A poem by Leonie Dunlop

Leonie Dunlop has recently completed her PhD at the University of Glasgow. Throughout this time she developed her interests in Scots language and the perceptions and reinterpretations of landscape features. Her poetry has been published in Gutter, Raum, and Dactyl, and she won the Alastair Buchan Prize in 2015. She often grins, but never on command.

In my first year at university I realized I was a lesbian and this made ask myself who that made me. Was I normal? Was I just a girl? So I started to explore, I began dressing up; I enjoyed playing with visual cues and clues. I got a mohawk to see how that felt and I remember one woman congratulating me, as though a hairstyle was a prize. But I also remember being barred by male bouncers because I was just that bit too gay for them. It was a strange time, full of open arms and shut doors, and I was a girl discovering who I was. That made me dangerous.


Bein a girl


Ah don’t mind bein a girl.

Love, hen, darling,

doll-face, sweetie, mo chridhe.

Whit an array

fir someb’dy who loves the dictionary.


Ah’m like a fantail doo,

a fistful of feathers

of every colour.


Bein guided tae the wee boys’ room at the QMU.

Under the radar,



It wis pronoun potluck.

Jeans an a t-shirt

an naeb’dy kenned.

I could be anyone, no-one,

but no someone.


Ah wore a dress fir Hallowe’en,

ma mates dressed me up in their get up

wi flooers in ma

back-combed, waxed-into-a-mattit-mess hair.

An ma flatmate lent me his boxers

for my decency.

Folk in a gast thoucht they’d spyed a ghost.


Ah wis the wan the gay man wid tak hame,

the wan who got awa,

far awa frae boy meets girl

and further still frae Prince Charming.


I’ll have your rubies and sapphires,

keep your diamonds:

they’re no my best friend.

See, I’m mair yer raspberry slush and tizer lass

than your sparkling straight off the Welsh mountains

with a sliver of lemon.


I’m mair racehorse

than brood mare.

Mair skint knees

than pot-bellied poppin.

Ma ankles are swelt frae the hot-bloodit chase.


So call me boi

with an ‘i’ an’ aye I’ll respond,

call me girl —

see ma grin.


Featured photo: Vanity Mirror by Barbara Friedman on Flickr, used under CC-BY-NC-2.0 license.