I WILL begin with an admission: I’m not a football fan. In fact, I’m not much of a sports person in general. I’ve never really been able to keep up with all the rules – although I can explain exactly what “offside” means, thanks to my wife.

I was one of those kids whose names PE teachers made a point of forgetting, so I figured out pretty quickly that sport was a thing for Other People.

The one sport I did get into for a while as an adult was roller derby. I was attracted to join because I knew that so many queer women played, and for the time that I was involved I felt what some (straight, cis) people perhaps take for granted: a sporting community where I felt like being myself was not only welcome but celebrated.

So, I appreciate on a personal level the value of campaigns like Stonewall’s Rainbow Laces and the work of LEAP Sports Scotland towards greater inclusion for LGBT+ people in sport.

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Research by Stonewall in 2019 found that 82% of LGBT+ people across Europe who take part in sport had experienced or witnessed homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia in the past 12 months.

In men’s professional team sports, coming out as gay is still taboo. In Scotland, there is and has only ever been one out gay man actively playing in the Scottish Premier Football League, while in England that number still sits at zero. This is a reflection of how far we have to go to create a society where narrow ideals of masculinity are no longer used to exclude and diminish queer men.

It can only be good news, then, that Celtic Football Club have joined a number of clubs in backing the Rainbow Laces campaign for its 10-year anniversary, with captain Callum McGregor donning a rainbow armband to demonstrate the team’s commitment to inclusion whilst playing Kilmarnock last weekend.

Back when my dad was taking me to Rangers games in the mid-1990s – and my main takeaway from the proceedings was that I got some merch to take home – this kind of display of support by either of the Old Firm teams would have been absolutely unthinkable.

Now, Celtic is proudly sharing a photograph with the armband on social media to help broadcast the message.

I wish I could end this article here and say: “everything is headed in the right direction – let’s go to the pub for a celebratory drink”.

Sadly, the strength of backlash Celtic received online for its support of the campaign proves that there are some working double-time to slide us right back to an era when children and young people wouldn’t even hear about the existence of LGBTQ people in school, never mind at a football match.

Journalist Kevin McKenna described Celtic’s decision as a “massive error in judgement”, while South Lanarkshire Labour councillor Celine Handibode pushed back against criticism for liking McKenna’s post by calling it “a tweet that promotes female/child safeguarding”.

I’ve been trying to wrap my head around how rainbow-coloured shoelaces could pose such a risk, and the best I can come up with is that children are often lacking in lace-tying abilities, so they might well trip over them.

And women – well, we already know this crowd thinks the females of the species are inherently inferior at everything from chess to pool, so I suppose tying laces might be a bit too much for the weaker sex as well.

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I joke, but this is all quite a serious indication of just how far down the rabbit hole some people have gone – including those who could be mistaken for authoritative voices. Amid a maelstrom of misinformation about trans people, their rights, and proposals to advance them, an alarmist attitude towards anything and everything associated with LGBTQ representation has been allowed to take hold.

LGBT+ organisations, none more so than Stonewall, have become the cartoonish villains in this grotesque pantomime. On social media – and, indeed, traditional media – these advocates for equality have been slandered so often and by so many that they could keep a whole law firm in business if they didn’t have far more important things on which to spend their time and money.

A column by Alba MP Neale Hanvey, published in this newspaper on Monday, is a case in point.

After celebrating the Tory government’s right to bar the Scottish Parliament from introducing legislation to support trans people, Hanvey claims that Stonewall has been allowed to “dictate equalities legislation … unfettered by our Scottish Government” and warns that “the risk from a UK Labour government in thrall to the same dangerous Stonewall platform cannot be ignored”.

Of course, nobody should be expected to take seriously a column which begins: “There hasn’t been a more dangerous time for young lesbians, gay men, or bisexual people during my lifetime than now.”

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Hanvey recalls his own experiences during Section 28, the AIDS crisis, and the fear of losing one’s job for being spotted at a Pride event. All of this pales in comparison, in his mind, to the threat of trans people being permitted either to medically transition or to self-identify – in other words: to exist at all.

Hanvey craftily throws around some big words like “radicalised” and “queer theory”, designed to scare and confuse. Yet these words have nothing to do with birth certificates, or with charities whose main activities involve asking people to wear a colourful bit of material or take part in a workplace training session with the core message that being nice to LGBTQ people is a good thing, actually.

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The work of Stonewall is about as mainstream and inoffensive as it can get. And gender recognition reform is as basic of a change as trans people could conceivably ask for to improve one small aspect of their lives.

The fact that both have become dirty words – emotionally charged and “controversial” – is a reminder that no amount of respectability will keep LGBT+ people safe when reactionary forces are intent upon plunging us back into the shadows. It’s this that makes me feel as though it’s an unsafe time to be a lesbian — not Stonewall, not rainbow laces, and certainly not trans people.

I feel sorry for gay people like Hanvey who can’t see that they’re the turkeys clamouring for Christmas. But I take comfort in knowing that most of my LGB siblings are standing alongside me in solidarity with trans people, and with each other.

I may be too young to have lived through some of the struggles for equal rights that Hanvey has, but there are plenty of people much older than me whose words and actions I look to for guidance. It’s their voices, and those of the younger generation – who are already more accepting and understanding of difference than mine ever was – that give me hope that we can still push forward to a more equal future.