Tag Archive | Thatcherism

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


Active Citizens 

As a spoken word poet I am rightly proud of our tradition of activism on just about every topic you could name. From Apartheid to Women’s rights poets have opinions on everything and not afraid to voice them. This is something we share with all performers, but in this poem I take a look at musicians both folk and pop, and in particular the protest songs written over the years to express support of causes and campaigns to document an important part of social history . Whilst some of the songs, I’ve incorporated in to this poem may be very obviously political others may initially at least  strike you as slightly less so but when you look closely at the lyrics you’ll see they may be more radical than you think . I’ve given it the title Active Citizens as I have  long held the belief that the creative community are often a government’s more effective critics. I hope you enjoy the read. 
Active Citizens
My journey started with McGinn of The Calton 

who sang of  a may day for the ordinary people

and women pining for the pill .

Glen Daly told the story

of a wild colonial boy 

whose spirit will always live 

in the hearts of rebels with or without causes

the Corries took me over the sea to Skye 

while the hills of Donegal 

and the fields of Anthery 

showed the other side of my family tree 

both sides displaced in the name of the great white sheep 

and generations later the Proclaimers 

lamented the industrial clearances 

when they sent a letter from America

and narrated Scotland’s story 

as a  land of migrants 

throughout our history 

our so-called masters have ignored us 

attempted to silence our voices 

in the name of their false unity 

but our community remains strong

writing and  singing  the protest songs 

that expose them and their cruel deeds

carried out in the name of greed and personal gain 

meanwhile though she took a train to Leeds Central in 1989.  

we are still  looking for Linda 

and when we find her 

she will know she is one of  Jock Tamsons Bairns 

regardless of where she was born 

you see  where you are from can only be the first verse 

the starting point of the protest song

what follows is the journey about where your going to

and  how we help you get there 

by listening to the lyrics 

and the lessons they teach us for the future 

we can’t afford to be seduced and abandoned

by falling for lies and false promises 

or ignoring the 1 in 10 

we need to send the selfish homeward 

make them think again on the consequences of their behaviour 

their attitudes that make me a very angry girl 

I come from the generation who dared to feed the world 

and ask when there would be a harvest for it 

a harvest we could share 

with west end girls and smalltown boys 

we can’t let politicians create 100 000 Allentown’s 

or hold back the years in a vain attempt 

to keep us in what they think is our place 

in the rat trap they’ve created over years and centuries

to preserve what they see as the natural order 

with those McGinn sang of at the bottom 

with independence lies the hope of a better Scotland 

though we will still have our problems 

and protest songs to sing 

in the hope of the finding solutions 

as creatives we have always been political 

critical of our establishment regardless of party colours

and as our future governments will discover

we will always be active citizens

speaking out on the issues that matter. 

.© Gayle Smith 2017 

If Too Many Cooks End Up Scotching The Broth With Too Much Information It Could Be A Recipe For Chaos.

Hey everyone This afternoon the Scottish Parliament debated draft Scottish Government proposals for the introduction of shared super database. Whilst I have no doubt that the intentions behind this idea are entirely honourable I have to say I have some serious misgivings about it.
I say this not as a member of the party who are leading the opposition the Liberal Democrats, nor I am a member of those two sets of glory hunters who will seek to use the debate as a points scoring exercise in which they can fire some cheap shots at the Scottish Government also known as the Conservative and Unionist Party or alternatively the Loyal British Labour and Unionist Party. You see these two have no room whatsoever to talk on this issue. It was the Labour Party who attempted under the narcissistic leadership of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown to introduce identity cards in the UK. Then not to be outdone the Tories tried to introduce the obnoxious snooper’s charter. Having opposed these attacks on the democratic rights and freedoms we call our civil liberties, then consistency demanded that I oppose the creation of this super database even though it is the SNP of which I am proud to be a member who are considering this course of action.

