home 

and that’s the way they need it to stay 

they ignore the fact that their Westminster masters can’t stand them 

or even tolerate them 

they’ve never been informed about the Scottish potato famine 

which though nowhere near the genocide 

faced by our Irish kin 

still happened nonetheless 

our oppression was and remains more covert in nature

the press and media used as tools to surpress 

any feelings of national identity 

and cover up any events the Brits would rather hide 

like the Govan rent strikes or the socialists of Red Clydeside

and why not because we are oppressed 

by the British is best brigade 

who make sure this history 

our real history is never taught in schools

it would undermine their right to rule 

to which they believe their entitled 

reality however paints a different picture to the one they want to see 

through the prism of their union jack blinkers 

these not so liberal thinkers 

who think narrow minds are prized possessions 

would still deny our oppression 

or while part of this United Kingdom 

some Scots oppressed those in other lands and their own 

In the name of empire crown and glory 

working class Protestants encouraged to vote Tory 

and many still do 

In fear of an imaginary Irish Catholic takeover 

wrapping themselves in the red, white, and blue of union

believing themselves to be the true blue Scots 

yet boasting that they are Brits

from an early age these hypocrites were and still are 

indoctrinated in to hating the Highlander,  the Irish , the French , and Jew

with Muslims now perceived to be enemy 

the Irish and the others used to be 

as Voltaire once said it is difficult to free fools 

from the chains they revere 

on teaching our history 

we must make it clear 

Scotland’s story is not an easy read 

but read it we must 

if we are ever to conquer the cringe 

that of all nations only we 

are too wee, too poor , and too stupid to be free

this is complete drivel 

and the perpetrators must be called out as liars

as a nation we have to aim higher 

but first we must come to terms with our past and our  present 

and facing up to our continued oppression 

this can only end with independence 

and becoming the authors of our destiny 

only then can we look the world in the eye 

as no longer conditioned to be shy 

we will say to every nation 

we are equal to you

the cringe has been conquered at last 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

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The Day The Phoenix Rises 

This poem draws on the stories of my ancestors who told me about the importance of the phoenix in guarding the laws of Scotland and Ireland and the belief that our countries will finally be free of British rule on the day the phoenix rises. It is for that reason I have given it the title The Day The Phoenix Rises. I hope you enjoy the read. 
The Day The Phoenix Rises

Outsiders

we were scorned on arrival 

in a cold uncaring place 

 locals claimed we were not the same as them 

using language and religion as excuses to label us 

boasting of their achievements

as part of an empire

they were unaware their own culture was scorned 

Scots or Irish a Celt can never be 

reborn as a Brit

when they were told this 

the new order got angry 

they were beyond unhappy

when the Irish community formed a football club 

which would be open to those of  all faiths and none 

when trophies were won we were feared and hated 

the angry brigade felt threatened 

that their fragile identity had been questioned 

there were suggestions we should go home 

as those with blood on their hands

conveniently forgot  it was they 

who did the clearing 

which left us dispossessed 

the victims of cultural genocide

in the Celtic heartlands from which I am descended 

 I’ve always known my blood is the blood of twin tribes 

both of which were marginalised 

the Irish  and the Islanders share 

a history of oppression

with stolen lands taken from the people 

and given to those who would obey colonial orders

without questioning why 

in Culloden and Atherny 

the pain lives on  in the lyrics of our songs

and the hearts of those who know 

the history the oppressers tried to ban 

along with our culture and traditions 

that however was a big mistake to make

in their determination to break us 

they inspired a spirit of resistance

they will not quell 

hell will freeze over before we ever accept 

the label outsiders 

It is not who we are nor will it ever be 

our freedom will come on the day the phoenix rises 

to take us home from the ashes of a ruined estate 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

For All The Silenced Voices

​With Tuesday being world poetry day, I wrote a poem to give thanks for my right to freedom of expression. As I did so I thought of the words of  the late Chilean poet Pablo Neruda who when living under the Pinochet regime remarked poetry is the only danger here and in many countries his words have an all too disturbing ring to them as poets are often seen as enemies of the state. 

It is I think fair to  say that  though I have strong and principled political beliefs I doubt very much if Westminster or the British establishment see my poetry or any poetry as a threat to their existence and I have written this poem to celebrate the fact that I am allowed to speak my truths in my words unlike so many practioners of the craft whose work will at best be censored and in the most extreme cases could land them with a death sentence. 

After due consideration I couldn’t find what I thought was a suitable title to convey the sentiments expressed in it, so I put it out to my Facebook community to see if they could assist me in  this matter and as usual someone came up with a title so good I wish I had thought of it myself.  On this occasion, that someone was Louise Gemmill who suggested the title   For All The Silenced Voices. I hope you enjoy the read. 

