THE DEVASTATING LEGACY OF SECTION 28
In May 1988, Margaret Thatcher and her Conservative government issued Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988, which would soon become one of the most damaging amendments against the queer community and leave a devasting impact that is still present today. The amendment made it illegal for teachers to promote homosexuality in schools, local councils were forbidden from funding any material depicting same-sex relationships and LGBT youth groups were forced to close. This therefore made for a very isolating environment for young LGBT people as there were no resources for them to access and make sense of their sexual identity.
Thankfully, due to charities such as the LGBT Switchboard, which was a telephone service that dealt with the queries of the LGBT community and gave according advice, young LGBT people could be taught about same-sex relationships and sexual health. Which would have been vital during the late 80s and early 90s in the midst of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. However, why should it have been left to the community to educate thousands of young questioning or openly queer children about sex and relationships? When their straight peers were receiving an education depicting opposite sex and relationships.
“Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay” Thatcher stated.
Stemming from this, many teachers would go as far to not even mention the words homosexuality, queer or gay, in conversation, in fear of being accused of promoting homosexuality. This lack of dialogue therefore left many openly queer or questioning children to feel, as Thatcher inferred, alienated from society.
In the midst of the HIV/AIDS pandemic that cut through the queer community, this lack of conversation concerning LBGT sexual health, let alone, same-sex relationships, was incredibly damaging on young openly queer or questioning people. During this devasting period, teaching young LGBT people about LGBT sexual health and same-sex relationships, could have led to the HIV/AIDS pandemic being less catastrophic to the community, and introduced an awareness of safe LGBT sex and also help diminish the stigmatisation of the pandemic. Even in present times, there is a complete lack of LGBT sexual health education in the school curriculum, which leaves many of today’s generation of young LGBT people in a similar position of their forbearers. In turn, many young LGBT people have to teach themselves LGBT sexual health.
In the past few years, many gay men have come forward about their experiences of being groomed through Grindr. Equally, there are countless news stories of young gay men coming forward about sexual assault stemming from Grindr, many of these events taking place during their adolescent years. Therefore, teaching these children about queer sexual health would reduce this from happening. Especially, during fundament years of development, sexual assault and trauma during this period can leave incredibly damaging impacts upon mental health.
In 2019, The Guardian stated how “Nearly seven in 10 lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people have been sexually harassed at work, according to research for the Trades Union Congress revealing a ‘hidden epidemic’”. It could be strongly contested that if all children were taught LGBT sexual health then this staggering figure would be lowered. In the fight for equality, why is queer sexual health being missed off if the curriculum, leaving our young queer generation fending for themselves and alienating them. In many ways nothing has changed since the days of Thatcher.
Bearing this in mind, though never explicitly voting for or against same-sex marriage, our current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has been publicly homophobic during his career as a journalist. Referring to gay men as “tank-topped bumboys” and also stated how “Labour’s appalling agenda” was “encouraging the teaching of homosexuality in schools”. Furthermore, many members of the Conservative parliament are openly homophobic and vote against gay rights. For example, Priti Patel voted against same sex marriage, Esther McVey wanted to reimplement Section 28 in 2019 and Jacob Rees-Mogg has been publicly homophobic and consistently voted against gay rights and same-sex marriage.
As recent as 2019, Parkfield School is Birmingham was pressured by the government to end LGBT lessons in their school. It was this event that inspired Esther McVey to state how Section 28 should be implemented back into education stating how “parents know best for their children”. Though, she faced criticism from fellow Tories, such as Justine Greening, who was the first openly gay female cabinet minister, who tweeted how “you can’t pick and choose on human rights and equality” and how “Children should understand a modern and diverse Britain they’re growing up in.” It is worrying that in 2019, a member of the ruling party would have such views and go as far as wanting to reinstate such a devasting amendment back into a curriculum, that still doesn’t cater for young LGBT people.
Section 28 was an example of institutional homophobia and was incredibly damaging for the queer community that lived through it. However, its legacy is still stained on society, and still impacting the queer community. Furthermore, a lack of LGBT sexual health education within schools is reminiscent of Section 28 and continues to discriminate and alienate young LGBT people. Arguably, in a fight for equality, why should the inclusion of LGBT sexual health be redundant from the curriculum, as its redundancy has major impacts of the lives of young LGBT people. As homosexuality has now almost been decriminalised for 55 years, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic cured, why it is still that the younger LGBT community are still not receiving vital education about same-sex relationships and LGBT sexual health?