celebrating and creating our own LGBTQ+ history in honour of Sheila McWattie

Archive for February, 2014

day fourteen

A black and white snapshot

My sister popped round the other day with some photos to give me. Now, I like to put my photos in strict chronological order, in albums – not for me the shoe box with a mess inside. Once she’d gone, I set to finding these photos their rightful place.

It’s quite striking how my sister’s memories of one event, one person are so very different from mine. Take this picture, for example: my sister would only see me, with my gang, a group of 11 year olds, in the playground of St Therese, in our last year of primary school. We are wearing the pink overall we were made to wear to protect our clothes and are standing around the only tree in the courtyard.

I see 11 year old passion, worshipping at the foot of its first love. I see me aching for a word, a touch, a look. I see me oblivious…It is May ’68 , even the student revolution could not tempt me away from the object of my desire.

All I could do was wait for the lunch bell to ring, knowing I would have treasured time with the loved one. She is taller than me, blonde and has a way of sliding her hands in her pockets that oozes confidence, poise and seduction. She does not button up her overall, she leaves it open, an act of daring and defiance I admire.

My sister would see a grumpy, plump, tallish 12 year old who spells trouble. She’s always been a pretty good judge of character.

 

Yolaine Jacquelin, 56, East  Farleigh, Kent

day thirteen

Self Portrait Two

 

My queerness is part of my identity

The joy of my chosen families

 

My queerness is one of nature’s glories

The flowering of my legacies

 

My queerness is the African in me

The taboo of my oppressors

 

My queerness is being out of the closet

The guilt of my queer bashers

 

My queerness is the celebration of all beings

The fact of life

 

Queer is in every culture and race

The rejoicing of difference

 

Queer the sexuality of many people’s

Is nature’s own deliberation

 

My queerness is your fear

My courage

 

Your exclusion

My embrace

 

Your shame

My pride

 

Your fantasy

My reality

 

Your deception

My revelation

 

Now say my Name.

 

 

 

Vimalasara Mason-John, 51 complete, 52 running, Vancouver

 

Dr Valerie Mason-John Aka Queenie is an award winning author of five books and the editor of two anthologies. She co-wrote the first book on African and Asian Lesbians in Britain,  Making Black Waves while also editing an anthology of writing by African and Asian Lesbian, Talking Black African and Asian Lesbians Speak Out. She is ordained into the Triratna Buddhist Community and renamed Vimalasara. She is currently co writing a book Eight Step Recovery Using The Buddhas Teachings To Overcome Addiction.

Www.bullyvictimbystander.com https://www.facebook.com/eightsteprecovery

 

day twelve

Boy – Part One

Hell fire, I could’ve been a boy!

If times were then, what they are now.

I would be proud and whiskered

and wearing a fancy waistcoat.

Good and firm and smooth

against my ribs.

But I was content to be the butch dyke.

The one with the muscles

and the hammer and the saw.

The go to, to fix your car.

But hell fire,

if only times were then what they are now,

What joy,

I could’ve been a boy.

 

 

Boy – Part Two

When my dad was a little girl

My Father, having three daughters at the time and no sons, used to start all the stories relating to his childhood with the words, ‘When I was a little girl’. This was met by giggles and denial that such a thing could be true but in my heart of hearts I believed him. After all, I knew deep down that I wasn’t really a little girl either and if my Dad could grow up to be a man, then so could I.

I have a vivid memory of walking to Sunday school, aged about six or seven, in the most awful, lacy and itchiest dress ever to be created in hell and thinking, ‘When I’m a boy I’ll never have to wear a dress like this’.

You may think my Father was thoughtless but the truth is, in retrospect, I can see that his words gave me a reason for why I wasn’t like the other little girls.  Being mostly a happy little soul I got on with my life without too much angst and my family just let me be who I was. I pretended I was William Tell and made myself a bow while my sisters clomped around in my Mother’s old shoes.

