The appearance of JK Rowling at a conference held to discuss violence and discrimination faced by women, earlier this month, was eclipsed by her less than spellbinding comments afterwards.

After describing a trans activist with a megaphone – shouting “f*** you” at delegates and speakers as they entered the Glasgow venue – as a “prick”, she wondered aloud if he was “genuinely thick”.

A few days after the conference, organised by the feminist group FiLia, the Harry Potter author said in another social media post that she would “happily” spend two years in prison for addressing or referring to someone by the wrong gender.

The comment was in response to a report in the Mail on Sunday, which suggested that hypothetical law changes under a future Labour government, could result in misgendering being treated as an aggravated offence, carrying a sentence of up to two years.

Anyone being abused by a sub-adolescent zealot through a megaphone may well be entitled to call him a prick, and much else besides. But JK Rowling is not anyone – her words carry weight and an expectation of maturity and balance – and one can’t help wondering, if she has been reduced to responding to the kind of disingenuous nonsense regularly spouted by the Mail on Sunday against Labour, that she has gone fully tribal on the trans issue.

The debate appears to have a sinister power to drain otherwise rational and measured individuals of their perspective and, in some cases, a lot more.

Graham Linehan, the Irish comedy writer responsible for Father Ted and The IT Crowd, saw his career and marriage destroyed by what started out as a few tweets about gender ideology, but which turned into an obsession.

Linehan’s “cancellation” became complete this summer when two venues at the Edinburgh Fringe refused to allow him to perform because his belief, that men and women can’t change sex and, therefore, that trans women are not literally men, did not “align” with their values.

He was reduced to performing on the pavement outside the Scottish Parliament, tearfully describing to passers-by the downturn his life has taken since he decided to engage in the debate.

Linehan’s position had long since descended into tribalism – according to writer and friend Hadley Freeman, he often “goes after” feminist writers whom he deems insufficiently gender critical.

His “blunt” tactics have included tweeting photos of trans women he has found on lesbian dating sites, and he described actor David Tennant as a groomer after he wore a T-shirt expressing support for trans children.

Much of the tribalism in Scotland has coalesced around the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Bill – which would allow young people as young as 16 to change legal sex without a medical diagnosis of gender dysphoria – championed by the SNP and its cheerleaders in the Scottish Greens.

Green councillors Holly Bruce and Elaine Gallagher were among the demonstrators, standing alongside the “prick” with the megaphone outside the FiLia conference.

The SNP is nothing if not tribal, and its refusal to back down after the bill, opposed by around two thirds of Scots, was denied royal assent by the UK Government, contributes to the notion that this is a fight it’s not prepared to lose.

For the past 30 years the party has defined itself through its opposition to the Conservatives. It also has a visceral antipathy to Scottish Labour, which supported the passage of the bill through the Scottish Parliament, but then cut the SNP loose in a subsequent debate at Westminster.

There’s an impression that, for First Minister Humza Yusaf – who, let us not forget, was the continuity candidate to his predecessor and the bill’s champion, Nicola Sturgeon – the fight is personal, and not because he has a historic commitment to supporting trans rights.

Mr Yousaf is now seeking a judicial review of the UK Government’s decision at the Court of Session, at a time when his party is scrapping with Scottish Labour for every vote it can muster.

There’s little chance of him succeeding in having the decision overturned – quite the reverse as it will be judged, not on the merits of the bill, but on the UK Government’s sovereign right to the final say on legislation originating in any of the country’s devolved institutions.

This is likely to leave the legislation hanging in zombie form – dead for all practical reasons, but still alive in the minds of delegates at feminist conferences and megaphone-wielding demonstrators outside, until it is either dropped or revised in another form in manifestos ahead of the next Holyrood election.

Scotland is a country where the taking of sides is a national obligation. If you’re a football supporter, a churchgoer, a voter or even a passport holder, the choices you make define you. But even against that backdrop, the pressure to take a position on the trans issue has been irresistible.

Outsiders may well find it odd that a nation that was a beacon of the Enlightenment has become one in which you can’t say that what distinguishes men from women is their respective sex organs, without being harassed by a baying mob.

There is a circular, impregnable logic to a position which asserts there is literally no difference between trans and biological women, that has contributed to making the issue so unpleasantly adversarial.

To those who hold this position, I always ask the same question. If you and your partner were unable to conceive and you made a choice to pay a surrogate, would you be prepared to hand your money to a trans woman? If not, why not?

I have witnessed at first hand the impact of tribalism, while giving communications advice to an organisation that provides support to female victims of violent partners.

One of its red lines is that its safe spaces should be restricted to biological women – a position given added currency after Isla Bryson, a transgender woman found guilty of raping two women before transitioning, was moved from Scotland’s all-female Cornton Vale prison to a male facility following an intervention by then First Minister Sturgeon earlier this year.

The organisation feels unable to articulate such a policy publicly, because it fears for the physical safety of its staff and service users, who include some of the most vulnerable souls in society.

It didn’t agree with many aspects of the Gender Recognition Bill but felt wary about voicing its opposition, because it worried that its Scottish Government funding could be compromised if it wasn’t seen to be “on side”.

The only way through the trans debate is through discussion, tolerance and compromise and everyone involved – including JK Rowling – has a duty to take a step back and calm down.