Today marks the anniversary of Section 28 coming into being in 1988. For anyone who doesn’t remember, this was the legal amendment preventing local authorities from doing anything that could be perceived as ‘promoting’ homosexuality. It had far-reaching effects. It guided public opinion. It affected both private and public discourse. At its core was the intimation that homosexuality was contagious and that children needed to be protected from hearing anything about it that wasn’t reproving, hostile and censorious. Also at its core was the message that gay people were all paedophiles in waiting, getting ready to convert the nation’s children. If you were, like me, a gay teenager at the time, you would have read in the papers and heard on the television all sorts of messages at a time in life when you were at your most suggestible. I heard that I was going to grow up wicked, that what I was was wrong, that I would become someone from whom children needed protection. It was protracted mental torture, combined with gaslighting, making you think you were the wrong one. It took me years and years to realise that the reverse was true; it was the moral guardians who were the depraved ones, fixated with sex, obsessed and simultaneously repulsed by it, and intent on punishing others for their own obsessions. They ensured that an entire generation of LGBT youth were unable to seek support or counsel. People will sometimes point to the fact that no one was prosecuted under Section 28 to make the case that it wasn’t harmful. Quite the reverse – no one was prosecuted under it because it was successful and adhered to.
To mark the anniversary, here I re-share three pieces that touch on my experiences of coping (or, rather, not coping) as a gay teenager.