As I got older still, I forgot about growing up to be a boy. I was still doing ‘boy’ stuff, helping my Dad to build his house, bricklaying, carpentry, electrics and I was content.

Then came the horrendous years, the teenage years when the whole world suddenly remembered I was a girl. Now I was odd, weird, bad, wrong and unnatural; all I had been spared so far suddenly rained down and I learned shame. I learned to pretend, wear make-up and by far the worst thing, have boyfriends.

At seventeen, I kissed a girl and learned the words ‘Lesbian’ and ‘Butch’. It proved to be the next best thing to being a boy but I still ask myself the question: ‘If I’d had the chance would I have preferred to grow up to be a man’?

 

Meg Williams, 59, Mid Wales

day eleven

I tiled the hearth,

I stripped the floors,

I hung nicer doors,

I put the quirky fork handle on the kitchen drawer, so it would remind me of the two Ronnies’ sketch.

This house remembers me and has thrown its arms around me like an old friend.

I feel very lucky indeed.

I think I may have a party!

Nicky Mitchell, 45, Brighton

day ten

Bootings

 

I wave, but Alice doesn’t wave back. We have known one another for years, have lived together, shared meals, sat in morning meditation for a what feels like a decade, so her not waving back now, means we must both walk past one another in an ear breaking; mind messing; blood rushing silence of knowing we aren’t going to be friends again today.

Unable to bear to watch her look through me, like I am empty of meaning, less than an obstacle, I lower my eyes to the ground. My eyes watch her boots come level with mine. My eyes observe how both sets of boots are far more similar than they are different; both sets encrusted with mud, both fiercely functional, waterproof, nut kicker style boots. Boots that say ‘we don’t care what people think about our footwear, what people, think women like us are like’, our boots, come side by side now like family members, sharing paths as well as treads, treads as well as traits, traits which are busy with metaphoring how strong we show ourselves to the outside world.

How deliberately innocent we are of that world’s expectations. How coherently we choose to ignore those ridiculous, dangerous expectations; how ignoring them is our sign to each other how capable we are to choose for ourselves good footwear, safe, strong, easy to run in shoes that will take us as far as we need to go. Far and away from the people who demean and demand from us, to any desires of us to be nice girls. These not nice girl shoes stride us through fields, clamber with us over ditches and beyond sexism, beyond patriarchy to here.  Here and these valleys of our remote location, our separate space, out of their way, out of harms way in a place to repair our wounds, our tiny piece of land where we can rest, rest and find our feet again.

Our feet that have walked us so far away from the traps and prisons kept ready for us, feet armored in shoes, in strong, solid, reliable walking kit that we proudly bought and paid for by ourselves. So proud that somehow we have out-prouded one another, used our boots to keep on walking, keep walking even now away from one another.

Alice has turned to see my boots, my body and my soul as different again from hers, different to how I once was to her. I have fallen short of her expectations in some irreconcilable way, fallen foul of her invisible trip wire, the trip wire that she uses to keep the boring and bad people away, she has found me guilty of being the ‘other’ that she needs to separate herself from, that category of person no longer entitled to her friendly wave or company.

Alice’s boots disappear out of my line of sight, boots once used to walk towards one another as home, now stomp away, leaving me to hold tightly silent to my thumping heart. Trying hard to stop the gut wrenching of distress that these petty close encounters bring. To stay brave even in the face of these daily ignorings. I try not to feel it, try to pull myself together by some handy bootstraps to remain a militant believer in Alice’s freedom to walk on by, even in the face of how hard it is for me to bear the loss. The heart breaking loss of smiles and waves and looks, from the lips and hands and eyes of a long loved, now greatly missed, even when she is only a few feet away, good friend.

(2011)

 

Maj Ikle, 49, women and girls rural welsh community

(where she’s lived for the last 14 years and proud to be solar powered!)

day nine

Drop

 

 

Drop

Lose.

Never take away a poet’s

pencil.

Ache,

return.

You’ve made me write me all

over again.

Sofa

Talk

Control and love?