You see, unlike Jim Murphy who has a chameleon like ability to change his opinions more often than the Scottish weather I believe that consistency is important in politics and that is why I have no problems in putting aside other political differences I may have with the Liberal Democrats to support them on this issue.

As a transsexual woman I have grave reservations about this idea as it could impinge on my privacy, and the right to a private life is something I value very highly. I am therefore very concerned that 120 companies could have access to my personal information without my consent. This point was raised by Conservative MSP Liz Smith and who raised the issue of individual consent. This is something I refuse to grant. It is my opinion that this kind of potential intrusion is and always will be completely unacceptable as my records like everyone else’s contain highly sensitive information on a whole range of issues relating to my health conditions. The idea of such a database is riven with pitfalls and could be used to discriminate against me in any number of ways. This discrimination would be based value judgement of others due to negative perceptions on what I may or may not be able to achieve. These assumptions will be made by people who have never met me and have no idea as to my capabilities.

No doubt supporters of this database will argue their case on the grounds of making Scotland safer but I don’t believe it will. To me this is a civil liberties issue and this smacks just too much of big brother. Someone needs to tell all parties that 1984 has come and gone and so has the cold war and cruelty of Thatcherism which was the driving force in pushing me away from the federalism of the Liberal Democrats or the more cynical devolution offered by the Labour Party as a bribe to keep Scotland sweet in the their own electoral interests, in to supporting the SNP which I have done ever since.

However, I am not, nor can I ever be an uncritical or unthinking nationalist. Anyone who has an active interest in politics,but particularly those of us who are party members no matter of what party who agree with everything their party of choice say just for the sake of doing so are doing themselves or their party no favours. If democracy is about anything it is about a system of checks and balances to make sure our government governs in the interests of our people rather than themselves and a small elite group of friends and contacts. This to me is what representative democracy is all about. It is for this reason I had no hesitation in signing the Liberal Democrats petition on this database. It genuinely saddens me that my party which has done and will continue to do so much for Scotland in what will soon be 8 years in office including taking us to the brink of our destiny and almost regaining our national independence has taken such an unfortunate stance on this issue and I suspect I am not alone within the party when I express what I believe are legitimate concerns.

I find it strange that a party in which the vast majority of the membership come from what I would term a liberal left perspective would support such a socially and culturally conservative move and this is not the first time we have made mistakes in the area of data collective There were some voices raised at the creation of a single police force in Scotland but I wasn’t among them and there was a reason for that.
The reason is that crime is a different ball game from ordinary data collection and when it comes to catching criminals information should be shared as widely as possible. This is especially true when the crime committed involves any form of violence. Yes I know that this may upset some civil liberties groups, but as far as I’m concerned when it comes to violent crime you give up your civil liberties on the day of your conviction. This however does not apply to decent ordinary members of our society and it should never be allowed to do so.

Today Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said of the government’s proposals that it was an attempt to introduce an identity card by the back door. I sincerely hope he is wrong but as I’ve said I have my concerns. In his address to parliament Mr Rennie said ‘we all know the problems with putting all your eggs in one basket or all your savings in one bank or business we should be cautious when the government wants us to do the same now’. Despite our other political differences this is one area where Willie Rennie and I can agree we should proceed with caution on. This is a topic which needs to be treated with sensitivity and the government, my government needs to listen to the genuine concerns of our people.

Maybe it’s because I’m a transsexual woman, maybe I have hidden impairments and identify as a disabled person, maybe it’s because I worked in equalities, maybe it’s because we should just live and let live or maybe it’s because I am and always will be a fighter for a better fairer more inclusive Scotland that I say carpets are for decorating the rooms in our homes, they are not for sweeping our civil liberties under. This cannot be allowed to happen not today, not tomorrow, not at any price. The fact that so many people could potentially gain access to what are essentially confidential records means that there is an increased potential for crime. This is something which needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency before any scheme of this nature goes ahead. After all to paraphrase the old saying If too many cooks end up scotching the broth with too much information it could be a recipe for chaos.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X