THE erosion of human rights rarely comes in the form of a wrecking ball. Rather it trickles through legislative bodies and public broadcasters like an insidious stream, eroding and undermining the foundations until the moment of collapse becomes inevitable. Gradually. Then suddenly.

It wasn’t that long ago that activists and organisations working to oppose the rights of transgender people in Scotland and the UK were adamant that the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) was safe, and that trans people were free to dress however they pleased and call themselves whatever they liked.

This was, we were told, about “legitimate concerns” over newly proposed legislation. Of course, those of us who found ourselves in the crosshairs of the “gender critical” movement knew the inevitable outcome of any concessions. Like the stream, eroding, it would gnaw through what little progress had been made, and reveal the lurking intolerances below.

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In last week’s EHRC letter proposing changes to the reserved Equality Act, we are facing the prospect of the wholesale destruction of the Gender Recognition Act through the backdoor; proposals not to remove the process by which someone obtains a Gender Recognition Certificate, but to render the document functionally useless.

It’s the equivalent of Conservative Britain’s demand that asylum seekers must only enter the United Kingdom by means of the proper, legal routes – without offering any legal routes to be taken. And like how far-right commentators regurgitate the lie that they have no problem with asylum seekers pursuing legitimate avenues into these nations, so too will we hear the same spin on how nobody is proposing a change to the GRA.

This is not an attempt to “clarify” the Equality Act. It is a fundamental change to the spirit and scope of the existing legislation; a marker of how poorly the situation has deteriorated.

Where once there was faux acceptance, now there is open anger at any public inclusion of the trans community. Rather than “dress however you please”, we have an angry backlash against Nike and Bud Light for working with a trans TikTok and Instagram influencer.

Any pretence at legitimate concerns are over. It was, and has always been, about fear from ignorance and the desire to remove LGBTQ+ people from public life.

How else can you explain the bombastic rhetoric around some high-profile brands choosing to work with a popular trans celebrity? One Telegraph columnist went as far as touting the partnership as a precursor to “the end of civilisation as we know it”. It’s all quite a hop, skip and a jump away from how the conversation sounded even just a few years ago.

Perhaps if the concerns of the trans community had been listened to at the start, if real solidarity had been shown to another community scapegoated by the Conservatives, the situation would not be so dire. Instead, trans people are now somehow at fault for their role in the culture war, like the very act of existence itself is an indiscretion that needs addressed.

This is not a fight that the LGBTQ+ community really chose to find itself in. The fight was brought to us, by British Conservatives and US Republicans who saw a means to create division and chaos in which they could further their own agenda.

A fitting analogy here is to consider the trans community as barricaded into a burning building while others flap their hands outside, asking why we are spending so much time trying to put out the fire or break open a window when there are more important issues at hand.

And having sat at a distance and watched the fuel be poured in, they now act like the arsonist and afflicted alike are both to blame for this roaring distraction.

The EHRC didn’t lose all credibility overnight. Rather, through a series of political appointments and minor changes, it took time to become a vehicle for the Conservative party’s culture war. The organisation has lost several legal directors who have now spoken out against the direction it has taken under the Conservatives, with one branding proposed changes to the Equality Act as “nonsense on stilts”.

These latest proposals, while not yet concrete, are at the very least another step along a path that anti-trans activists insisted they were never going to take. Incremental steps.

For this reason, it remains imperative for the Scottish Parliament to fight the UK Government’s attempt to block the GRR Bill in Scotland. While the First Minister’s leadership opponents seemed content to let Westminster walk over the democratic will of Holyrood, it would constitute another minor concession that in time would grow; a stream that erodes the principles of the Scottish Parliament and Scotland’s commitment to the rights of all.

It always starts with one little concession in the face of a bully. And ends with something much worse.