Today marks the 30th anniversary of Section 28.
30 years ago today, a clause was enacted to ensure that any local authority across the whole of England, Wales and Scotland “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”
Ruth Hunt, Chief Executive of Stonewall, told us that “teachers were effectively stopped from talking about same-sex relationships and properly supporting pupils who may have been questioning their sexuality.” This resulted in a damaging and uncertain era for LGBTQ+ people, who not only had limited resources to help them through the understanding of their sexuality, but also in meeting other like-minded individuals and having the support from friends and family.
The Local Government Act 1988, of which Section 28 was included within, eventually saw the rise in gay rights groups who were determined to fight the discrimination of the Act. These included the Schools Out! and Gay Teachers Association, who helped teachers fight homophobia within schools despite the legislation, and Stonewall, now one of the largest LGBTQ+ rights organisations in Europe.
Founded in 1989, Stonewall’s original intent was to put the case for equality on the mainstream political agenda in order to prevent attacks on the LGBTQ+ community.
Stonewall’s Ruth Hunt shares a bit more about Section 28 and the progress made since:
Section 28 ushered in a dark era for LGBT people and the struggle to repeal it took years. But even though Section 28 is no longer law, its damaging impact still lives on in schools across Britain. Stonewall’s 2017 research shows two in five LGBT students (40 per cent) are still never taught anything about LGBT issues at schools.
However, whilst Section 28 is gone (it was repealed in Scotland in 2000, whilst England and Wales followed in 2003), there is still plenty of action still needed to be fought for: namely for the transgender community. Ruth Hunt added that “LGBT young people across Britain still face bullying and discrimination simply because of who they are.
Everyone deserves to grow up in a world where they are not afraid to be themselves and are supported to reach their full potential.”
A recent article in the Guardian saw some of the Section 28 protesters recount their experiences, with Michael Cashman stating that “the fact that we lost meant we had to make sure another section 28 didn’t happen again. Maybe if we had won, we would have all sat back, glowed, then lived in inequality for decades after,” whilst others recounted being arrested for protesting.
An exhibition in Manchester will see the city’s infamous 1988 protest march, which featured Cashman and Ian McKellen in the rally, recreated thirty years on in a new photograph. Tickets to the event are free, but must be booked online. For tickets to tonight’s event, visit Contact Theatre.
Find out how you can come out in support of LGBTQ+ rights by helping Stonewall in the fight for equality here.