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

Archive for February, 2017

day eight

 

At the end of class he waited for the empty room and came close. Without looking at me he said “I need to talk to you.”

“That’s fine”, I said, “Anything special?”

“Wait” he pleaded “I’ll see you later.”

I liked the end of the working day; the quietness of the place; the space to catch up and prepare; the time to breathe and unravel the pressure of those frenetic hours. I had enough to do to see me into another hour before going home.

Almost giving up on the appointment, the quiet knock on the door brought me back and, similarly quietly I said, “Come in”.

He approached, sat down, and kept silent.

“What’s up?” I said “Anything happened?”

A sound, ‘miles away’ broke the awkward silence. He leapt up, went for the door, opened it, and looked both ways. Assured that there was no one there, he same back and took his seat.

His serious voice took on an air of forcefulness. “Do you promise me that you won’t tell anyone about this conversation?” he demanded.

“Yes, ok.” I replied, fearing that I was being cornered into hearing and being secret about something quite terrible.

“I’ve been thinking so much, and I feel almost like exploding. That’s why I need to tell someone.”

“Sounds serious” I said, smiling and attempting to lighten his load in some way.

“It is serious. I think I’m homosexual!’ His words now spoken louder and with a sense of despair.

He looked at me, his eyes seeming to suggest the imminent end of his world.

“How do you know?” I asked.

“I know. I just know it. I look at boys the way that they look at girls and I try and fight the feelings away but they won’t go. I just don’t know what to do.”

The tears flowed.

My god! How I knew what he was going through. How I knew the fear, the self hatred, the guilt, the hope that I was in a never ending dream – all of that.

He composed himself and continued “I don’t want to be homosexual. I just want to be normal like everyone else. I want to be married and have children. I want my parents to be proud of me. I just want to get rid of these feelings’

“Is it really so bad?” I tried to suggest comfortingly, while desperately trying to send out signals that I wasn’t shocked, that he was accepted, and that there was hope.

We stayed silent for a while but then the seriousness of my situation dawned on me. I wanted so much to tell him that it really was ok; that I was homosexual too; that you could be happy, fulfilled and know love; that I was in a stable relationship; and so on and so on. I wanted to pour it all out to assure him.

Instead there was a feeling of horror and it lay in the words:-

‘You must not promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’.

That’s what the law said and, perhaps even by allowing this conversation to go further I could already be breaking it. There hadn’t been any court cases as yet and I didn’t want to be part of the first.

Out of the silence I asked him if he had spoken to his parents about his feelings and what he really wanted to happen. He mentioned about going to see a psychiatrist.

I wanted to come out with all those things we could say to young people as they experience the sometimes frightening realisation of their sexual orientation. My heart went out to him and I wished I lived in a world where his acknowledgement would be a cause for celebration rather than disaster.

Eventually composed and unburdened, he left.

I did not feel good. I felt I had let him down with meaningless platitudes and ‘comforting’ words. I had let myself and my community down by my unfaithfulness. Where was my courage to proclaim that it was possible to be glad to be gay?

I don’t have a happy ending to this story except to say that a few years later, and miles away from home, I bumped into him. Having got over the surprise of our meeting I asked him how he was and he replied that he was fine, and he smiled at me, and somehow for me that smile conveyed something positive. We had no time to explore further, he went on his way and so did I. I so hope he found happiness.

 

Roger Newman, Margate

 

 

day seven

 

Tuesday: Where shall I go?

Anywhere I like. The luxury of an early holiday, a solitary cottage, good boots. Up the hill then, to see the view; winding round the pond and steeply uphill through the peat stacks to the Thinking Rock – a seat in the gasping wind, overlooking lakes and fat rolling hills. Overlooking hundreds of tiny islands, peacefully co-existing in the loving embrace of the bay. A family of them, confident and self-sufficient, calling gentle hellos to their neighbours across the shining water. And beyond that, the mighty mountain.

(Don’t look at the mountain, hideously scarred by the passage of religious men, their desperate pilgrim feet gouging out soil and sweeping away grass in the rush for salvation.)

Think about your own pilgrimage: this, the search for the next decision and whether it is right. The search for the next idea, the next film… letting the wind sweep the clutter from your head. The bad memories, with their nagging and demanding to be heard. The sad ones…can stay. Bring them out and greet them – lost friends and family. Days and dreams gone by. Regrets? No. No regrets.

(stand on the thinking rock and sing Piaf. Sing for joy, sing for courage… sing to mark your place in the wide landscape … your branch, your tree.)

Tears of wind, happy tears, overwhelming and faintly ridiculous. Let them wash your eyes and see more clearly, see more beauty – see…

… the path. From the lane to a bog road, then a flagstone path, to a thin sand-coloured stony line and then a dent in the grass, a darker green that can only be seen form certain angles. And finally, to a metaphor. That runs along the foothills, over crags and down to the bridge.

