24 May 1988; Section 28


What impact do laws against homosexuality have on those “too young to understand”? It’s often something none of us thinks about.

That is not sex, he said. The teacher had just shown a series of sex education videos and asked us what we thought. I’d raised my hand and said they were good but did not mention gay sex. I was 11.

That is not sex, he said. It was 1988, the year a new law was enacted that forbade local authorities and teachers from “promoting homosexuality”. Today is exactly 30 years since that law (which was not repealed until 2003) came into effect. It was so vague as to muzzle everyone working in schools from mentioning gay people. It was the height of the AIDS epidemic.

In the confusion and furore surrounding Section 28 (often called Clause 28) of the Local Government Act 1988, teachers – those we entrust to prepare the young for the world – became mute through fear of contravening it. Pupils like me did not know at the time that teachers had been prohibited from talking about homosexuality, because they had been prohibited from talking about homosexuality.

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