I’M one of those non-engaged observers who has been slowly turning his attention to transgender issues. And it’s mostly because of the sound of previously equable colleagues, exploding all over their own columns in outrage.

Rather than launch into theory and policy, let me begin from a personal angle. On all matters of human diversity, I tend to proceed from our long-standing family axiom, “it takes all kinds to make a world”. Working-class Scottish life, in my 50-something experience, has always had skeins of the non-normative running through it.

The florid uncle, a dancer in London, who took my goggle-eyed dad to drag clubs in the 1970s. The pair of dark-haired boys who hung out together, scampering about the yards in St Augustine’s RC, bold in their campness. Our school musicals, where beings of whatever biological definition slapped on the warpaint and florid clothes, as the general swish required. (I know: I was that mascara’d and orange-skinned Israelite in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat.)

Creative spaces, including those where gender blunts its hard edge, have always felt like a haven to me. This may well explain my later performer’s career, which required (and requires) a lot of untrammelled pouring-forth from glittering stages, playing alongside not-overly-centred men.

But it’s also left me essentially curious, rather than freaked, about the malleability and fluidity of my fellow humans. Ok, so that’s your solution to the eternal riddle of how we relate rationality and sexuality, desire and social function. Why do that? What’s that like?

So it’s in that spirit of curiosity that I come to this gathering stramash around the ScotGov’s new national census, which is asking for consultation as to whether people should be able to sexually self-identify more easily.

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The real shocker seems to centre around genitals and reproduction: the idea that a women could claim full identity as a man (without a penis), and that a man could claim full identity as a woman (without a vagina).

“Ejaculation” and “menstruation”, bellow the objectors. Biology might not be destiny, but it’s absurd to erase it entirely. Or never mind the equipment – it’s that the basic chromosomal divide between men and women cannot be superseded by culture and psychology. (Although there are many studies which show how oddly stacked the X and Y chromosomes can be).

All else about human beings can be, of course, equal before the law – but don’t say the sex boxes can’t be correctly ticked.

And this isn’t just blokes policing the boundaries. I became a young man among radical feminists in the 80s. For many of them, “our bodies, ourselves” was the manifesto. Respect the physical reality of womanhood and its powerful capacity for healing and connection. Respect the need for full contraceptive control – but also that the mothering, life-giving principle should be at the heart of a better civilisation …

So I understand the opposition of many feminists to what seems like the elective freedom of men to now “choose” their official sexual identity. What, we’ve struggled to assert our equality in the public sphere, with our family and bathroom spaces as the rallying points – and now trans women can now simply stride into all these secured zones, on the basis of little more than a legal assertion?

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I’ve heard even darker mutterings – that this is a classic patriarchal response to the increasing salience of “feminine” values, never mind the actual presence of women. How typical of men – adapting to and incorporating womanhood, just as feminine leadership becomes perhaps vital to the saving of the planet. Everything changes, so nothing changes.

My only response to this kind of talk is a gentle request: be a bit more patient, and a bit more generous, if you can. Something profound is happening to contemporary masculinity. Many men are beginning to face the consequences of the standard “identity” they have inherited, chafed under, and increasingly become ashamed of.

It’s not just the #MeToo hashtag, and the call out of predatory male behaviour in every corner of organisational life. It’s not just the absurdity of a G20 group picture showing the world’s top economies as run by a nearly men-only management team.

And it doesn’t even always need to be men exerting male forms of power. May, or Rudd, or Thatcher are all as monomaniacal and authority-obsessed as any jowly grandee in their party has ever been.

This may be my partial take. But below Nicola Sturgeon regularly perpetrating “telt” on her hapless challengers, I think there is an underlying appeal to collegiality – which on occasion has blossomed, in a woman-centric Holyrood.

Sturgeon’s identification with LGBTI causes has been explicit and consistent. It explains why her government seems to be forging, rather than reflecting, the consensus on these gender-identifying issues.

The National:

Nicola Sturgeon supports LGBTI causes

I believe it’s also because there’s a widespread desire for a future Scotland to do power differently. And part of that might be a softening and diffusing of patriarchal authority, in the face of a rising female power.

Where both can meet, they might create some ambiguous and fertile areas, where we think differently about what counts as meaningful and valuable action.

Many of the men I know who have moved along the trans axis, whether tentatively or stridently, see it as continuous with other forms of “progress” in their public lives. (As well as, of course, expressing a self that has been waiting for the right cultural moment to step forward).

Of course, a better, wiser masculinity doesn’t need to occupy a trans or non-binary space, in order to find the room to transform. For my sins, I have been singing love songs as a straight man to mixed crowds for 35 years. But I’m always, in the song and via its performance, conducting a quiet conversation with the males in the audience.

Who are we, exactly, gentlemen? Do we need to be so full of frustration, resentment, anger? What are the words we need to express care, love, vulnerability? What are our best strengths, deployed in the right way? There’s a Hue and Cry song at the heart of this inquiry, titled Violently, which sits at the core of every set we play. A recent observer to our gigs once came up to me afterwards and said, “what is it about the big burly blokes sobbing like children at your gigs?” I can’t remember my exact response, but the feeling would have been: result.

The anxieties raised by this census would seem to have eminently detailed and pragmatic answers. For example, is it that hard to figure out how biological mothers identifying as women, and trans people identifying as women, can each be correctly served, in terms of medical care and welfare?

But perhaps what we need to allow that practicality to happen is to build an underlying trust, or sense of progress, or maybe even pride. Pride in what? That we in Scotland are trying to work out how to fashion a thoroughly modem, complex and diverse society, creating connection and respecting the identity of all, in a wider climate tilting against such generosity.

“Transformation”, in and of itself, is one of the greater human aspirations – and surely one of the ends of the indy politics we all hold dear, in this place.

Let’s not put a limit on the transformations we value. Takes all kinds, as my family says.

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