And at the journey’s end: rain. A community centre, a crafting circle making beauty out of someone else’s rubbish…and a woman who spoke to me earnestly of the need to save the Old Irish Goat. It seemed prophetic.

 

untitled

 

Fin McMorran, Teesside

 

day six

 

“You’re like me. Aren’t you? “

I was mortified.

(wha?!! Am I fuck!!)

(I’m nothing like you!)

“Come, sit here.”

(Help me)

Bla bla bla “Do you like Elvis?’

(why are you doing this to me)

(I don’t even know you)

(you scare me)

(your hair is horrible)

(I’m NOTHING like you).

 

On holiday. Portugal.

A Kiss.

From a girl.

(i’m nothing like you)

Kiss Breasts.

 

Years later.

Car Crash.

(I could’ve died. Died and never been with a girl)

 

Lesbos.

So fucking corny. Totally by accident.

I’m one of them.

(Really?)

What do I do?

You’re a natural.

 

 

Butch Barbie, Liverpool

day five

The Fat Queer’s Statement 2012: a path to wellbeing

 

Don’t assume  my partner is fat
Don’t assume  I eat too much
Don’t assume  I want a diet coke
Don’t assume  I am unfit
Don’t assume  I always want to eat sweets
Don’t assume  I want to lose weight
Don’t assume  you won’t fit next to me on the bus
Don’t assume  I want to be told to lose weight every time I see a health   professional
Don’t assume  I don’t know what’s best for me
Don’t assume  I don’t have feelings
Don’t assume  I don’t know what I look like
Don’t assume  every fat person is the same
Don’t assume  I eat junk food all the time
Don’t assume  that my BMI matters to me
Don’t assume  that my every medical problem is related to my weight
Don’t assume  I’m pregnant
Don’t assume  I want to eat less and exercise more
Don’t assume  I’m lazy
Don’t assume  I want to hear about another diet
Don’t assume  that I’m carrying unresolved emotional stuff
Don’t assume  that you’re right and I’m wrong
Don’t assume  that you’re better than me because you’re thinner than me
Don’t assume  I’m unhealthy
Don’t assume  I can’t look gorgeous
Don’t assume I don’t date thinner people
Don’t assume  that I have the same choices as you
Don’t assume  I always want to shop online
Don’t assume  I always want seconds
Don’t assume  I want to look like you
Don’t assume  I don’t want to fuck your brains out
Don’t assume  thinner people don’t find me hot
Don’t assume  I haven’t been airbrushed
Don’t assume  my weight is not a side-effect of medication
Don’t assume  we are not the majority
Don’t assume  I’m a failed heterosexual
Don’t assume  I did this to myself
Don’t assume  that I ascribe to a western idea of beauty
Don’t assume  that I am undisciplined
Don’t assume  that I am over-indulgent
Don’t assume  weight issues are all about size
Don’t assume  I’m depressed
Don’t assume  I want a gastric band
Don’t assume  I want frills, diamante or baggy clothes
Don’t assume  I don’t jog every morning
Don’t assume  I don’t find fat people attractive
Don’t assume  I have stretch marks
Don’t assume  my weight loss was intentional
Don’t assume  I want to pay for 2 seats on a plane
Don’t assume  I don’t want to wear a fitted T-Shirt
Don’t assume  I’m a bad parent
Don’t assume  I have an eating disorder
Don’t assume  I don’t have an eating disorder
Don’t assume  I want to join weight watchers
Don’t assume  I don’t think I’m beautiful
Don’t assume  I love McDonalds
Don’t assume  I don’t eat healthily
Don’t assume  you don’t want sex with me
Don’t assume  I’m always hungry
Don’t assume  I don’t like my body
Don’t assume  I’m always happy
Don’t assume  I’m lonely
Don’t assume  I want surgery
Don’t assume  I want to talk about slimming
Don’t assume  I don’t like cock
Don’t assume  that, given the choice, I’d be thin
Don’t assume  I’m out of control
Don’t assume  I want to wear navy, black and brown.
Don’t assume  my fat isn’t genetic
Don’t assume  I’m obsessed with food and eating
Don’t assume  my fat has psychological roots
Don’t assume

 

Sheree Bell et al

day four

Un-finding Narnia

Lel Meleyal

 

 We huddled together shivering and terrified in the bushes after being attacked by the great, white beast. We could still hear its screams and knew it was moving away. As the screeching racket became more distant our thumping hearts started to slow.

‘We’ve found Narnia!” I whispered to my cousin Bill.

Unlike me, Bill was not a reader and he did not understand. He thought I had said banana.

