SOMETIMES, it’s the new riffs on an old theme that let you know things have really changed.

How many times have I picked a fight for the cause of indy in my life? This week I recalled a previous one, and instigated a current one. The difference between the consequences of each spat are a real temperature check on this torrid wee nation.

The old one was mild indeed: a reminiscence of my involvement as a musician in the Day For Scotland concert at Stirling, organised in 1990 by the STUC. I was sent a PDF of the pamphlet for the day, and found myself there—intoning away about the rise of the “Scottish Voice”, stringing together the usual cultural suspects on a thread.

I did note that I’d managed to assert that this Voice had to be multi-ethnic or nothing (there seemed to have been a rise in anti-Muslim attacks in the country at the time). And I also managed to hint at my independista (rather than devolutionesque) ambitions. Overall, it’s a picture of Scottish national affairs you might recognise, right up to recent times.

My current spat showed me something I hadn’t really recognised before. On social media this week, I’ve been fulminating away about the idea of a new “indy list party” standing at the next Holyrood elections.

My head was half full of these nostalgic 1990s memories of Scottish popular fronts, cohering around clear constitutional targets. The other half was wanting the Scottish Green Party to get your second list vote for an indy-supporting party (given that the planet is burning and befouled, and we need a solid green input into everything we materially do).

READ MORE: SNP may lose votes as a result of gender recognition policies

So I hit “send”, sat back with a mug of Lavazza and waited for the day to unfold.

Here’s what I didn’t expect. From 59 replies and comments, over 30 had associated either the Scottish Green Party, or its co-convenor Patrick Harvie, with “misogynistic” or “anti-women” attitudes – the main reason these tweeters wouldn’t now given them their second vote.

This seems to have been generated by the Greens’ support for the easing of conditions by which trans people can self-identify as women – one of the reforms being pondered in the Scottish Government’s review of the Gender Redefinition Act (GRA) in Scotland. In addition, there were objections to strong Scottish Green Party statements on “transphobes” not being welcome in their organisation.

As the epithets and abuse mounted, I pushed the device away from me and emitted a huge sigh. No, we’re not in Kansas (or Stirling) anymore, are we… And just to confirm it, I visited the website of the leading contender for this non-Green indy second vote, the Independence For Scotland Party. On a rather sparse policy page, here’s the relevant entry:

“The ISP believes that trans people, like all other groups in society, should be free to dress, live and love how they please. However, we oppose self ID on the grounds that it does not add anything to the rights that trans people currently enjoy and the legislation, as it stands, will severely affect sex based women’s rights. We will oppose Self ID on that principle”.

So what looks like, from one angle, a deeply disappointing outcome (reducing the challenge of a climate-militant party from the independence debate) is from another angle a clear position in one of the most disheartening public debates I’ve ever witnessed in Scottish life.

I use the phrase “disheartening” quite deliberately. I’ve stayed away from this topic for many reasons. But one would be the paralysis and exhaustion it induces in me – because I feel for everyone’s deep emotions and convictions in this.

The maddening side-effect looks like a fatal factionalism in the indy movement, just when a rich and robust consensus is most urgently required. Yet the core commitments here are to do with power struggles of a much more primal kind than our present and future constitutional arrangements. I can only start to touch on them here.

To begin on one side of the argument: I am well-schooled in, and fully signed up to, the anxieties and fears of feminists about the potentially dangerous and abusive behaviour of males in their environment.

My political education began on this topic in the 80s – not just the books from Mackinnon, Spender, Rowbotham or Dworkin, but the stories of ambient male harassment that my student friends (and lovers) spoke about.

In the last few years, I have been moved again by what the #MeToo movement unearthed, even among my nearest and dearest female adults. Which is an archive of abuse at the hands of stronger, implacable men – an experience sometimes only recently recognised as such by the victims.

The relentless defence of woman-only spaces in public life in this debate, as refuge from a patriarchy that is often compelled by greater physical force, is very historically understandable. Even feminism’s most defensive demand – for basic physical safety – is not yet properly answered on this planet. The call for vigilance is accepted.

Yet at the same time, there’s another force of history trending here. Bear with me.

I have spent some of my last week doing research on current musical pioneers. Mostly I’ve been delighting in a creative force new to me, a Glaswegian trans polymath (indeed poly-everything) called SOPHIE.

Watch his/her deconstructive 2018 video for “Faceshopping” (as some wag says in the comments, “People in 3019: ‘Ah, it’s a classic’”) and you’d say that SOPHIE is an artist (born male) who is utterly, even manically aware of how culturally artificial the public codes of femininity are.

(This is a charge that often comes from Self-ID opponents – that trans women reduce womanhood to the most cliched of choices, adornments and behaviours).

But as I covered the frontiers of musical creation this week, every other leading artist (male or female born) seemed to be celebrating the fluidity of their sexual identity. They’re going both ways, all ways, or in ways that defy definition or pigeon-holing.

I’m not sure how things can be squared between the competing claims of equality legislation and gender recognition legislation. I often imagine laws that might compel establishments to plan for a third, “human-care” space. So we get round the problem by just expanding the zones in which self-protection, for all marginalised and vulnerable identities, can be guaranteed.

That may sound just science-fictional. But artists are the “unacknowledged legislators” of the future, as Shelley once said. And going by my researches at the moment, I suggest we may have a transformational generation coming.

One for whom the gradations between one strong sex/gender polarity and another are many and diverse – and where they want to live. And who may start to demand that their buildings, institutions and locations accommodate such an existence.

Indeed, the state of being non-binary may well escape from its corral as “adolescent confusion”, and become the mainstream condition for a significant minority, whether they biologically entered this world as men or women.

Might such an androgyny or fluidness play its part in dissolving patriarchy into a paisley pattern of eddies and swirls – just as much as the defence of woman-only, sex-class spaces would bring patriarchy’s arrogance to its senses?

We maybe need to imagine such a reality first. Before we have any more powerful tv adaptations of Margaret Atwood novels, could we finally get round to filming Ursula Le Guin’s 1969 SF classic, The Left Hand of Darkness?

This posits a planet where sexual selfhood rests on a default of poise, calm and elegance. And where biological sexual difference (and its intercourse possibilities) emerge randomly and unpredictably between couples once a month. In this society, the idea of a fixed sexual identity is the one that seems “perverse”.

Now, that’s even further from Kansas … a place where we are not only friends of Dorothy, but share our kinship with her imperfect pals on the yellow brick road. And even discuss cultural strategies with the Wizard of Oz.

Remember, every day for Scotland is also a blizzard of possibilities, as well as an internal dogfight to the death.

Or at least that’s what I retain –even amidst this most intemperate of debates – from that rainy, idealistic afternoon in Stirling.