I’m not letting you back in

again.

It took me long enough

To tear my very being

away from you.

Break

Hearts

Mine was away from

yours.

Muscle, sinew, toes and

skin

Chest, arms, the shape of

you

You were my anatomy and

I was yours.

You still have a piece of

me

A slice of my ache, my

days, my corduroy flares

and big boots.

Jackets

Lawn fucking

Hand holding

Smile

Cross

Loud

Sad

You never liked me

smoking.

You never liked that I

couldn’t talk

But when I did it hurt,

romantic and wet eyes.

Fucking head case

Stupid boy

Fucking hard

AND hard fucking.

Want the power

Need the power

Have a swerve.

Forget

Walk on

Fringed my boy face.

Decide

Detail

A softer side now

The emotion poured out.

Fixed?

 

 

 

Adam Lott, 34, Kent

 

 

 

 

day eight

Image

 That February feeling

Days lengthen.

Exhaling,

I notice

fat drops from

my window:

reminders

of how full

love can feel,

and how quickly

the budding tree

will shed them

in favour of

fresh showers.

Sheila Mcwattie, 57, Hove

day seven

Family secrets       

 

“Have you got a boyfriend?” asked my dad

“no” I replied.

“Why not, a young thing like you?” (I’m 26 at the time)

“I don’t need or want a boyfriend, thanks very much”

“Oh come on, someone to keep you warm at night….”

Don’t go there, bastard. “No, I don’t. I’m gay” I tell him.

“Oh, gay is it? Well it takes all sorts…”

 

“I’ve got something to tell you mum, I’m gay!”

Well don’t tell your father, it’ll kill him”

“No, it didn’t. I’ve told him already”

“What did he say?”

“That it takes all sorts”

“He would say something like that. Typical! Don’t tell the neighbours”

 

(To my older brother) “Well, I’ve told mum and dad so I’d better tell you, I’m gay.”

“What, you’re a lesbian? Really? How long have been gay, when did you know?”

“All my life really, I just got sidetracked by conformist pressure.”

“And mum and dad know? That’s brilliant. Did they go spare?”

“Not particularly”

“ me too, I’m gay too, have been for years. Don’t tell mum and dad.”

We hug.

 

Christine Snell, 58, Glaswegian living in France

 

 

day six

‘Being Gay’

 

 

Being gay isn’t everything, it isn’t all of me, 

It isn’t who I sleep with (though my choices should be free),

It isn’t my haircut which incidentally I wear long,

‘I kissed a girl’ by Katy Perry is not my favourite song!

 

 

It isn’t something I can choose, or caught like a disease,

It can’t be changed by parents (who are still praying on their knees),

It isn’t hating all the men or burning up my bra,

It isn’t a deep and painful wound or an ugly scar.

 

 

It’s not an invitation to ask me what I do in bed,

Nor is it a fantasy inside some pervert’s head,

It’s not ok for men to ask if they can just ‘join in’,

It’s not ok to point and stare and tease and laugh and grin.

 

 

Being gay isn’t just who I love, it is just who I am,

It is an important part of me, it’s part of my life plan,

It makes me more determined to fight for equal rights for all,

It makes me more inclined to pick up others when they fall.

 

 

It is about the rainbow that is painted on my heart

Which inspires me to be my best and to play my part

In making this world a better place for everyone to be,

A place where being gay is about taking pride in me.

 

 

Beth James, 32, Maidstone

day five

The accidental girlfriend

 

It took being hit by a car, love,

to show me you couldn’t care.

Reading a book in a Jacuzzi, babes,

was more important than you being here.

It was dramatic proof I grant you, sweet

– and one I’m in no hurry to repeat –

but while I lay there bruised and alone for hours,

it was more important for you to sew your trousers.

So I get it, honey, you need your space,

your time to chill and rest.

But it showed me that while I loved you, baby,

you always loved you best.

 

January 2014

 

Sheree Bell, 55, Ramsgate