For All The Silenced Voices 

On world poetry day 

I couldn’t let it go unnoticed

I had to say something 

to be vocal for poets in those countries

where art is suppressed 

voices ignored 

and imagination discouraged 

no matter what I think 

of this country 

or what name I use when I speak of it 

I am free to give my words meaning 

set them in context 

explain what shaped the views I hold 

I speak through the language of a craft 

which requires skill and dedication 

and more editing and revision 

than there are hours in the day 

for those who scoff and say 

anyone can write poetry 

I challenge them to try it 

they might find it is not as easy 

as they think 

the pessimists always drink 

from the half empty glass 

anyone can be a critic 

though not all will understand 

what they are critiquing 

poets know the penalties for speaking out 

can result in imprisonment or execution 

yet still take the risks 

in telling their truths

Burns, Pearce, Havel, Plath, and Neruda

are proof of  that.

their legacies are in creating a better world

where words heal wounds 

inflicted in the name of humanity 

this is testament to the worth of their art  

and shows that the half empty glass 

can when viewed through a poets eyes 

be perceived as half full. 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Breaking Point 

Hey Readers My latest post is a poem on  mental health issues which just happens to be the topic for the March edition of Extra Second at which I’m one of the billed readers. The poem is on the subject of public attitudes to depression and I’ve given it the title Breaking Point  I hope you enjoy the read. 
Breaking Point 
Every day 

I hear folk make 

thoughtless remarks 

to people I know 

like come on 

cheer up 

your lucky 

what about the poor Afician children ? 

at least you live in Britain 

what have you got to be moaning about 

what have you not got

that you can’t live without 

you’ve got a job, a house,  a man 

you’ve got everything planned

what right have you to be depressed ?

you can’t explain why 

you feel like this 

as they say 

in my mother’s day 

nobody got depressed 

we didn’t have the time 

are you sure your not just bored 

you should take up a hobby 

like jogging or baking 

mental health issues 

you must be mistaken

you not a wierdo or some kind of nutter 

as they  mutter under their breath 

about locking up loonies 

but the people they moan about 

are not in the moonies 

or some bizarre cult 

why can’t some people 

act  like adults 

and realise depression is real 

the black dog 

nobody wants as a pet 

never forget 

careless talk cost lives 

as knives are used 

to self harm 

by those who feel the pain 

and are never allowed to explain

 what’s hurting them or why 

fearing that no-one will listen 

knowing, someone will say 

at least you live in Britain 

yes they live in Britain 

a country conditioned in to thinking 

that crying is a sign of weakness 

so they hide their tears 

and the fears which make the rivers run 

as the silver stream of the night 

flood pillows and bring hearts to breaking point 

and yet my friends are supposed 

to get over a condition 

the powers that be  refuse to believe exists 

given pills instead of treatment

generation  lost are counting the cost

of penny punching profiteers 

who fear invisible demons  

stalking the communities 

around which they have carefully errected fences 

to keep others from entering 

yet if any of them had issues 

we would be told of benefits of therapies 

people like us could never afford

It’s  ordinary people who are ignored 

tossed aside not allowed to be depressed 

 and when they protest 

about needing support

to remain  in the  community  

they are told it’s lunacy

to make such unreasonable demands 

as chinless wonders order them 

 to get over themselves 

and the tragedy is that mental health 

is still viewed as something that happens to others 

it will never come to your door 

but it will for one in four of the population 

and when you are approaching breaking point 

 I hope you won’t be told 

to get over it
@ Gayle Smith 2017 


Never Stop A Woman In The Middle Of A Rant

Hey Readers

Since beginning my journey to womanhood I have noticed the amount of sexism woman have to put up with is absolutely frightening. As a trans woman I have been at the wrong end of this behaviour when who are not in my intellectual or cultural league have attempted to patronise me by assuming they have a superior knowledge on any given topic. Needless to say I do not approve of this mansplaining and the guilty parties have been very short shrift and more often that not been corrected on their mistake and put in their place after being on the receiving end of one my famous rants. The fact that women still have to put up with this behaviour in 2017 is in my opinion completely outrageous so if written this poem to give those mansplainers a friendly word of advice and titled it Never Stop A Woman In The Middle Of A Rant. I hope you hope you enjoy the read.

Never Stop A Woman In The Middle Of A Rant.

