When a rainbow invokes outrage it’s a sign Scotland is slipping backwards - Laura Waddell

To see a snapshot of rising hostility towards LGBT Scots, look at the reactions to the NHS Scotland Pride Badge, a rainbow pin designed to be worn voluntarily by “health care staff who have taken the pledge to show support for LGBT+ communities.”

The NHS pride pin has sparked controversy
The NHS pride pin has sparked controversy

It’s a small, simple thing designed to make patients comfortable, signalling solidarity and understanding, meant to reassure anyone anxious about how they’ll be received. It impacts absolutely no one else, and in fact, already existed in lanyard form. But bigots are kicking off about it, and their kneejerk opposition shows exactly why it’s a good idea.

For as long as hostility exists, shows of support will still be needed.

You might think staff of any organisation choosing to wear a Pride badge should, in this era of banks and supermarkets sending delegations to marches, be no more controversial than donning a daffodil for a cancer charity. Yet behind the commercial facade of acceptance, pushback is strong.

Let’s get to the crux of it. Feverish opposition to GRA reform has encouraged bigots and idiots to see conspiracy behind every rainbow flag. When they see it, they attack it. There’s a hateful online trope that support for the queer community is in conflict with others’ rights, just as some men paint feminism as a threat to their freedom, or how, throughout history, patriarchal communities have scapegoated marginalised groups by weaponising women’s victimhood as their cover for attacking minorities.


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This is catnip for a certain kind of man who wades in claiming to “support women”, by which they mean they’ve found a way to feel like a hero for sneering at LGBT visibility, at the same time speaking over women like me, and many others, who fully support trans rights. Queer is not a conspiracy and our rights are not a zero sum game.

In recent weeks, at least two prominent LGBT activists have been forced to leave their own homes over security concerns. This is Scotland in 2021. It’s shocking. But where is the media? At best stuck in ‘both sides’ mode, pushing the narrative minority outfits are ‘as bad’ as obsessive detractors, some in high places. Hostility to gay Scotland was always the inevitable outcome of Scottish politicians winding up online warrior party fringes about the GRA, setting them loose with the idea there’s something sinister going on.

Some even brandish Section 28 protest credentials, but they’re mistaken if they think doing the decent thing then is a ticket to punch down now. LGBT friendly bookshops, libraries, charities, educational and women’s organisations have spent three years being harassed by bedfellows of the evangelical American right, all freaking out about the rainbow flag together. As a feminist, there is no cause in which I will ever ally myself with anti-abortionists.

How sad and infuriating that the rainbow plastered everywhere to support NHS workers during Covid is being attacked now it stands once again for LGBT pride. When a rainbow invokes outrage it’s a sign Scotland is slipping backwards. In the midst of this grotesque moral panic, showing support for people to live authentically and visibly is more important than ever.


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