The spectre of Section 28
You may have heard today that a school has successfully destroyed plans for a new opera, Beached, written by Lee Hall of Billy Elliot fame.
Their claim is that the lead character being clearly homosexual is “inappropriate” for the 300 primary-age children taking part in the performance, and organizers Opera North have supported the school in this decision.
Regular readers of my blog (hello!) will probably agree with me that this is, of course, an obnoxious bigoted viewpoint that the school is perpetuating, but it got me thinking about the legality and, in particular, the ghost of Section 28.
Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 was a piece of Conservative-era legislation created in response to a bit of Daily Mail hatred about a book called Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin that was found in a school library in London. The legislation forbade state schools from “promoting the teaching […] of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.
This bottle of discriminatory vitriol stayed on the British law books for 15 years, even facing considerable defeat during the early years of the New Labour government at the turn of the century.
Overturning the legislation, however, merely allows schools to teach children that homosexuality is normal. It does not require them to do this. And, as evidenced by today’s events, it even allows schools to continue to kick up a fuss when kids are exposed to homosexuality. Individual councils are even free to draft their own local Section 28.
Do we really want kids growing up in an environment where normal, healthy sexual orientation is hidden from them or swept under the carpet like a dirty secret? Or, worse, having it deemed “inappropriate” in a big song and dance? What are those kids going to be like when they grow up and have to face the reality that some of their colleagues will be gay, some of their friends will be gay, they themselves might be gay?
It’s time we had an opposing legislation to Section 28 and we vanquish its spectre for good!