There are times you shouldn’t interrupt a woman

especially me

like see when I’m in the middle of a rant

and you try to put your point across

you do so at your own risk

this is not something I would ever advise

neither are lies or attempting to mansplain anything to me

you don’t think I get

because I’m a woman

don’t dismiss me because I’m trans

I will just keep going

you will have no way of knowing

how to stop me

no man does though many have tried

it’s as futile as attempting

to hold back the tide

with one hand

what is it about this simple fact

 you don’t understand

I am a woman who knows why I’m ranting

and what I’m on about

don’t tell me not to shout or raise my voice

my opinions and my choices

do not need to meet with your approval.

to think otherwise is completely delusional

words like honey, doll or darling

will not sweeten me up

or disarm me from saying what I like

I know my rights and will not be afraid

to defend them if that’s what is required

you need to learn

playing with fire is dangerous

it’s a risk you need to avoid

as it can have consequences

which you might not like

you need to remember

I’m not easily frightened

I have powers beyond your imagination

I can be your inspiration

or the nightmare which lurks

in the darkest corners of your imagination

so take this advice

I give you for free

there are things you don’t do

to any woman be it me

your girlfriend, your mother, your sister,

your wife, your daughter, your gran, your niece or your aunt

you must never and I mean never

interrupt a woman in the middle of a rant.

@ Gayle Smith 2017 

No Matter What Your Native Tongue I Wish You Merry Christmas

Hey Readers

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In my 25th and final blogmas post, (yes I’ve finally reached the top of the tree) I wish you Noilaig Chridheil, (Scots Gaelic) Noilaig Shona, (Irish Gaelic) God Jul, (Swedish) Vrolijk Kerstfeest (Dutch), Joyuex Noel, (French) Buon Natale (Italian) and Feliz Navadid (Spanish)

There are many ways to wish you Merry Christmas and far more languages in the world than I can ever hope to list, but whether your native tongue is included in this list or not I wish all global citizens the best of times on this day and every day.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

Passion Power And Periods Made A Jewel Of A Show For The Girls (A Review Of Adventures In Menstruating By Chella Quint

Hey Readers

There are some shows at every Edinburgh fringe which are so inspiring you simply have to see them twice. Last year it was Permission by Hannah Chutzpah and in previous years, Becoming Wonder Woman by Sophia Blackwell and That’s Not How You Spell Pedantic By Jim Higo were worth a second view. This year however the winner of this accolade was not only highly entertaining it was challenging, funny, and thought provoking tackled a subject which somehow even in these enlightened times remains among the last of the sexual taboos.

The show was Adventures In Menstruating by the gabby and highly likeable American comedian Chella Quint. Chella though originally a New Yorker from Brooklyn is now living in Sheffield so I ask myself does that mean she’s a native of New Yorkshire. Well to be honest I don’t know, what I do know however is that she had one of the funniest, most challenging, most thought provoking shows I saw in the whole of Edinburgh 2016.

This show wasn’t just entertaining it was also enlightening and educational with a significant degree of audience participation in an action packed 50 minutes. During this period (sorry I don’t usually do period puns), Chella who is a sex educator by profession exposed some of the more bizarre myths around the topic and tried to remove the stain of shame from what is a natural if painful part of being female.

As she introduced the show Chella (pictured below) told us that it was bloody funny and that it starts off heavy but it gets light. With her puns done and dusted Chella then reassured us that no real or fake blood was used in the snow but she said a had a plushy which anyone could hold for a few minutes if they felt in any way squeamish.

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Having completed her preliminaries Chella started the entertainment with a game of twister. Yes you did read that right, we started the show in full interactive mode which means that this must be the only show I’ve ever seen which starts with a game which has the potential to end in carnage.

There was however a very good reason for this and that was to test out how much we knew about the topic. The idea was that we would put our right foot on one of three colours which coincidentally the colours of traffic lights depending on what we know about periods. If we know nothing we would put our foot on red, if we something about them but not as much as we should we put our foot on amber and if we knew everything we needed to know we would put our foot on green.

As a trans woman I put my foot on Amber because I did have some knowledge of the topic. This knowledge however didn’t flow gently in to my mind like a nice wee stream, it came like a flood in the night because it didn’t come from books or magazine articles it came from my mother one November night when as a young trans girl of about 13 when I was dressed in my beige top navy skirt and tan tights, (Having to rely to on my mother’s cast offs was never easy for a fashion conscious trans girl in the 70’s ) she gave me what she called the full horror story of what I was lucky not to get. So I think I knew I enough to go amber rather than red.

Having avoided potential catastrophy and gained at least some knowledge from her audience as to where we were at with regards to the topic, Chella waited till we were all safely back in our seats before setting about educating us by tackling some of the most commonly held myths and misconceptions on what is seen by far too many in our so-called polite, civilised society as something to be swept under the carpet at the fastest possible speed.

