Tag Archive | The Bay City Rollers

Secret Cinderella

With Glasgow Pride coming up next weekend it’s no surprise that this month’s edition of Extra Second is focusing on sexuality. As I’ve been billed to perform I thought I had better get cracking and write some poems on the topic. In this one I travel back in time to the summer of 1974 and recall the day I  started secondary school and the first real stirrings with regards to boys and being aware of being a socially awkward trans teen before I knew the term for it. I’ve given it the title Secret Cinderella, I hope you enjoy the read .

Secret Cinderella

It was the day that Nixon resigned 

and the Bay City Rollers made number one on Radio Clyde 

when I started high school

I tried so hard to fit in and be cool 

it didn’t work 

I wanted skirts not the trousers that were my fate

I hated being made to be a boy 

I couldn’t play the part 

my heart wasn’t in it 

there were limits to my acting skils 

I tried to play football but would sooner hang out with girls 

talk about what really mattered 

make up, boys, and teenage dreams 

the centrefold in that week’s Jackie magazine 

but when you lived in the schemes 

these stirrings had to be calmed if not completely quelled

Catholic or Protestant both guilt trips 

had the same destination 

a one way ticket on the road to hell 

and a child of a mixed marriage would be condemned to it twice 

secretly I would wear tights and dresses 

when nobody else was watching 

well Scotland was a different place back then

where men were men and no boys were ever allowed to cry 

even if denying the truth would have them climbing bedroom walls 

the secret Cinderella’s who never even made it 

to the school disco let alone the ball 

and wouldn’t kiss Prince Charming till their 40’s 

© Gayle Smith 2017

Soundtrack 

On day 14 of NaPoWriMo My poem looks at the importance of music in creating memories and shaping who we are. I have given it the title Soundtrack I hope you enjoy the read. 
Soundtrack 

A musical journey through my teens 

when dreams were left unshared 

by girls like me 

with no-one to confide in 

closets were the hiding place 

where I found the personal space

to keep me safe 

the 70’s were not the time 

and Glasgow was not the place 

for those born in one gender 

to say they wanted to be another 

I had many fights with my mother 

on this and other issues 

where she wanted me to keep my opinions

to myself 

but I knew staying silent would not be good 

for my mental health 

anyway , I digress 

this was a night 

when I thought of party dresses,

I never got the chance to wear 

it was a time for shared memories 

for women of a certain age 

as Jackie the musical took to the stage 

 the theatre came alive 

a chorus of voices sang about Dancing On A Saturday Night 

whilst dreaming of puppy love with Donny 

the story of our lives

 told through the eyes of the leading character in the play 

my only criticism was that there were no Bay City Rollers songs 

to get the audience singing along 

not even shang -a lang 

the song that got me wishing 

I was kissing Les  McKeown 

behind the bikesheds 

in my school lunch break 

as teenage lust replaced all previous crushes 

from now on I wanted boys to hold me close 

kiss me in the back row of the movies

and be  the kind of boyfriend 

my parents wouldn’t approve of 

to me this show was more than just a night at the theatre 

many of the songs contained within it

were signposts on a journey 

the soundtrack of my life 

the songs that helped to make me 

the girl I was and the woman I’ve become 

© Gayle Smith 2017 

Dare To Speak 

Hey Readers 

As some of you may know February  is LGBTIQ history month and I am a trans woman so I decided to attend a themed poetry event to celebrate the diversity of our community. I also wrote a  poem to commemorate both my attendance at the event and the struggles I’ve  faced on my personal journey I’ve given the poem the same title as the event and called it Dare To Speak I hope you enjoy the read. 

Dare To Speak. 

