During the 1980s, some local councils in Britain tried to ensure positive gay representation in schools.
Some quarters of the national press called such councils “stupid” and printed horror stories about gays and HIV/AIDS. In 1987, A survey showed that 64% of the British public thought homosexuality was always wrong. The legislative response was section 28, which stated that local authorities must not “willfully promote homosexuality”.
Passed in 1988, the law was largely symbolic, sending a message to LGBTQ+ people that they were not welcome. As a result of Section 28, many teachers did not know how to deal with homophobic bullying in schools, let alone appropriate sex education, so the law did untold damage to the development of thousands of people who grew up under it.
But people didn’t just sit back and wait for a change in the law. Opposition to Section 28 has taken many forms, from argumentative arguments on live radio to mass protests.
When studying Art chapter 28 historyI was struck by the fact that the British national character is reflected in many of the protests. Take, for example, January 1988 debate between actor Ian McKellen and Peregrine Worsthorne (editor of the Sunday Telegraph). A few weeks earlier, Worsthorne had written a column in which he spoke of a “brazen and impertinent homosexual cult”, many of whose members were “positively flaunting their inappropriate sexual tastes”. The debate was memorable for McKellen’s public speaking came out as gay. But what makes this even more interesting is how well-mannered McKellen and Worsthorne are with each other, despite their obvious difference of opinion and the potential for a shouting match.
Sangfroid was also on the air on May 23, 1988, the day before Section 28 became law. A group of young women, concerned about the lack of news coverage, invaded the BBC’s Six O’clock News live. They infiltrated the building by breaking into the studio floor at the start of the program. The film crew was shocked, and the director shouted: “Damn, we have crazy people in the studio, get them out! Provide security quickly!’
However, there was no way back, so the presenters had to puzzle. Director Nicholas Witchell sat on one of the protesters off-screen, covering her mouth with his hand. Meanwhile, presenter Sue Lawley read the headlines, apologizing to viewers: “If you’re hearing quite a lot of noise in the studio at the moment. I’m afraid that, er, we’ve been invaded by some people who we hope to remove soon.’ The slightly inappropriate use of “faster” makes this a quintessentially British expression – conveying a carefree atmosphere of isolation when everything around you is falling apart.
Even the protesters displayed their perfect manners during the invasion, with one saying “thank you very much” as her handcuffs were removed. One protester expressed dismay at Wychell’s response to the invasion, saying in an interview: “I couldn’t believe what he was saying, especially someone from the BBC. It seemed so out of the ordinary and, in my opinion, so unnecessary.”
Protest with pizza
Such incursions caused a characteristic British crazy humor that resembled Continue movie series. Another case of direct action against section 28 took place in the House of Lords on 2 February 1988. It was characterized by a little trickery, a lot of luck and a huge amount of audacity. A group of women tied clotheslines around their waists – one of these makeshift ropes even fell to the ground as they lined up for safety, but no one noticed. After watching the Lords hold a key vote on Chapter 28, they tied the ropes to the balcony and descended them to the floor.
As shocked lords and ladies looked on, the women struggled with the officers, with one almost losing her trousers. During the argument, the two women simply left the building, and those who did not flee were treated as civilly as possible. They were placed in a cell under Big Ben for several hours, given tea and coffee and allowed to watch television, before being released without charge. The arresting officer even gave them a tour of the cell where suffragist Emily Pankhurst was held.
Section 28 was eventually repealed in 2003 and is seen as a blot on British political history. However, it should also be a testament to the indefatigable spirit of those campaigners who deserve to be remembered for their calm, inventive and often hilarious ways of protesting an unjust law.
This article is reprinted from Conversation under a Creative Commons license. To read original article.
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LGBT History Month: The bold, very British resistance to Section 28