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No More Rainbow Buffer

So, I was jotting down thoughts this week on why a lot of LGBTQ folks might be in a worse spot if the Greens split from the SNP. Turns out, none of us saw it coming that the Greens wouldn't even get to the members' vote before the First Minister pulled the plug on the agreement, basically saying, "It's not me, it's you." This moment feels like the start of a dramatic shift in the LGBTQ agenda. Now, it's at risk of being snagged by the right of the SNP and even the likes of Alba or their one MSP deciding the fate of the First Minister and with that possibly the fate of the existing policies and ones in the making set to be pushed off the table for the sake of power.

When it comes to LGBTQ issues, the Greens really acted as a buffer between them and the SNP, especially the more extreme elements. That rainbow buffer gave a lot of us, myself included, a sense of security. It felt like they could hold the SNP accountable when needed, like with the recent CASS review that messed with puberty blockers—so crucial for many trans folks' transitions—and pushing for better trans healthcare to slash those wait times and make care more personal.

Then there were the big wins like the GRR bill finally getting through with cross-party support, of course, but steered strongly by the Greens. Plus, they didn't shy away from calling out dodgy SNP donors coming back into the fold—a red line for many. And let's not forget the young, fired-up Green councillors leading the charge for the Conversation Therapy Ban—a campaign that was organised and progressive through and through. 

It also matters that the party was led by the first openly bisexual Scottish parliamentarian for several terms; that visibility was an early turning point for LGBTQ representation in Scottish politics.

Just to clarify I'm not glorifying the Scottish Greens. They've messed up, big time. Those brutal budget cuts time and time again, especially in housing and mental health, have hit me personally. And have failed to keep the SNP in check on many other issues.

I have to give credit where it's due: the SNP has made some solid moves for LGBTQ folks while in power. I respect stuff like pardoning historical 'homosexual offences', allowing same-sex couples to adopt and use IVF, changing blood donation rules, and being the first in the UK to offer PrEP through the NHS. They've got some decent rainbow credentials. Now, the big question: What's next? Or do they even want a next?

With all this mess, I find hope in our LGBTQ history, where I've been lucky to witness some huge moments that shaped who I am. Like back in 2004, when we finally got the right to change legal gender across the UK. Then, in Scotland, we made history with civil partnerships in 2005 and achieved some much-needed anti-discrimination laws in 2010. And, of course, the long-awaited: same-sex marriage becoming legal in 2014. Those moments gave me hope and eventually gave me the guts to come out.

And let's not forget about all the pride events growing in numbers—they gave me and loads of others a sense of safety in a sometimes not-so-accepting world.

But the world is changing. Scotland's known for our hospitality and openness, but let's be honest: we've got our fair share of closed-mindedness, especially when it comes to faith, football, politics, race, and, of course, sexuality and identity. Lines get drawn, and divisions happen easily. So, it's no surprise a culture war and anti-LGBT stuff would find a cosy home up here, especially with those on the right making it so.

The more we try to progress, the more we get stuck in endless arguments and red tape. And those in charge? They switch to fit the mood.

Pride events used to be about celebrating who we are, but now? Some see them as unnecessary and divisive. It's like toxicity on a whole new level, making participants feel unwelcome and unsafe.

Meanwhile, in opposition, Scottish Labour is fighting its own battles, trying to champion (correct me) progressive LGBTQ issues. But they keep getting overshadowed by the politics down south, trying to please middle England and adding their own voice to the culture wars.

No need to mention the Scottish Tories? Good luck finding a vocal and proud ally among them these days! They're slamming the brakes on just about every piece of legislation, from GRR to the Hate Crime Bill and even Inclusive Education is now in their firing line.

The Scottish Lib Dems? Yeah, they're decent allies, but inside, they're kind of stuck on the Tim Farron effect. Where many hold onto Tim's belief that speaking freely is what being a Liberal is all about, even if it means letting folk express their anti-LGBTQ views openly, just like he did.

See, I get where those passionate progressive activists in political parties are coming from. They're pushing for change and many sides of a political machine where their odds seem stacked against you, and regardless of your political tribe, I bet you'll connect to my issues.

I came out as gay pretty late in my political journey, switching from Labour to the Lib Dems. It was a big change, especially given the odd political climate. I felt like I had some catching up to do, so I dove into LGBTQ activism.

The fight I had with the Lib Dems was non-stop, from online discussions to in-person. Debates about LGBTQ issues always left me feeling drained. From hearing folks talk about feeling unsafe with trans people on the streets to brushing off a prominent Lib Dem MP coming out as just seeking attention, it was seriously exhausting and demoralising.

Things got tense in the Scottish Lib Dems over trans rights. A member in Glasgow and a Spokes(women) made a dramatic exit over the GRR Bill, causing a stir. 

Party conferences should be about real talk, but they often get bogged down by pointless motions that block progress on important equality issues. And those small executive meetings? You're just waiting for someone to say something totally off-base and exclusionary.

Even now supposedly safe spaces, like the next Scottish conference, can end up blocking progress. In an LGBT Lib Dem Facebook group last week, someone suggested a motion on the Cass Review at the upcoming Hamilton Conference. However, they were warned that anti-trans groups might try to use emotive language to sway the vote and do more harm than good.

Even at social events, there's no escape. As Chair of the Glasgow Lib Dems, more LGBTQ debates often took over, making me feel unwelcome. And finding vocal allies at Pride events? Good luck with that!

When you raise concerns within the party, you'll get your usual "hang in there" from allies, but it often feels like lip service. Leadership tends to ignore.

So, back to the Greens now that they're back in opposition, and my idea of a rainbow buffer is long gone. It was kind of important, even if it was just an idea it was still a nice one to have. Now we're in unknown territory—well, unknown in some ways, but most folks understand the next steps for the SNP government: a quick lurch to the right for votes of confidence to stay in firm power. 

My own struggles in party politics regarding LGBTQ issues are nothing in comparison to the mountain that LGBTQ activists and their allies within the SNP will have to climb. Their task is to keep the right at bay and ensure the First Minister keeps some form of LGBTQ agenda on the table. Now, with Alba in the mix seems an impossible task. 

I don't have much hope, and it looks like a done deal that the right will take over the SNP without a progressive influence in government. But hey, if Labour can get a grip once they're in Downing Street and really go all out for LGBTQ rights, that could make a difference. There's a ton of ground to cover, but their lack of vision and ambition, apart from not being Tories, isn't exactly inspiring. Time's ticking, and there's still so much to be done for trans and gender identity policies, action to protect our communities from hate crimes and to fully see a more inclusive education system at all levels.


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