I will say what needs said

I am trans 

I am woman 

I am not superhuman 

despite what. my younger friends may think 

black and pink both have places in my closet 

which is for clothes not living in 

I am trans so where does my story begin ? 

my earliest recollections of being different 

are remembering a hot summer Saturday in 1969

I was eight 

my mum allowed me to be a girl 

it was great 

my dad had taken my big brother 

on a fishing trip 

so I got to wear lipstick and get my  nails painted 

I was dressed in a navy skirt 

and tan stockings with a suspender belt 

which my mum had too fasten 

presbyterian fashion was very conservative 

in a home the swinging sixties never found 

then Donny and the Rollers came around 

and sent my head and hormones  spinning 

I thought of highly original sins 

I would never dare to commit 

during my Jackie reading years 

secret tears were cried as I denied myself 

a hundred and twenty three times 

at least 

Jesus wept at the secrets I kept hidden 

throughout the 70’s and 80’s 

yes I was frustrated but better frustrated than dead 

occasionally I would say what needed to be said 

but not until the 90’s did I do more than whisper 

what I should have dared to say  in a much louder voice 

being trans is not a choice

it’s an inescapable truth 

It’s who I am 

it’s who I was born to be 

I respect myself but it’s been a long and difficult journey 

to reach a place of contentment

I have no time for resentment

or holding grudges against those who mock 

they can say what they like 

I don’t care what they think 

black and pink both have places in my closet

which is for clothes not for living in 

I am trans 

I am woman

I am not superhuman 

and despite ignorance, prejudice , fear ,

or transphobes labelling me queer

I will not be silenced

I will say what needs said 

my lipstick will be pink or the deepest shade of red 

I will be who I am 

I have opinions and I will say them out loud 

I am trans and proud 

I am a woman who won’t wait till she’s given permission

to air my views

I will do whatever I need to do 

I will dare to speak my truths 

@ Gayle Smith 2017 

Prescription For Happiness (A Poem In Memory Of George Michael ) 

Hey Readers 

It was with sadness that on Christmas Day I learned of the passing of George Michael who died peacefully at his home aged 53. In a year which has seen the music world robbed of the talents of David Bowie, Lemmy from Motorhead, Prince , Status Quo guitarist Rick Parfitt  and the genius that was  Leonard Cohen, George Michael’s death was for me at least the hardest of all to take in. 

You see talented as the others undoubtedly were I never fancied any of them. I did however have the hots for George Michael since his band Wham first appeared on Top Of The Tops in 1982 and I and millions of others loved the fact that he had that winning combination of good looks and genuine talent. 

George Michael, was an artist in the true sense of the word. Not only was he a brilliant live performer he was also a gifted songwriter and one of the few musicians from the world of popular music to win the coveted Ivor Novello award. His death has left me saddened, shocked, and acutely aware of my own mortality since he was two years younger than me. After taking time to collect my thoughts I have written my personal tribute to the man and his legacy and given it the title Prescription For Happiness I hope you enjoy the read.

Prescription For Happiness. 

I loved his songs I sang along 

as I danced to  young guns, bad boys, and club tropicana 

the feel good music a prescription for happiness 

in the days when Thatcher’s reign 

left a nation polarised and fragmented 

split between those who had and others who hadn’t 

on the covers of magazines

he  gladdened the hearts of the young 

of which I was one 

and in the days when my gender identity 

had to be kept secret 

he gave me dreams 

as a young trans woman 

from the scheme on the edge of nowhere 

he took me to the edge of heaven 

of course I fancied him 

like millions of others 

including Princess Diana 

at a time when ambition was privatised 

I can’t deny the gorgeous one gave me hope 

wake me up an anthem for a generation of girls 

who wanted him as part of our world 

and yes I did have lustful thoughts 

how could I not 

when I checked out that body on top of the pops

it sent my heart soaring 

there was no ignoring the reality 

he awakened feelings 

I never knew existed 

younger friends kissed his picture 

but for me it was slightly different

he had filled the void which lay empty 

since the Osmond’s and the Rollers 

were the secret poster boys 

in my Jackie reading years 

when he came out tabloids labelled him queer 

preferring to focus on his sexuality

rather than the music he made

the venues he sold out 

and the principles he made sure he  kept 

it was Erasure who sang a little respect 

but he deserved much more than that 

now as he begins his eternal sleep 

I sit in my flat and reflecting on an award winning musician

and a life cut shorter than mine 

though he had so much more to give than I 

the stars know the truth genius never dies

his music provided a backdrop for the lives of those 

who listened without prejudice 

 had the faith to let his words speak to our hearts 

whilst remembering careless whispers

would be used to wrap our chips 

@ Gayle Smith 2016 

The Day I Stopped Protesting And Admitted I Was One Of The Girls I Had To Tell The World My Truth And Fly My Flag With Pride

Hey Readers.

