HOPELESSNESS is, I believe, the most dangerous emotion because it gives us permission to stop trying and it places all the cards in the hands of those who seek to quell our thirst for progress. On the edge of this perilous place is where I have found myself walking while the weight of anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric and its growing influence presses down on me.

When your working life involves, as mine does, a mixture of campaigning for social and political change, and writing about your opinions on various injustices, a strange sort of distance develops between your emotional self and the issues you confront each day.

This is necessary both for self-preservation and for any cause you are committed to, because there are times when to truly look the despair of the situation in the eye would be to give into it and give up altogether. But this wall of protection can only withstand so much, for so long.

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I am a queer woman, a lesbian, a supporter of trans people, and the past few years have been exhausting. Every other week, it seems, there is another onslaught that leaves me feeling that the low point must, by now, have been reached. Yet, somehow, it keeps getting worse.

If the hostility towards trans people and LGBTQ+ people more generally which has defined the most fevered reactions to the new hate crime legislation over the past couple of weeks is any indication of where we are as a country, it is a sad day indeed.

I do not for a minute believe that the majority in Scotland are represented by those who attended a rally in Edinburgh organised by extreme anti-trans activist Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, or who protested outside the Scottish Parliament alongside the likes of the Christian-right Scottish Family Party or in front of third-party hate crime reporting sites like Glasgow’s queer sex shop Luke & Jack.

The National: People take part in the Let Women Speak rally following the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act coming into force, outside The Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh. Picture date: Saturday April 6, 2024. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Jane

However, the level of attention and credence afforded to those individuals across the Scottish media and by elected representatives is alarming.

Over a number of years now, there has been a widespread campaign to legitimatise viewpoints on LGBTQ+ rights which I truly believed were on the way out, and our political and media institutions have willingly – sometimes gleefully – promoted it.

One has to wonder if some of those doing this cynically are under the impression their actions exist in some kind of bubble, or if the real-world consequences and the pain, fear and isolation that this has instilled in many LGBTQ+ people is a sacrifice worth making to score a few points in their political game.

I would not pretend to know how it feels for trans people in Scotland today as they witness the highest profile celebrity in their country become the face of a global hate movement against their right to live and be accepted for who they are.

I can’t imagine waking up every day to another 16 news and opinion pieces about a never-ending debate over my right to be called by my name and treated with dignity, and how this might spell the downfall of an entire government.

But, seeing the predictable spread of this furore to encompass anything related to the letters “LGBTQ”, while claims of wanting to protect children from this “ideology” abound, I do know something about watching on, helpless, as the sense of safety and inclusion that our predecessors worked so hard to achieve for us slips away.

Every day I reassure myself of the things that matter: that the Scottish Government speaks in support of LGBTQ+ rights and is progressing with actions to back this up like a conversion therapy ban, and that most people do support equality and acceptance for all, irrespective of sexual orientation or gender identity.

I remind myself that it’s just that those who are the loudest are most often the ones who are heard.

But therein lies the problem. Too many of those who know that the way LGBTQ+ people are being weaponised is wrong are keeping quiet. I understand. There are countless different issues playing on all of our minds each day, and we don’t always have the energy to speak up or get involved in all of them. Particularly when a topic generates such ferocious debate,

It can feel safer to keep your head down and wait for the moment to pass. And really, If it’s mostly being driven by an extreme fringe anyway, is there a point in engaging with it?

As someone who has paid a lot of attention to how this has unfolded, even as a queer person myself, I have fallen into some of this thinking.

For a time I convinced myself this was only online. Or it was mostly outside of Scotland. Or it was just the media drumming up clickbait. Or it was only the Tories. Or it wouldn’t really stop legislation being introduced. Or these people wouldn’t actually show up in person to events and divert the conversation away from other important topics.

Or, surely, I wouldn’t be faced with people in my daily life regurgitating these same views, people I hoped I could respect – who I believed respected me – and who I was sure would know better.

It’s difficult now to pinpoint the exact moment in time when I should have realised that things were even worse than I had imagined. I can’t turn back the clock. But what I can do is let you know, and ask you to let your friends know to let their family know to let their colleagues know: the time for naivety is long gone.

The power of misinformation is almost unfathomable and the conditions for it to thrive in Scotland are optimal. We can and must do something about it.

Reading last month that the Scottish Parliament had decided to ban rainbow lanyards for staff because of a requirement to remain “impartial”, at the same time as ending its membership of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme after 11 years, it felt like a gut punch.

For these decisions to be made at this political and cultural moment, in the knowledge that this would be leapt upon by sections of the media and claimed as a victory by the people who would rather see LGBTQ+ people pushed out of public life altogether, the Parliament has sent a very clear message: the fight for equality will never end.

As long as there are people willing to push back hard enough on progress, what is accepted now can once again become “controversial”.

For some of those engaged in these seemingly endless arguments or watching on from the sidelines, it might look like a “political debate”.

It might seem like just another day of media soundbites or treacherous Twitterstorms, probably best ignored. For many of us, though, ignoring it isn’t an option – it’s real life. It’s personal, it hurts, and it’s only getting harder.

We need your help. I need your help. I believe hope is worth holding onto, but progress will only be possible if every single one of us who does not wish to see the clock turned back on LGBTQ+ inclusion says so.

We can still be the louder voice if enough of us choose to speak.