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Life after Section 28: a cautionary tale

By Avery Hennings

The start of February marked the beginning of LGBT History month. A time of year to reflect on the victories that have been worn by the blood, sweat and tears of the wonderful queer people who have fought so passionately for our rights in the past. As well as those who are fighting to make sure we keep them.

Part of the work of the Diversity & Inclusion team (more to come on this one) at Omobono is making a commitment to help raise awareness of the issues being faced by the LGBTQ+ community, within the agency, but we would really like to share this with you, our readers as well.

2020 marks 20 years since Section 28 was put in the bin

A clause of the Local Government Act of 1988 introduced by Margaret Thatcher, Section 28 outright banned the promotion of homosexuality by local authorities and schools.

Teacher’s were no longer even allowed to discuss the possibility of same-sex relationships in their classrooms, and local libraries weren’t even allowed to stock literature or media that had any queer characters portrayed within them. It was state sponsored censorship of any positive representation of our way of life. It is one of the most hated and hateful pieces of legislation in Britain in recent history. 

The clause was brought into law during the AIDs epidemic of the 1980s, a time at which the LGBT community was already being hurt over and over again. It was seen as “quick-win” by right-wing conservatives to curry favour with the 75% of the British public who considered homosexuality to be wrong.

The fight against Section 28 brought the whole community together. Thousands marched against it, people abseiled down the House of Lords, and there were raids by protestors on the BBC studios. Our entire community was screaming for equality, the basic freedom to love who we love without persecution.

But they didn’t listen, they went ahead and did it anyway.


Are things starting to go backwards?

I am very happy to say that we are no longer living in a time where Section 28 is a thing, and public opinion has changed a lot since then.

According to a survey in 2016, over 60% of the British public reported that they thought there was nothing wrong with same-sex relationships. Sounds a lot better, doesn’t it? But that is still over 30% of the public that thinks that there’s something not ok with same-sex attraction. The fight of the queer community is still so very far from being over. If anything, the fight is getting harder. Like in the 80s, the harder we push for equality and recognition the harder the world pushes back against us.

The British Social Attitudes Survey in 2018 showed the first downturn in the acceptance of same-sex relationships since the 1980s. That’s really scary to me. As we gain more rights and recognition and the spectrum of ways of being and loving become more commonplace. The more visible of a target we are for hatred.

Take the rise in the recognition & acceptance of the Trans community in recent years. Trans people have never had more representation or acceptance from the general public. But they also have never faced this amount of hate. In 2019, there were over 2,300 hate crimes towards Transgender people in England and Wales, an increase of 37% on the previous year. 2019 saw the birth of the LGB Alliance (find out more about that in my article here), a group claiming to be not anti-T but instead pro-LGB. Instead, they are acting as a rallying flag for all the worst parts of anti-T sentiment in the UK and on the internet.


2020 hasn’t exactly started great

At 11pm on January 31st, the bell rang on the UK’s time within the European Union and we entered the transition period phase of Brexit. This is sad enough on its own. But what you might not realise is that Brexit is also potentially catastrophic for the LGBTQ+ community in the UK.

The laws and countries of the European Union have been instrumental in the formation of our LGBTQ+ rights policy until now. You can see plenty of examples of that here. But the UK government no longer needs to follow the guiding principles of the European Union, they can act alone now. And given who is in power in the UK at the moment, that’s really bloody scary.


So what should you do this LGBT History month?

There’s so much you can do to get involved this month. There are over 1500 events taking place in the UK to mark the occasion. Looking to find something near you? Check out the calendar of events here.

If going to an event isn’t your thing, even just trying to educate yourself is a good way to celebrate – pick a topic that you wish you knew a bit more about.

There’s a wealth of amazing reading material out there – I’m currently attempting to read like 5 books at the same time though, so maybe don’t try to do that.

Why should you do this you might ask? If we don’t learn from our past, we are at risk of repeating those mistakes in our future. And no one wants something like Section 28 back.

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