You can always trust the Huffington Post to make you think before breakfast. Yes even on a Sunday morning this still holds true and on this Sunday morning I couldn’t help but notice one particular story in my favourite online journal which just screamed read me.
So you will not be surprised to know that is exactly what I did .

The story concerned research carried out in to homophobia at three separate universities in Germany, the United States, and Essex which suggest that this fear and loathing of being gay or though they don’t mention it lesbian, or trans may be due to those concerned having same sex attraction themselves.

Now I can almost bet there will be a number of testosterone fuelled homophobic males who on
being told this information will no doubt be muttering aye that’ll be right under their breath, however on closer examination this information should come as no surprise to anyone and it certainty doesn’t come as a shock to me.

The picture below shows the rainbow flag flying at half mast from Glasgow City Chambers on the night when our city held a vigil to remember the victims of the Orlando massacre. Far be it for to suggest that this image could be a metaphor for some people to take a far closer look at themselves than perhaps they’ve been used to but believe me someone has to do as it and as a transsexual woman who comes under the LGBTIQ umbrella I feel I am in a stronger position than most to make the case.

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I state this point because as someone who is very much in the rainbow rather than over it, I can say both with pride and at pride that I am not only a friend of Dorothy I’m one of her besties. This however was not always the case, for more years than I care to remember I attempted to live a lie. I tried as hard to fit the traditional male stereotype and where I grew up part of that involved being homophobic in public when in the company of male friends and acquaintances.

The fact that in my private time I was  dressing as a girl and longing for the day when I could be the woman I secretly knew myself to be was according to the world around neither here nor there and fact my mother knew about my secret was written off as just one of those things. You see according to our very uptight society that was Scotland/Britain in the 1970’s, this kind of behaviour was always written off as just a passing phase even though I know nothing could be further from the truth.

Believe me I hated being homophobic in any way shape or form. I knew what I was saying was wrong not just about the individuals concerned but about myself you see I  knew I could never be a straight man or any other kind of man for that matter I knew with every ounce of my being that I wanted and needed to be a woman before I would ever be truly happy and at ease with myself.

In the Glasgow of the 1970’s  I was trans before most people had ever heard of it. To deny this may have been the safer choice at the time but it was also mind numbingly claustrophobic as I was having to deny myself the right to be who I was.  Well how many straight boys do you know who would be a member of the Osmond’s Fan Club and have pictures of Donny all over their bedroom wall and then move on to The Bay City Rollers,  collecting
copies of  Jackie every week and having secret outfits up to and including lingerie. Though I don’t think I had a dress far less lingerie as glamorous as those in the pictures below. I don’t think my mother would ever have let me be so daring no matter how much I may have wanted to be.

image

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So as you can see, my homophobic language was due to the institutionalised homophobia of the state and the internalised homophobia/transphobia which can only come from fighting a war against your natural instincts. You see I’ve always liked my men and now living as the woman I’ve always known I was I am in no mood to deny it. However growing up in a more socially and culturally conservative country, and that can apply to both Scotland and Britain did have an impact on how I viewed others and when you are encouraged to see difference as being negative through the press and media it should surprise no one that you perceive people in this way and develop the notion of other. Believe me when I say your teenage years are not called your formative years for no reason.

Fortunately, the world has come a long way since the days of my 1970’s youth and now members of the LGBTIQ community have the same rights as our straight sisters and brothers we can even get legally married should we find Prince or Princess Charming, and this generation of trans teens can leave school on the Friday afternoon in their birth gender and return on Monday morning in their acquired one. How I wish I had been given that chance when I was in my teens because believe me I would have grabbed it with both hands.

Alas however that was for a future generation rather than mine. The world of 1970’s Scotland was shall we say a lot more prejudiced and narrow minded than is the case now and far less rainbow friendly. Most people I knew growing up would refuse to acknowledge that they had ever known a gay man, far less a lesbian or trans person and would probably say that it was restricted to showbiz types. This is a world away from the self confident Scotland of 2016 with rainbow flags and pride marches in all our major towns and cities and yet there are still some people who would sooner hide their true selves than attempt to come to terms with their sexuality or gender identity.

