Updated: Mar 4, 2019
Throughout history, the establishment in the UK has been severely challenged on the topic of LGBT+ education.
Many throughout British History have had to face ridicule, discrimination and endless hate due to an uneducated populace on matters of sexuality. Sexual education has been for the last few decades a topic of controversy, following the revision of the National Curriculum in 1999, replacing the Circular 5/94 on guide lines for the educational discussion on sex in schools. But LGBT education has still been an issue amongst many on both sides of the political spectrum, with the biggest impact to hinder the movement for . LGBT education being Section 28.
But what exactly does Section 28 mean in this situation?
Section 28, part of the Local Government Act 1988 which was enacted on 24th May, established that local authorities may not:
Intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.
Prior to it’s setup, as suggested by lgbthistorymonth.org, the then Conservative MP Jill Knight, now Baronesss Knight of Collingtree, who introduced this specific section to the Act cited her reason for it as:
“Why did I bother to go on with it and run such a dangerous gauntlet? I was then Chairman of the Child and Family Protection Group. I was contacted by parents who strongly objected to their children at school being encouraged into homosexuality and being taught that a normal family with mummy and daddy was outdated”
“There was The Playbook for Kids about Sex in which brightly coloured pictures of little stick men showed all about homosexuality and how it was done. That book was for children as young as five. I should be surprised if anybody supports that.”
Jill Knight, Conservative MP
This section lead to many within the LGBT+ community to turn inwards, with many young people recieving the sharp end of this Act, resulting in internalised homophobia, increased homophobic attacks, as However, Section 28 of the Act had no criminal prosecution punishments attached which should of removed logical fears behind it, but in this instance did the opposite.
(For more information into Section 28, check the google document below for more extensive research into the topic)
Because most educational institutions were aware of it being *illegal* against state law, there was still state-wide hesitation from teachers and intellectuals in public and private schools to educate those aged 12–17 on issues of the LGBT+ community, same sexual relationships and same-sex marriage. In an interview with Dave Vinney from Birmingham LGBT, he explained the effects of Section 28 perfectly, stating that:
You still have teachers who today are too afraid to even mention (LGBT) sexuality in the classroom, because for some reason they still think Section 28 exists, or they still think they can be sent to prison — No one ever was… Just one of those pieces of legislation that did what it has to do and that was put fear into people
Dave Vinney, Birmingham LGBT
It was the fear of non-existent repercussions, that to this day has made many teachers still sub-conciously fearful for their jobs because of an Act which damaged the sexual education of many, myself included. As Dave continued in the interview, he went on to explain how the newely elected Labour Government between 1999–2000 went on to repeal the Act, only successfully repealing it firstly in Scotland on the 21st June 2000, and later for the whole of UK on 18th November 2003.
With such extensive damage done to the education of sexuality, specifically towards those of the previous, current and future generations, how can we as individuals repair the damage made by Section 28? Well one individual is doing so through the power of social media and new media platforms, like YouTube.
Olly Pike, also known as Pop ’N’ on the popular video streaming and uploading site YouTube, was previously a professional actor/dancer before turning to YouTube where he now produces content as an LGBT+ & Equality Educational resource for children, parents and teachers. When asked what inspired him to turn from the acting arts to LGBT Education he stated that:
I was inspired to create LGBT+ themed content due to my own experiences with homophobia. I often thought ‘who teaches people to be homophobic… or rather who isn’t teaching them not to be’… I‘ve always drawn people the way I have since I was quite young, A lot of my videos are fairytales, and I guess this is because I am a huge fan of them!… For many of us they are the first time we learn about good and evil, and ideas of emotion and perhaps even see characters that we feel represent us.
It is important to understand that as a community, the LGBT+ community is just one side of a bigger battle for the rights of every individual to be who they are. In todays modern society it is more important, now then ever, to learn the history of our predecessors and how we can improve upon it, and prevent it happening again. Olly points this out well in our interview, where he points out that:
It’s important to ‘usualise’ different types of people as young as possible so that we have no issues later on. Ideally when we teach about ‘mummy & daddy’ we should be teaching about ‘mummy & mummy’ and a whole group of family diversity representations… Without education like this, we are putting young LGBT+ people at risk of mental health issues. It’s considered best practice to cover these issues and be inclusive.
Whether or not you support LGBTQ+ people and their daily fight for equal rights to life, it is important that we do not ignore their struggle throughout history and continue to better our own education of the community.