This list of myths included the ‘fact’ that period cycles are an exact science and therefore the same for every woman and girl. This is not true and as Chella pointed out the cycle can vary between 21-35 days depending on the individual. Chella also said that the biggest fear faced by many girls on getting their first period was that of leaking in class. This I have to say is very understandable and had I born biologically female as I would have wished it would certainly have been my number one fear when mother nature called for her monthly visit. This was an issue Chella dealt with later in the show with her brilliant and sensitively written poem Leaking Girl in which she showed empathy and compassion to every girl who has ever had one of those moments.

One of the more unbelievable but true misconceptions Chella revealed during the show was the fact that some girls thought periods were blue and not red. Yes, I know this surprised me too and to any rational, mind would seem ridiculous. However when you take a closer look at it, you will see that right from the beginning of time which was 1926 in the case of female hygiene products, they have always used varying shades of light blue for advertising purposes.

Why this colour was chosen when everyone’s blood is red I can only guess. My hunch is that I think it had more to with polite society not wanting to deal with what it saw and still sees as women’s issues and that men should not be troubled by the sight of women’s blood.

This to me seems ever so slightly strange but I have no doubt that it was society’s rather middle class of telling women to calm down. Now I don’t know about you but I have never met a woman whose calmed down because she’s been told to calm down.

As Chella showed us some of the adverts and took us on a guided tour of periods through the generations she highlighted the fact that when it comes to language and imagery used talk about periods nothing much has really changed in the years since tampons were invented.

In the first advert in our historical tour which is from 1926 words like fear and embarrassment were used to describe what the ruling classes thought was obviously a very messy business. Now you may think that was fair enough and probably chimed well with the attitudes of early 20th century Britain.

However as the adverts progressed through the decades and generations the language used was still as negative as it had ever been and words like shame, and secret were and still are commonly used or at least implied to describe a woman’s time of the month. This it has be to said, does nothing to enhance positive body images for women and instead leaves us and yes as a trans woman I do say us, with negative stereotypes of what periods can mean rather than the reassurance needed that nature will run its course.

As she mused on this issue Chella performed her poem Leaking Girl and came up with a revolutionary idea that we could reclaim the stain with unique period style jewellery or as she called it leak chic which of course would go national and eventually global but it’s headquarters would be in the Kent town of Staines. Well it seems logical to me.

At this, it was time for some more audience interaction as Chella invited us to reclaim the stain and be proud of our right to be women. After talking us period jewellery she invited us embrace the stain and pass it round the audience. This, she said was our chance to a get a selfie and as you can see from the picture below I took full advantage of the situation.

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This, was a brilliant piece of interaction as it got you however briefly to be involved in a common experience of sharing a moment with the girl or women next to you and just like twister it worked to perfection. I think there may be a lot of Instagram photographs of this.

Chella ended the show with The Crimson Tide a song which emphasised the need for women and girls to be period positive and left us more aware of why made women feel the way we do about such a female issue .
During a fast paced well crafted show Chella made the crowd feel as if we were all going on a shared journey and the interactive nature of the show was enjoyed by all who saw it. You see this wasn’t just entertaining it was educational and groundbreaking in the way it tackled the issue.

As I left the show I chatted to my fellow audience members and I have to say the reaction was overwhelmingly positive. Believe me when I say this show was the talk of the ladies room where most of had gone to reapply our make up and for me at least the aftermath of the show led to some pretty life affirming conversations

Like for example the one I had with a young woman of 19 who told me how scared she was when she got her first period and then without pausing for breath told me that it must have been even more scary for me because I was about ages with her mum and sex education wasn’t as good in her day as it was now. As a trans woman this was a double result for me as not had seen me as just another woman but when I found out her mum’s age she had knocked about 14 to 15 years off me.

Nice though this compliment was and no matter how it was to get it , I had to tell the girl the truth about my trans identity. On doing this, the girl who seemed completely unfazed by my revelation said, well since you must be on hormones to have gained such a female shape you must experience some of the symptoms we get so if anyone tries to give you grief about being a woman just tell them to bolt. Trust me this is good advice and I will remember to use as and when required.

Other comments on the show were that any man who attended, will have a new respect for women. No girl should ever be ashamed to leak ever again, and that starting the show could have halved the audience before we had taken our seats. However I conclude my review by quoting Felicity from Edinburgh, the audience member who sat beside me on the Friday night show. As we made our way up the stairs she said that this was one of the most important shows she had seen in very long time and it was both educational and inspiring and should be touring the UK so as many women and girls as possible get the chance to see it. I have to say I agree with her on this It was a brilliant way to spend 50 minutes. It was packed with with passion, power and period pain though it did have some moments of light relief. To me this was intelligent comedy which left no stain on our character and that more than anything made this adventure a jewel of a show for the girls.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X