Speaking as someone who has had to overcome her own barriers with regards to this issue I can understand all too clearly why certain individuals may wish to conceal their real feelings. One reason could be that they were brought up in a religious family and don’t think they would be able to come out to family and friends. Another issue often used by those who indulge in homophobic behaviour is that they don’t want to be a disappointment to their parents and the wider community and fear a loss of respect amongst their peers. There could also be other factors at play which are too many and varied to go in to and I can totally appreciate that I know how difficult it was for me but to me when the choice comes down to living a lie or a happy and rewarding life there is in end no other choice to make.

Speaking as someone who has come out as a trans woman I know the journey is not an easy one but believe me it is easily the best decision I have ever made. I say this because I know the improvement it has made to my quality of life and I wouldn’t change it for the world. You see I know how much I’ve grown in confidence since I finally made the change and decided to transition and live my life as the woman I had always known I was. It was the perfect way to celebrate my 47th Christmas in December 2008 and every day thereafter by giving myself the one present no amount of money could buy. That present was the right to be me.

Now the shrewd amongst you will have noticed that I’ve kinda given my age away in that last paragraph. Well I am 55 tomorrow and believe me this woman is having more fun in my mid fifties than I did in my teens and early twenties. Well it has often been said that a woman is like a good wine she matures with age and I hope I may be proof of that saying.

I make no secret I am enjoying my womanhood, I’ve waited a long time to live my life as my true self so you can be sure I’ll be making the most of every chance I get to be the best I can be. The reason I mention my age is to illustrate that many trans people and particularly trans women wait a long time before finally coming out and that is to a large extent due to the added pressures society puts on us to fit in their nice binary gender norm. Eventually however there comes a point when you realise you can’t fit a square peg into a round hole because try as you might it doesn’t work, it never has and it never will. It is when that realisation finally dawns you know you have to be yourself. You see despite all your protests that this can’t possibly be you deep down you realise that you can’t fight your nature and begin to learn the truth of the old Shakespeare quote which I will paraphrase by saying methinks thou doth protest too much and it finally dawns on you that only one you’re fooling is yourself. You see if there is one thing we are loathe to admit it’s the fact that our real friends know a lot more than we ever give them credit for.

It has to be said that any coming out or transitioning will have risks and you may lose some friends and family along the way. As for my own experience I have been reasonably fortunate and though I have lost contact with a small number of people who for reasons best known to them have been unable to cope with my transition I have actually gained more friends than I’ve lost since making the change. As for which friends will stay with you and who will walk away let’s just say that though I could have called it right about 90 percent of the time there were a few surprises on both sides which are best summed up by these words from one of my favourite songs and that of course is Caledonia. ‘ l lost some friends I needed losing, found others on the way ‘.

So to anyone who is trapped in the cycle of internalised oppression my advice would be simple get yourself down to your local rainbow friendly bar and enjoy yourselves. You never know you might just like it more than you think. Well I’m sure many of you will have heard of the well known rap star Eminem. This was a man whose lyrics to some of his raps were so homophobic that many people including myself called on him to be banned from Britain. That however is in the past and the man who was also known as the real slim shady is out and proud and identifies as a gay man. So if Eminem can come out and be honest with himself believe me anybody can.

So broadly speaking I agree with the findings of the research and I do that to some extent at least those who shout the loudest are more often than not the ones in the largest closets. Now it is true to say that there will be exceptions to the rule, but I have always believed that who protest too much have usually got something to hide.

So you’re still insisting you’re straight are you? if you are then maybe it’s time to go to the mirror and take a long hard look at yourself. I remember the night i did. I knew straight away I was a woman whose time had come. You see I realised that the day I stopped protesting and admitted I was one of the girls I had to tell the world my truth and fly my flag with pride.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

A Bowl Of Soup And A Diet Of Faith Means Stereotypes Are Leftovers From Puppy Love To A Handful Of Earth We All Sing Songs Of Choice

Hey everyone. If there is one I hate in life it’s stereotypes so when the opportunity comes to smash one I never ever hesitate to do so and such an opportunity occurred as I socialised with friends after church on Sunday.

For those of you who don’t know, the second Sunday is soup Sunday at Baillieston St Andrew’s. This is always a popular event as it gives the parishioners a chance to mix and mingle with friends and fellow Christians in the family of faith.