Bill was my closest friend, and we had spent every day together since he was born, five days after me, eight years before. Like most working class kids in the 60’s, we did not have umbrella parents, supervising our every move or entertaining us. We played outside and rarely went home so long as there was daylight, and we weren’t hungry.   I am not sure which of us was the leader but we made each other feel safe, and this explained many of the adventures we had. Unfortunately, the grown-ups sometimes got to know about our adventures and we were keen to avoid the kind of trouble we had occasionally experienced – such as the time we got a bus to a distant park and a search party came out to find us, or the time we climbed on glass roof of the kitchen lean-to and it cracked, or the time we ate a lot of dog biscuits to see what would happen. We both knew that we were not allowed on the railway tracks. That was a smacking offence, for sure.

We had followed the track for miles, or so it felt, leaping onto another track when a train passed by. We were thrilled by the noise, the smoke and whoosh of air and especially loved it when one of the drivers sounded their horn. I never felt in any danger. Just before we turned around to go home for tea we crossed the tracks to explore an iron fenced, wooded area. We slipped our skinny, soot smeared bodies through the rungs and crawled into the bushes. Through the lush green, waxy leaves we could see a magnificent gothic castle, topped by a pointed princess tower, tall chimneys and turrets. It was ivy-clad over yellow stone and red brick. The castle was surrounded by the lushest, greenest grass I had ever seen with exotic gardens dotted around – and a lake! It was completely breath-taking. We were both open mouthed in shock. That is when the great white beast attacked. Screaming into our faces with its red eyes locked onto us.

“I don’t care if you found banana you can’t tell your Mam – she will kill us”. I knew Bill was right when he took charge and said I could not go back for another look. It was too dangerous with the beast hanging around and so, reluctantly I followed him through the iron fence, back across the tracks and home. I felt disappointed. I had expected Narnia to be somewhere more magical than on the tracks leading to Hull railway station.

Our friends didn’t believe us of course but I knew what I had seen. I did once go back, alone and try to find it again, but the iron fence was no-where to be seen…….

Thirty years later, driving along a winding country lane in South Yorkshire I came face to face with the great white beast. I slammed on the brakes. It stood, in the middle of the road, shuddering and preening. A great arc of dazzling, shimmering quills. It stared at me with its angry red eyes and pointy beak before it slowly dropped its feathers and languidly walked through a hole in a roadside hedge. It was the most incredibly beautiful sight and I ached for it to come back. I heard the screaming ‘aaagh, aaagh, aaagh’ call – a sound which had never left my memory. A white peacock. A stunning, majestic, white feathered peacock.

I would like to say that I had a flash of understanding but that would be far from the truth. In the moment of seeing the peacock on that road, I had worked out that ‘the beast’ seen all those years before had been, in fact, a startled, rare albino bird, but what the hell was it doing next to a busy rail line in Hull? I felt a desperate urge to get back home to try to work it out.

Heart pounding, I pulled out the map and ran my fingers along the rail track from where it abutted our street. About a mile along, a large patch of green, with lake, was there, closeted by Victorian slums, railway track and industry. After almost forty years I had found my Narnia.

The building we had stumbled upon was Hymers College. A prestigious private school, established in 1893.

I am not sure that some mysteries are better solved.

Hymers College.

hymers-college

 

day three

 

JOURNEY

I’ve travelled the world

and stayed happily at home.

I’ve birthed well-loved children

and watched while they’ve grown.

 

I’ve ridden and run

and walked in the sand.

I’ve ranted and raged,

but held many a hand.

 

I’ve progressed in my life,

though I’ve needed a shove.

And I’ve moved right along

From self-harm to self-love.

 

But the best thing I’ve learned,

from this journey I chart.

If you’ve got good friends;

Keep them close to your heart.

 

 

 

Anon

 

day two

 

You cast your feathers to the wind,

She took you to the sea,

Winter winds and sand drifting out on river reach and flood land.

My own path of stone shores and chalk,

to choke with chained words and new visions.

 

 

JJ

day one

 

In Tibet,

I saw so much.

I saw genuine welcome in mugs of Yak butter tea,

Served with delight by very round ladies

in national dress.

 

I saw dizzying mountain passes,

With lakes as blue as a child’s painting

and I balanced breathlessly,

On the very roof of the World.

 

I saw families working vast fields of hay,

Using old scythes and new Chinese tractors.

Children with high rosy cheeks and shy smiles,

came to take offerings of coloured pencils.

And I saw tired mothers carrying toddlers

Overdressed to the point of immobility.

 

I saw a thousand prayers fluttering off to heaven

From mountains the Chinese would dedicate to Mammon.

I saw palaces tainted and enriched by the small change of the devoted.

I saw a people on the precipice of change.

And I saw the beginnings of us.

 

 

Meg Merrilees

LLanbrynmair