Iconic Award

Everyone has something to say about my life, often painful and hurtful things; but I guess that’s public life. However very recently something lovely happened to me. I was given an award for being a “straight ally” to the LGBTI community. The First Minister and Glasgow Provost were in my category but I won, a wee single mammy from Wishaw. I really do love this award but in some ways it’s odd, because really I’ve only been awarded for doing the right thing. My mum and dad have always taught us that if we are able, you do what you can for those around you who need a little extra love. I wasn’t able to make an acceptance speech as I was poorly but I still think it would be nice to say some thanks.

To my three Ks, three “sisters” Caz, Claire and Alison, and Conor who are never done texting me, for keeping my eyes on reality and for reminding me of who I really am. Thank you. To Amo who is my can’t live with, can’t without pal; I know you always have my back no matter what separates us. Thank you. To Jordan Daly and Liam Stevenson who always inspire me to do more for LGBTI young people, you are the epitome of change. Thank you. James Dornan MSP, my boss, my rock and my friend. Thank you. My pals across politics and beyond for always saying nice things on the twitter and fighting with trolls on my behalf. Thank you. Rhiannon V Who is the spark that makes me want to fight harder. Thank you. To my mum and dad who are sellotape that keeps my heart together when so many of my dreams and hopes shatter. Thank you. Pete and the three Gordon’s who love me and the girls and never fail to make us laugh. Thank you. To the LGBTI community who have allowed me to stand and fight in your name. Thank you.

Finally I’d like to thank my beautiful girls Skye and Charlie. They are courageous, kind and frankly the most beautiful souls to have walked this planet. Both with unique challenges and both not without struggles; and yet both so willing to allow me to use their struggles to reach others. Thank you. I’m not gay, I was born in the right body and I have a lovely life; but it is the duty of all of us to stand up for those who are unable to do it themselves. I beg of the straight community ask questions. Challenge homophobia and transphobia. Ask for your children to be educated in LGBTI issues. Be the change this world so desperately needs. If you are a man or woman, boy or girl, who is currently living in a secret, if you are scared to be yourself and you don’t know what the future holds because of your gender or sexuality then this award is for you. It’s to remind you that you are not alone and we are fighting to make this world less frightening. This award is for those who cannot be themselves 🌈

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Men, Muslims and the Middle East…

Recently I travelled to the United Arab Emirates to see my best friend. Travelling to Dubai is a choice to see the girl I love, her husband and her beautiful, delicious baby. There is a lot to be said for the city of Dubai, it’s very presence is an assault on the senses, “bright lights, big city” doesn’t even start to cover it. From the thousands of restaurants serving cuisine from all over the world, to the noisy fountains, and dramatic buildings. I love a lot of it, I’m not afraid to say I’m dazzled by the beauty, and awe inspired by the maginututed at which everything grows and changes. I’m the type of person who loves shiny new things. Magpieitis.

However, every time I travel there I’m deeply concerned about the stories concerning human rights, workers rights and basically the threatment of anyone who isn’t a rich westerner or from a Gulf State. Being involved in politics you just have to check in at DBX airport and you’re being battered by the left for not having your moral compass set accurately. I just can’t imagine this is unique to the holiday town of Dubai, most tourist attractions are a magnet for those from poorer cultures who seek to gain employment in an ever hurtful economy. So is it right to travel there and enjoy the pleasures of the Middle East as long as we look after those, who look after us? I think so. The laws in the UAE are changing all the time, international travellers put pressure on the union governments to really think about their migrant workers. This happens not just in Dubai but all over the world; Mexico, resorts in Spain, Egypt…. I could continue. Even Blackpool businesses have had raids on the accommodation of seasonal workers and that’s three hours down the road from cassa Zambo!

So what about the men? It’s the joke I’ve heard a thousand times. “Oh Rosa you’ll come back with a rich Arab” and “think of the fabulous life”. Maybe it’s even a joke I’ve made myself, but the cold hard fact is that many of the “tourists” in Dubai come from all over the world and that makes it the most beautiful, cultural melting pot; but also the spark of a fuse which would ignite many a crossed wire. I was followed in the biggest mall in the world for over an hour by an Arab male. My daughter was frightened and I was alaramed, but mostly pissed off at having to evade him in my very painful but gorgeous Valentino Rock Studs. When we finally asked security to do something about it the opinion was very much “you can’t blame a guy for trying and you look Russian…. you know?”. No I don’t know. I’m not frightened to lie and say while I was seriously angry I text a male Muslim friend and asked him “would this have happened to me if I was in hijab? I think not”. Boy did that open a can of worms, he very quickly, rightly and swiftly reminded me that this was man problem, a  feminism issue and absolutely nothing to do with being in a Muslim country. You see I’ve been followed by a man in a mall before, I was with my bae of the time in Manchester and a young man decided following me around till he saw my boyfriend was a “grand idea”. That happened at “home”, just a feckless man thinking a blonde would drop at his feet. Religion? Nothing to do with it. His penis replacing his brain? Maybe so. It’s easy to blame religion, culture or upbringing for being a wanker but actually the truth of the matter is we just have to push on for equality globally.