On Sunday I sat down to gorgeous bowl of carrot and lentil soup with some of those I know best and I don’t know how it happened but the conversation got round to music. Now anyone who has known me for more than five seconds knows that I am a huge Donny Osmond fan and have been since my primary schooldays. Apparently this is something I share with one of my best friends in the church, and even if she wasn’t in the fan club, I always knew that girl had good taste in music. Come to think of it, her taste in men is also pretty good. No doubt, her husband who is also a good friend of mine will be pleased with at least one of those assessments.

It has to be said however, some of the gathering were more than slightly surprised when I said I was looking forward to Celtic Connections and couldn’t wait to see my January family when the music calls me home to amongst the friends I see as kin. One woman expressed her surprise at this saying she wasn’t in to what she described as that ‘Scottish and Irish stuff’ for ten seconds I did feel slightly like a foreigner in my own land but then I remembered that the Church Of Scotland is perhaps not the most likely place to find pro Nationalist or pro celtic sentiments be they cultural, or political. However this woman is despite what I perceive as very slight differences one of the nicest people in the church, and in a church like St Andrew’s which is shall we say blessed with a fantastic congregation who seem to like the idea of having a lippy wee rebel amongst their number, this is no mean achievement.

As the musical chat continued she said she liked groups like the Foo Fighters and in particular Led Zeppelin I told her that they were a bit before my time, well I always associate them with the very early 70’s in the days before Donny and I wasn’t interested in any kind of music before Donny and even when he found fame in the summer of 1972 I had just turned 11. So I turns out that someone whom I had always thought of as a sensible woman was actually a secret rock chick. Who would have thought it?

If I’m honest I have to say my reply to this question is not me. However I suppose this just goes to demonstrate my own belief that you should never judge a book by it’s cover. Otherwise you may just miss out on a highly entertaining read.

You know the woman in question said during our discussion, that she had just celebrated another birthday and had reached an age where you are supposed to feel old but she didn’t feel old indeed still saw herself as a young thing. After our chat on Sunday I have to say that’s how I see her too. Well though she may be a wee bit older than me, that doesn’t make her ready to be antiques roadshow material just yet.

When she asked me my musical influences I think she was genuinely surprised that I listed Dick Gaughan alongside Donny Osmond and I said there was room in my music box for both the Bay City Rollers and the Battlefield Band and that Rachel Sermanni who I pointed out was young enough to be my daughter would be listed alongside the Ramones and way above the Rolling Stones.

As we finished our chat I think she had a greater understanding of the influence of the Scottish revival of the late 80’s and 90’s and the impact of the Irish traditional culture on my musical journey. Well as my granny always said just because you like what’s the in the charts doesn’t mean you don’t have room for your heritage and of course she was right. From Donny Osmond to Dick Gaughan, from puppy love to a handful of earth, there is no reason why we can’t sing different songs on different days and the fact that we refuse to conform to stereotypes means our friendship is all the stronger because we accepted our different traditions. After all just because we have contrasting musical cultures doesn’t mean that they have to collide.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle X

White Tights A Navy Skirt And A Figure Like Caroline Calderwood. (Taking A Look At The Shang-A-Lang Years Viewed Through The Mirrors Of Time)

Hey everyone It’s hard to believe that it was 39 years ago today that I started secondary school. On that day Thursday 8th August 1974 two events were taking place on different sides of the atlantic which would help define the 70’s when looking back through the mirrors of time. The first was that Richard Nixon would have resigned as American President by the time I got home from school, the second was more local and it was the great news that
five boys from Edinburgh would reach number 1 in the Radio Clyde chart. They were of course Woody Eric Alan Les and Derek who were collectively known as the Bay City Rollers.

They like me were at the beginning of a journey, the only difference being that whilst mine would lead would take me the horrors of maths and science and the joys of English and Geography. There journey
would take them to Top of the Pops, which would to lead to fame fortune and global success. Oh I almost forgot to mention that it would do wonders for the tartan industry and the sale of flared trousers.

However only one of these events and I give you a clue it wasn’t Nixon’s resignation would make any impact on my life. Well I wasn’t really concerning by the fact that a guy called Gerald Ford was now in charge of running America, no I was much more interested in who would rule the space on my bedroom wall and that there may new posters to put up alongside or maybe instead of those of the Osmonds.

