Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Pride Of Scotland....

When I first arrived in Scotland, I felt a complete exile. Adrift in a strange country.
An exile from England, from the country of my birth, which I left because I hated it; and an exile from the human race. I knew I wasn’t a man; and was told I wasn’t a woman either. So who was I? I had no idea.
I was 17 years old and completely alone. My mum had died, I was estranged from my brothers and my dad, and I found myself in this foreign country.
I felt like an exile: an exile from my home, from my country; and even from the whole human race.
It’s hard to communicate what it felt like to be a trans woman in those days.
That was 1968; and I knew of no-one else who was trans. I didn’t even know the word, because words like ‘transgendered’ and ‘transsexual’ were not in common usage. I felt myself to be disgusting and sick, but that was all.
I was so ashamed to be the person I was. I had told no-one. I carried my truth  around me like a monstrous burden: I literally felt that if anyone knew I would die of shame.
So I actually find it incredibly hard to put into words just what it feels like to find myself listed in Scotland On Sunday as a prominent LGBT Scot under the headline:
The editorial accompanying the piece spoke of the profound changes that have taken place in Scotland. It reminded us that “same sex sexual activity was illegal in Scotland right up to 1980”. It stated that “Scotland has come a long way in a relatively short time”. 
“We wanted to celebrate that cultural shift”, the editorial goes on, “by highlighting the role LGBT Scots play in the public life of the nation, as symbols of a liberal, progressive, generous-spirited Scotland at its best”.
I’m quoting all this to try to help myself understand. To help myself appreciate the enormity of this journey: from isolated self-hatred to collective pride.
Sometimes, and very understandably, we trans women want to conceal our past male selves. But I feel so proud of the man I was forced to be. Proud of John. Proud we weren’t defeated by extreme repression and emotional abuse. Proud that in spite of that I found my voice as a playwright, and wrote some ground-breaking plays .
And still am...
Proud I sustained a relationship with the amazing Sue Innes. She was the first Woman’s Editor of Scotland of Sunday; an extraordinarily accomplished feminist columnist; one of the founders of Engender; and one of the founding editors of the Biographical Dictionary of Scottish Women.
Through many conflicts, much poverty and many difficulties, we stayed happy together for 33 years and brought two daughters into the world. They are now amazing, accomplished and beautiful young women... 
...And here I am, crying at my desk at the wonder of it all.
And I want to tell that shy and scared John Clifford who arrived in Dingleton Hospital, Melrose, as a volounteer in the early days of 1968:
You have done all that. You have achieved more than you ever imagined you could.
And now you are living openly as the trans woman you somehow, through it all, always knew yourself to be.
The world has changed, and helped you change too. But you also have helped change the world.
I’m sitting down these days to write a new piece for the National Theatre of Scotland.
“Dear Scotland...” is how it will begin.
 Somehow I think the message will be the same. 
Dear Scotland. Be true to yourself. Somehow find the faith and the courage.
Change yourself. Change your relations with England. 
Change the world...

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