Equality, the magic word eh? So where’s wee Charlie? Why didn’t she go? The answer is simple. I cannot risk taking a transgender girl with a male passport through the immigration of a country like the UAE. This Gauls me. It burdens my soul. Every man and their dug keeps telling me I must be utterly infuriated at the very thought of it, and yes I am; but what about the UK? You see we want to blame the Muslims, that be easy, but what about the country I live in that won’t give my daughter the passport she deserves. The passport that would allow her to go to any country, a little book of freedom. I’m only one woman, so yes I think LGBTI rights are shot to shit in these countries but we’re still not there in the U.K. either….. and while I’m on it she couldn’t live in Australia because she would never be able to get married and that’s meant to be one of the most “laid back countries on earth”. It’s just another global fight.

This has been a long rambling type blog but I felt it needed to be out of my system. In this world every single human needs these things to survive: water, food, shelter, love and human rights. It’s not my job to boycott every country in the world because I don’t like their governments treanent of the vulnerable, because to be frank I’d have to live on the moon. It is our job to continue to highlight inequality when we see it. Even to write about it, notice it and address it if and and when we can. 

I’ll be going back to Dubai. I’ll be going back to my second family. I’ll travel the world but I promise in my mind I will always be thinking that “some” men are just wankers (watch for the stampede of woman are too brigade) and I will always be thinking that we could do more…. Inequality isn’t a “Muslim” problem it’s a human issue.

PS did not find husband rich or otherwise much to mammy Zambonini’s upset 

Dear Polticians We Want To See The Real YOU! 

When I had my stroke-ish-thing I came off social media and stayed away from politics in general. One day a friend phoned me and was going on about Kezia resigning, I had no idea what he was talking about. I wasn’t living in the twittersphere. You see we think as politicians (or former politicians) that Social Media is this fantastic platform for spreading the word and your opinion, and yes it can work. However, quite often the very polished photo of a politician smiling away at some event or other means nothing to Sandra, Joe or Bill when they go to the polling station. Quite often your big amazing point is only liked and retweeted by people who agree with you anyway, I’m doubtful if it changes the mind of the opposition.

My job title, when I’m not ill, is “communications manager” and yes I love it and it’s important to let people know What James is doing but what James Dornan does best is talk to his constituents when he passes them in the street. Asking old school pals how their wife and weans are. Talking to his old pal about the football. Speaking to community activists and not using it as a pat on the back photo op. What constituents don’t want are politicians who are never off twitter using words they have to a) Google or b) give a flying feck about. They just want to know you’re fighting for them and that they can relate to you.

Now I know I’m a fan of the social media and very often I’m slagged for being so open. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s hindered my career progression in some ways, but here’s a story. In January I did a “diet diary”, it was literally me just moaning daily about my struggle with chocolate. I got more case work out of that than anything else. Women mailing me to say “hen I feel you, and while I’m on could you help me with my wee problem”. Why did this happen? Because it was relatable. 

Imagine if our politicians tweeted these type of things instead of the daily “smile in a group photo”

1) female politician tweets “late for committee cause the wean had me up all night with sore teeth and a sore ear”. Mothers up and down the land would be saying “on yerself doll for still getting to your work”

2) a male politician tweets “sorry I didn’t make it to the 17th gala day of the year but my wife was fuming that she’d been left with the weans all week herself so she took off to the spa”. Every man in the country with kids would be like “been there ma san”

3) young politicians “bit hungover after an amazing night out this weekend but I’ll be back on form at work Monday.” Showing young people you can actually have a life and still take an interest in the world around you.

4) single politician tweeting “do you think it would be ok for me to get on the Match.com cause tinders rotten”. Every singleton in he country would be howling and high fiving you. 

We are always talking about getting a variety of people into politics but in all honesty the political environment seems pretty hostile to the average joe out there. People would say to me “you’re no one of them hen you’re one of us” but the fact is all politicians are humans, and brave to stand up for what they believe in. I just wish now and again they would show that to the public.

