Celebrating 20 years since the end of Section 28 in the UK
This year marks 20 years since Section 28, the law that banned ‘promotion of homosexuality’ in the UK, was repealed. It was an attack on LGBTQ+ visibility, and millions of people across the UK are still feeling the effects of this today.
The theme for 2023 will celebrate this fact whilst acknowledging that there is still a lot of work to do to achieve equality, especially for our trans and non-binary siblings.
As a gay man, Pride Month is an important month for our CSR Manager, Reece Hobson Adams, as we celebrate the progress made, but more importantly reflect on how that progress was made.
In the series of communications that we’re going to share over Pride Month, we’ll celebrate, recognise the challenges still faced by the LGBTQ+ community nationally and globally, and give hope for the future.
Here, Reece discusses his experience and how the landscape has evolved over the past 35 years since the introduction of Section 28.
Q: How did section 28 affect you and others?
A: Like most young boys who were gay, bullying in school was an inevitable consequence of being our true selves. Whilst I’m lucky to say that I wasn’t bullied as much as others at the time, and those who I’ve spoken about it since, it still had a profound impact on me.
A lot of us never had teachers speak to us about it, and since we became adults, we understood why. Section 28, was a law passed in 1988 by the conservative government that stopped councils and schools “promoting the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.”
Teachers who are there to support children and protect them from bullies at school, were not able to step in and tell young gay children that they were exactly who they needed to be.
The lack of support from teachers and representation of gay people made a lot of young gay people believe that being gay was something to be ashamed of. Something that a lot of people still carry today.
Whilst I no longer have that shame, it took me far too long to rid myself of it.
Q: What has changed in the UK in the last 20 years?
A: The proportion of the British public who say they approve of same-sex partnerships has soared over the past 30 years. 86% of the UK agreed that same sex relationships should be accepted by society, according to a 2019 Pew Research Centre poll.
Compared to 1987, the year before Section 28 was enacted, which according to the British Social Attitudes Survey, 75% of the population said that homosexual activity was “always or mostly wrong”.
Changes in the law brought about social liberalisation has enabled a generation of young people to grow up in the knowledge and support from their teachers, knowing that they are exactly who they’re meant to be.
Programmes in RSE, delivered in an age-appropriate way have allowed children to see that people and families are not all the same, and come in different shapes/sizes/etc. This is not just specific to a child having two dads for instance, but having one parent, multi-racial families, believing in a God or different Gods. This is vital as society in the UK in 2023 is very different and this should be celebrated.
Q: What issues do you feel the LGBTQ+ community are facing today?
A: Whilst there has been a lot of progress for same-sex couples and relationships, unfortunately a minority within the LGBTQ+ community is currently under attack, and that is our trans and non-binary siblings.
Unfortunately, transgender, non-binary people and gender fluid people for such a small demographic, bare the biggest brunt of hate crime with a 55% rise from 2021 to 2022.
It’s also important to reference the hostile environment for trans people in the UK.
To be a trans person (transgender, non-binary or gender queer) is to be debated, questioned and made to feel exhausted, almost on a daily basis.
In November 2020, a study by the The Fenway Institute and Brown University asked 545 participants about their experiences of anti-trans messaging and their mental health. The research, published in the LGBT Health journal, found that 97.6 per cent of participants reported seeing negative depictions of transgender people in the media in the past 12 months – 93.9 per cent seeing anti-trans coverage in print, 93.8 per cent on television and 83.1 per cent in advertising.
Q: What is your hope for LGBTQ+ community in the UK in the next 20 years?
A: In an ideal world, every country or territory in the next 20 years will have no anti-LGBTQ+ laws, allow same-sex marriage and trans people to self-identify with all the legal protections afforded.
However, and unfortunately, I need to be realistic. I don’t think this will happen in 50 years, or even the next 100 years. It will be slow progress at best, however slow progress is still progress.
As a minimum in the U.K, I would like to see the anti-trans narrative in the media go away, so that trans people can thrive and live their lives with respect, dignity, and happiness.
I’m also looking forward to more generations of young LGBTQ+ children growing up with representation of themselves and support from their teachers/others to show them that living their truth and being themselves is absolutely the right thing to do.