And so, last week, to Aberdeen, where I was to talk on “politics, power and journalism” at an event to mark International Women’s Day. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, in 21st Century Scotland, a woman talking to women about women in politics, has become a lightning rod for protest around the proposed reforms to the Gender Recognition Act (GRA) – no matter how nebulous the connection.
And while the potential risk felt frightening and I was hyper-vigilant to what might happen, the event was uplifting, genuinely life affirming, and importantly, without incident. Just as any women’s event should be.
But my tenuous brush with the Orwellian practices employed by campaigners to silence women is nothing compared to the wider madness that is going on right now.
And with academics being threatened with the sack, pioneering feminists barred from speaking at women’s events, journalists no-platformed, politicians called Terfs and doughty equality campaigners accused of bigotry, there is something very rotten at the heart of this debate. And it will take a long time to heal.
If the Scottish Government believed its own rhetoric, that the move to self-ID for trans people was simply an administrative change that would affect only trans people, then they have seriously misjudged the harm that their naivety, and the ensuing wider debate, has inflicted.
The GRA consultation – the second now to be held – closes in just over a week’s time and the nature of the debate and the rancour around the deliberations has only got worse. More than half of Nicola Sturgeon’s ministerial team privately admit the proposed reforms are a complete mess, unlikely to stand up to legal scrutiny, never mind get through the committees or win a parliamentary vote. One told me that the hope was that the coronavirus would overtake events and any bill would be kicked into the long grass. Others have just said they “can’t go there” and refuse to even discuss it.
And in the wider SNP membership, there is the threat of revolt with a widescale loss of support and people already abandoning a party that they see as having been captured by a group of trans rights activists who appear to care more about gender identity than they do about independence.
The UK Government has already called a halt to its move towards self-ID, amid concerns about the medical interventions being made around children. And the Scottish Government needs to find a way to do the same.
But Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Cabinet Secretary responsible, has made clear that she believes that the GRA reform proposed by her government is the right thing to do and that the role of the consultation is simply to persuade those that do not already agree, to agree. That is not listening.
This policy has all the hallmarks of the ill-fated Named Person and also the Offensive Behaviour at Football Matches, and will be a political bloodbath for the SNP if it ever gets as far as the floor of the parliamentary chamber.
Given everything else she is currently facing, Nicola Sturgeon will need to decide whether this is the hill worth dying on.