When the “selfie queen” article was printed about me in the Sun I was livid at the approach; but what I failed to notice was the hundreds and I mean hundreds of young girls who said “canny believe a girl like you can be in politics”. It had its own impact.

I once watched Nicola Sturgeon notice a wee family on the door step of their house in one of the most impoverished estates in Wishaw. She bolted up and had a wee play with kids and a blether, I know for a fact that word of this action spread around Wishy like wild fire and probably achieved more than any of my pro snp election tweets.

Yes social media has its place. Yes it’s important for politicians to highlight good causes. Yes it’s important and great to raise awareness; but I’m telling you people would LOVE to see the real life of politicians. The side that wished they were good at diets but the Parliament grub is too good. The side that loves people but cries at the inequality around us. People love to relate.

When I was at work one day I was walking behind a female politician who I admired, revered, and wished I could be like. A woman who is smart, sharp and fearsome. Guess what? She had a ladder in her tights and so I loved her even more.

My God is Proud of Pride 

I’ve not written a blog in months but I think now, with this very short one, is a good time to start. With pride on in Glasgow this weekend it got me to thinking why we should be proud of our LGBTI community, but more importantly why we should love them, and of course each other.

One of my most read blog posts was around the issues of Christian politicians, and if they can serve the LGBTI community. However, I suppose as a Christian mum, the bigger question is why can’t ALL Christian’s love the LGBTI community? The bible was written in times that were very different, there was interpretation and cultural influences on everything that was written by MEN, God passed on his word; but ultimately the bible was written by humans who have opinions. A pastors wife recently said to me that we would never dream of sacrificing children to God and yet that was a practice discussed in the Old Testament, it was a thought provoking statement and true.

As a mum of a trans child all I want is for her to be happy; almost weekly I’m reminded that her life will be harder than everyone else’s. She will always be “different”, she will always have “battles” and she will also have “hurts”. However Charlie also has a great big God who loves her. In the bible the word love is mentioned almost more than any other, over and over and over it tells us to love EVERYONE. This “love the sinner and hate the sin” chat is also rubbish, imagine if christians went to church and said “I love you even though you said shi*t and you’re a big fat gossip”, it’s unthinkable. We are told not to judge and that means YOU! If you’re a Christian reading this just don’t.. ok? No one likes pious nonsense and it brings no one closer to God.

The God I know is loving, he is kind, he is giving, he catches me when I fall, and he is always near. I understand why many don’t believe in his presence because life is hard right? Look at me: a diabetic trans daughter, another with cerebral palsy, almost choking with a stroke at 35… so you could say it’s hard to believe he’s even around, but I think he is otherwise I don’t think I’d be able to put one foot in front of the other. What I also believe is that God loves everyone and I mean everyone. No one is excluded from the love of Jesus, Jesus didn’t die on the cross and rise to say believe in me and you will live (apart from the gays, they’re out). 

God loves everyone even the gays whether you like it or not. In Glasgow we often hear “let Glasgow flourish” but often we miss out the second part “by the preaching of his word and the praising of his name”. Last year at Pride the only thing that upset my Christian daughter charlie was when a group of “evangelists” hurled abuse at her while she walked proudly, even though she carried the weight of the world on her shoulders. So I’d like to ask them this: will God judge me for loving or will he judge you for hating and making a very fragile 13 year old girl cry by telling her that her own God has disowned her? 
Glasgow welcomes the Gays, the trans and everyone in between this weekend. Glasgow will flourish by the very beautiful and colourful spectical that is pride. God will be there because pride is a place of love and where there is Love there is peace….

Happy Pride Glasgow 

Can Christian Politicians Love the Gays? 

I was brought up by a Church of Scotland Minister. My dad the Rev JZ. A man of integrity, of love and of courage. We were taught love comes before everything, love, forgiveness and no judgment.

In the bible there are loads of verses which guide us on how to live. Not to gossip, not to talk ill of others, not to steal, not to be envious, not to swear etc etc. For me the bible was written when times were different and it was written by men who interpreted Gods word. The bible tells us to live our lives in ways to protect us BUT more than anything it tells us to love unconditionally. Love love love. The bible also tells us to take the plank out of our own eye before we start picking out the splinter from the eye of others. 

