DIVA looks back at the historic changes which have taken place over the last two decades 

BY ASH MANGANARO, IMAGE BY PEXELS

“This unnecessary clause only served to spread confusion and fear. It will now be consigned to where it belongs – onto the legal rubbish heap of hatred and bigotry.”

– quote reported by Ben Summerskill, the day section 28 was officially repealed, featured in Paul Baker’s Outrageous!

At DIVA, we’re celebrating 20 years since the abolishment of Section 28. This law was active in England, Scotland and Wales from 24 May 1988 until 18 November 2003. Whilst not directly implemented in Northern Ireland, religion has always played a major part in education there. 

Clause 28, as it was sometimes known, prohibited any mention of homosexuality in schools, with Margaret Thatcher’s Tory government utilising the age-old argument “protect our children” visibly within the Keep The Clause campaign. 

When I hear this phrase all I can think about are all the young queer people who were unable to talk to their teachers about insuppressible emotions and any mention of their identity was shone in a dark light, breeding into internalised homophobia. If you want an idea of this situation, I urge you to check out Georgia Oakley’s feature “Blue Jean” which explores the life of a lesbian P.E. teacher and her experiences with students, family, and friends just as Section 28 is being passed.

After a multitude of campaigning and votes in parliament, Scotland was the first to repeal the law in 2000 which is unsurprising since Scotland has been the most vocal around law amendment in favour of trans lives and proactively making steps in banning conversion therapy. 

However, it wasn’t until 2003 that section 28 was repealed in England and Wales. This followed the death of Baroness Young who vigorously campaigned to block the government from revoking the law. The eve before the repeal came into effect, Stonewall hosted a party entitled“Kiss Section 28 Goodbye” The festivity was attended by Exeter Labour MP Ben Bradshaw, EastEnders actor Michelle Collins, and co-founder of Bronski Beat Jimmy Somerville. 

Also in 2003 came protection within the Employment Equality Actprohibiting employers from “discriminating against employees on the grounds of sexual orientation, perceived sexual orientation, religion, belief or age”. 

20 years on since Section 28’s repeal there’s no doubt in any of the community’s minds we’ve had our highs and lows. In 2004 the Civil Partnerships Act was passed as well as the gender recognition act allowing trans people to FINALLY amend their legal gender. 

In 2014 the first same-sex marriage took place in England, Wales and Scotland. Six years later Northern Ireland followed suit…and then the pandemic hit so no one could get married.

In 2017 gay and bisexual men were automatically pardoned for sexual offences due to The Sexual Offences Act 1956, literally criminalising them for not just having sex but also “kissing, holding hands, going to LGBT venues or even chatting up other men”. 

A final historic moment in LGBTQIA history took place on 1 September 2020 when relationships and sex education became “compulsory in all state-funded secondary schools”. While the legislation was introduced so all students would be able to learn about LGBTQIA relationships we’re painfully aware that this is not always the case, or not regulated as much as it should be. 

While worldwide our rights are being challenged daily, with Sir Ian McKellen fearing a possible version of Section 28 returning, particularly surrounding discussions around gender, however, the changes he’s witnessed when visiting schools have given him hope.

DIVA magazine will celebrate 30 years in print in 2024. If you like what we do, then get behind LGBTQIA media and keep us going for another generation. Your support is invaluable. 

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