LAST week in Glasgow, a meeting was held amid much secrecy. Tickets could be bought in advance online, but information about the venue was kept under wraps until the day before, when an assembly point was shared.

By the time we took our seats in a hotel function room, the atmosphere was tense. I wondered if I should offer to swap places with my friend, who was on the aisle, in case there was violence.

In the end the disruption was loud, angry, and short. As the first of the evening’s four speakers rose and opened her mouth, three individuals got to their feet and began shouting. They continued until venue security staff arrived to escort them out. As the meeting continued, someone banged a drum outside, someone else shouted through a megaphone and others waved placards. One beautifully painted sign read “TERFS serve the patriarchy”.

You might be wondering what kind of meeting this was, and what a TERF is. You’d be forgiven for assuming such a person must be some kind of awful far-right misogynist. You would be wrong.

The acronym originally stood for “trans-exclusionary radical feminist”, although those protesting last week dramatically offered “exterminationist” as a variation for the “E” in the leaflets they distributed outside the hotel. You might think it odd that radical feminists of any sort should be accused of “serving the patriarchy”, since radical feminism is all about smashing that very system of male domination. You might find it strange that 100 years after the franchise was first extended to UK women, anyone characterising feminists as a “hate group” would be brave enough to come out from behind their keyboard and stand in the street on a cold January night.

But this is 2018, and if you find any of this strange you will simply need to re-educate yourself.

If you believe biological sex matters, you’re on the wrong side of history. Guardian writer Owen Jones says so, as do many other gay men with media platforms. If you disagree with them, you must be a bigot. If you’re a woman and you disagree with them, you should go and choke on a dick.

I apologise if the language shocks you. I should clarify I don’t believe anyone should go and choke on anything, regardless of their views on gender identity. But this is the kind of language, this is the kind of threat of physical and sexual violence, to which women who speak out about gender are subjected. This is why, when women get together to talk about this subject – whether online or in person – security must be tight.

I expect most of the women who gathered last week identify as feminists. But radical? I doubt it. Unless it is now considered radical to state that women as a sex are oppressed because of their female biology, rather than their gender identity. Unless it is still considered radical to say that boys can play with dolls and girls with cars. Unless it is now considered radical to even suggest that young women are being physically and mentally harmed by growing up in a culture in which any identity is socially acceptable apart from that of cis lesbian.

Many of those who were at last week’s meeting would frown at my use of the prefix “cis” – indeed, when one of the speakers uttered it there was an audible hiss of disapproval. Some of those who were present believe the LGBT movement should “drop the T”. Some believe that respecting “preferred pronouns” is a dangerous first step on a slippery slope towards a total denial of material reality. The meeting certainly provided plenty of food for thought. But hate? The only hate I detected came from the individuals who shouted a woman down before she had even spoken a word.

You might imagine this handful of noisy activists can be easily ignored. But in fact, when it comes to the current consultation on reform of the Gender Recognition Act 2004, it is women who MSPs are finding easy to ignore. Specifically, women who believe that if the state decides the word “woman” has no objective meaning, then statistics will be skewed, protections will be lost and children – particularly young lesbian girls – risk being seriously harmed.

I fear Patrick Harvie spoke for many when he replied to a mother who wrote to him expressing concern about the proposals to allow self-identification of gender and the removal of barriers to legally changing sex. “By listening to all those who agree that trans equality and women’s equality are not in conflict or competition,” he wrote, “I am confident that the Scottish Parliament will be able to move forward with this issue positively.”

There it is in black and white. Our parliamentarians are happy to listen to women, just so long as it’s clear from the outset those women agree with them. Harvie added that the Scottish Government’s proposals had the support of “highly respected feminist and women’s organisations” and went on to list Engender, Close The Gap, Rape Crisis Scotland, Equate Scotland, Scottish Women’s Aid, Women 50:50, and Zero Tolerance.

All of these organisations do important work. Many rely on state funding for their survival. Are there women working and volunteering within them who disagree with the Scottish Government’s proposals? Yes. Will they put their heads above the parapet to say so? Don’t bet on it.