AS regular readers of The National and my blog will know, these columns are not in fact written by a rescued mongrel from the most southernly Catalan-speaking city in Spain, they’re written by a gay man called Paul Kavanagh. I came out a long time ago, so long ago that Are You Being Served’s Mr Humphries was about the only visibly gay person on the telly. And it was not a whole bundle of laughs, although to be fair 1970s sitcoms did have their moments.

Realising that you were gay when you were a teenager attending a Catholic school in Coatbridge in the 1970s was pretty traumatic. As puberty dawned it dawned on me that I was one of “them”, one of those people who were scorned and mocked and who were not to be mentioned in polite company. Homophobia wasn’t just widespread, it was obligatory. Even to express an opinion that didn’t condemn gay people to Hell for all eternity was considered suspect. It was terrifying, it was isolating. That was the reality for gay people in 1970s Scotland. It was a threatening and unwelcoming place.

At my school there were a couple of lads two years above me who were both quite effeminate, and they both were subject to abuse and name-calling, both from the pupils and from the teachers. There was no concept then that a school should be supportive of a teenager’s sexuality. Then one day these boys were caught canoodling in a quiet corner of the school. They were disappeared. I don’t know if they were expelled. I don’t know what happened to them, but rumours circulated that they had been sent away to be “treated” for their perversions. The teachers were very insistent that no-one was to mention their names under any circumstances. What that taught me, as I struggled with the realisation that I was just the same as those lads, was that if anyone discovered my secret, I too would be disappeared, and no-one would ever be allowed to mention me again. All the way through school I guarded my secret, petrified that I’d be found out and crying myself to sleep at nights over something that I couldn’t tell anyone.

Despite everything, I slowly managed to come to a measure of self-acceptance, and began my first tentative steps in the world of adult relationships. I’d only just rid myself of the notion that being gay was a one-way ticket to perdition, and then the AIDs crisis struck. Being gay now meant an early and horrible death. On top of society’s existing hatred and disdain for us, we were now plague carriers too.

Nevertheless, I eventually came to understand that the biggest challenge facing me was myself.

If I wanted to be equal, then I needed to start acting as though I was. By the early 80s I was out to gay and lesbian friends, within a couple of years I was out to straight friends too, and then to family. It wasn’t all plain sailing. I got gay bashed twice. My father refused to speak to me for seven years and I became persona non grata. I was called more names than I can possibly remember. Towards the end of the 80s I met Andy, the man who was to become my partner of 25 years, and we had a non-legal marriage ceremony. It was a statement of intent more than anything. The prospect of legal gay marriage was a distant dream. While my siblings got thousands of pounds lavished on their weddings, Andy and I got a card. Expectations were so low back then that getting a congratulations card from the family was considered a success and a sign of acceptance.

But here we are, more than 30 years later and Scotland and the world have changed for the better. Coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, or queer is still difficult for many, but it’s no longer quite as difficult as it once was. Homophobia is no longer an acceptable prejudice. The world has changed because LGBTQ people of my generation and older generations made it change. We suffered abuse and violence and discrimination in order to make it safe to be ourselves. And I am very proud of that achievement. It’s because we took a stand and suffered the consequences that it's now safe for Kezia Dugdale and David Mundell and Ruth Davidson to occupy the positions of power and privilege that they now occupy as openly gay people. And I’m proud of that too, even though I don’t personally have a great deal of time for people whose understanding of the gay rights movement is, “Please don’t be nasty to gay people because we want to be Daily Mail readers too.”

Coming out when I did and as I did meant that I had to develop a fine nose for homophobia. It was quite literally a matter of physical safety. We won those achievements of equality and acceptance because we were willing to call out homophobia when it was physically unsafe for us to do so. But we did it anyway. So I reckon I’m a pretty good judge of what is or is not homophobic. Mind you, that hasn’t stopped lots of straight people on my Twitter feed heterosplaining homophobia to me.

This week Stu Campbell of the Wings Over Scotland blog has started a crowdfunder in order to raise the legal expenses involved in pursuing a defamation suit against Kezia Dugdale. Kezia said that a comment Stu had made was homophobic. The comment in question was directed at a heterosexual Conservative. Having listened to a speech made by Oliver Mundell, son of David Mundell from a previous heterosexual marriage when he was closeted, Stu remarked that Oliver’s public speaking was so poor that it made you wish that his father had embraced his homosexuality sooner.

That’s insulting. It’s certainly rude. Is it homophobic? That might be up to a judge or jury to decide if it ever gets to trial. But homophobia is predicated on the belief that gay people are less worthy or less valuable. Homophobia is something which denigrates gay people or which damages their life chances.

Stu’s comment did none of those things. It expressed the wish that David Mundell had felt more comfortable in his own skin a lot sooner. However, Kezia called Stu homophobic on the basis of that remark in order to gain political traction against the SNP – although Campbell is not an SNP member. Simply calling him out for being rude wouldn’t have got much attention.

Calling out homophobia is the most powerful weapon that LGBTQ people have in our arsenal. It’s the judicious use of that weapon which has allowed our community to progress. It’s the scalpel which cuts out the tumour of homophobia from the body politic. Calling things homophobic when they are not blunts that weapon. It makes it harder for us to challenge homophobia in future. We become the boys and girls who cry homophobic wolf. Kezia Dugdale misused that weapon. She cried wolf. By doing so she made challenging homophobia harder for all of us. As an old gay rights campaigner who was present during the protest in Parliament Square in the 1990s when John Major’s government went back on its promise to equalise the age of consent, I’m backing Stu Campbell.