Is it a sin? Is it not? I actually think God has more to worry about and to be honest I really do not care what anyone does. God also told women not to cut their hair according to the bible, but I’m pretty sure God would rather I have short hair helping my community than a selfish midden with hair down to my bum! I don’t see it as a sin. I don’t. Maybe it’s because I have a transgender child and I know it wasn’t a choice, a decision but it’s the way she is. She is loved unconditionally and guess what she has more faith in Jesus and God than many “straight” christians I know.

For me the question for politicians should be this? Do you care about me regardless of my “sins” or “flaws” and will you love me enough to represent me when I need you the most? That’s the bottom line, and if they can’t then for me, they can’t represent everyone as a politician.

God shows EVERYONE incredible grace. He asks us to love each other with NO exceptions. Our lives are our own. We should really do unto others as we would have them do, even if you aren’t a Christian; because if you treat others that way then you won’t go wrong.

I love the LGBTI community not because of Charlie but because they are made by God and he knew who they were before they were even born, and the God I know makes everyone perfect in his sight! 

The Language of Yes

I’ve been thinking about this post for a while and since the General Election I think it’s something we all have to think about. As a passionate yesser I, like everyone else, have been called a Nat or worse; however more than anything I want to see that magical 45% increase and we absolutely won’t get there without No voters.

To increase any number you have to add to it, and while I agree that there are many No voters will never be swayed, there are many fragile No voters who could be. There are so few undecided voters that it means we have to target those soft No voters with gentle, researched and good discussion. Calling people “nawbags” and “yoons” is never ever going to bring them to a positive side of debate. Our language of discussion has to be welcoming. It’s difficult and tough when people are not behaving the way you’d like, but sometimes the end justifys the means. It’s almost a “be the bigger person menatality”.

I’m aware a lot of Yes voters might not be happy with this but we have to look closer at how we increase the number 45 and the GE result should be the kick up the bum to do that. 

If you want people to feel comfortable in your home then you put out a “welcome” mat. It’s time we start questioning what our language and actions say to those on the edge of Yes. Even more than that however we absolutely do NOT want to lose YES voters because they feel like the environment is anything other than positive…. 

Just TIE me up in love

Recently there have been figures being banded about on the wait times for CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services). I don’t have the answers but I do have a thought. My daughter Charlie was self harming, slashing her arms till they looked like they had been clawed at by a wild animal and contemplating taking her own life. It took love, support and many weeks at Camhs before we got to the root of the problem…. She was trans.

Camhs were an exceptional tool and I know the Scottish government are committed to reducing wait times, however like every other illness, I think we should be looking at prevention where possible. A cure is good but prevention is always better, and nine times out of ten more cost effective. That’s where TIE (time for inclusive education) comes in. Many of the young LGBTI young people I’ve met during Charlie’s journey were in the same boat, the  story is so often repetitive. Fear of being who they are, fear of being bullied, fear of telling parents. Hatred of themselves, hatred of who they are, hatred of their own flesh. Then comes a Camhs referral, an opening up and finally acceptance…. not always but most of the time.

TIE aims for a better understanding of LGBTI issues, a reduction of bullying and a removal of stigma. If you think “hey I’m gay/trans/lesbian but that’s ok it’s as normal as being left handed;” then wouldn’t you be less likely to hate yourself? I think so! It’s about seeking to engage everyone from the straight community, the LGBTI community and the educational departments to ensure young people don’t resort to horrific acts of violence on their own precious skin.

This won’t just change the lives of young people but it will create generations of more tolerant adults. Workplace bullying, especially for trans women in very male dominated environments, is a huge issue. This results in many adults seeking the same support as our young people, but many often think they should be stronger, the shame overcomes them and they decide the only way out, is the unthinkable.

I’m not saying for a minute that this will resolve every issue faced in the treatment of young people and their battles with mental health, however I believe it would be a start. I speak out all the time on trans issues because I face it along side Charlie every day. This week my mum (gran sheena) realised she is wearing a  jacket in summer because she is ashamed of her own wee shape and my 70 year old mum has been researching special bras! Awesome right? But what if your family isn’t like that? What if charlie spent the whole summer roasting because of shame? That would damage her mental health beyond words. So we have to do more and in my heart I believe the schools are where we can achieve this.

I spoke at the SNP conference earlier this year where the members supported the TIE pledge (I will link the speech below). However words are not enough, if you want to reduce wait times, encourage children and most importantly save lives, then we must act. This is not a liberal versus conservative argument; or indeed church versus state; no – this is LIFE or DEATH. I urge everyone, especially the straight community who might think this will never effect you, to keep acting! The only way we can change the world is to get up and do it. Not just for wait lists, or Charlie; but for every young person in our country! Love wins.