I started the big school as my mother called it, with a heart full of hope, a head full of dreams, and a spirit which couldn’t be crushed. Looking back I have to say it was just as well I had that spirit because as I was to find out on my journey I was surely going to need it to navigate my way through the turbulent years of my teens which had began during that year’s summer holidays.

As with any teen those years were not easy though I will admit that as a trans teen a secret I had to keep hidden those high school years were a challenge. It didn’t me long to realise I was bonding far better with the girls in my year and above than I was with any boys. This in 1970’s Scotland was not considered ‘normal’ and according to some psychopathic gym teachers I would have the ‘pleasure’ of meeting during my formative years, I was a disgrace who I needed toughening up.

This of course was wrong what I really needed were white tights a navy skirt and a figure like Caroline Calderwood. Caroline was easily the prettiest girl in my year and though she didn’t know it she was also my style icon, role model, and heroine. Well when your body says your male and your heart screams female you really need someone to look up to.

I would also have liked a wee bit of time to get to know the ever changing me and encouragement to accept and embrace every change as and when they occurred. But as I think I’ve already hinted there was a problem with this idea. You see though I may have been ready to face the world it was clear that the world wasn’t ready to face me or see me in the way I wanted it to. However I was nothing if not determined and began my school with hopes far beyond the imagination of most working class children that one day I would change the world and I wouldn’t let the world change me.

Looking back I think it was obvious to many of the girls that I shared many of the same dreams as them. However, though this was joked about as I gradually gained girl friends it was always done in code and if they sensed I was in any danger of being taunted or outed they would quickly mention football if saw a boy passing in case they overheard something which wasn’t meant for their ears. Well I didn’t hide the fact I was a fan of The Bay City Rollers, The Osmonds , or David Essex. Though perhaps in hindsight it may have been better in the short term had I done so.

However having moved up a class after the Christmas some of my new classmates such as Ellen Bradshaw Josie Thomas and a few third year girls gave me both the friendship and the bravery pills to get out there and be as true to myself as I could be considering the social and cultural constraints of the times.

The fact there were no good looking guys in my first year class helped me settle in quicker than might otherwise have been the case. Trust me my musical heroes had no competition in my year though there was a really cute guy in the year above he had strawberry blonde hair and looked great in football shorts. His name was Jamie and he was my first crush. This would last for at least a year though there were three 4th year guys who were pretty hot there names were Brian, John and Peter with John gaining extra points for having the nicest smile and talking to me every time he passed me. Honestly that boy had no idea what he did to my knees.

Anyway I soon settled in and figured out the habits of disguising one’s true feelings were learned early in a country where macho style presbyterianism still hung over our society like the darkest and most menacing of clouds.

It is I think true to say that things have definitely changed since those dim and distant days in which many people who didn’t quite get the irony of the scriptwriters held up characters such as Rising Damp’s odious landlord Rigsby or Till Death Us Do Part’s racist rent-a-gub Alf Garnett as true ‘British’ heroes. Honestly if you were a wee bit on the gullible side like some of my mother’s in-laws 1970’s comedy’s could be perceived as a Daily Mail reader’s wet dream. So with attitudes like that permeating all levels of our society it is perhaps no great surprise when I say I had to hide my identity as well as my back catalogues of Jackie and other teen magazines.

Also dear readers I must inform you that it was during the period I think of as the Shang-A-Lang years that we discovered Jim Davidson though why remains a mystery, and though it will be hard to believe Bernard Manning was still considered good family entertainment. As you can see from these examples this meant stepping outside the social and cultural norms was deeply frowned upon so one tended not to do it if was in any way avoidable.

As I gradually got used to my new surroundings I realised that though a million miles away from the comfort of primary school, this new world opened up a whole new range of opportunities for me. Not only was I able to lust after boys in the years above me I was also free to learn about exciting new topics such as Modern Studies, and French which I enjoyed even if I wasn’t very good at languages. I do have to admit though I did find all the technical and scientific stuff just a wee bit on the dull side. As for maths well that did come in handy when I needed a sleep. Well even I couldn’t be good at everything.

This was one of the most valuable lessons I learned during my formative years and it was probably more influential than any individual teacher in terms of what shaped me into the women I have become.

Love And Best Wishes
Gayle XXX