Stop me if you’ve heard this one before

30 years ago today, Section 28 (Section 2A in Scotland) was introduced to ban the “promotion” of gay and lesbian “lifestyles” in schools to protect children from the entirely invented dangers of gay and lesbian people. It wasn’t repealed until 2003 in England and Wales, although Scotland canned it in 2001.

I was 15 when Section 28 was passed. It was an era of vicious anti-gay bullying, encouraged by vicious anti-gay propaganda in mainstream newspapers. AIDS was “the gay plague” and a book with two gay dads, “Jenny Lives With Eric and Martin” was denounced as “vile”, “perverted” and a threat to children by multiple newspapers.

Piers Morgan monetised homophobia by writing about “The Poofs Of Pop”, and The Sun’s headline about the first gay kiss on the soap opera EastEnders was “EASTBENDERS”. The accompanying story described “a homosexual love scene between yuppie poofs… when millions of children were watching.”

The barrage of bigotry had a terrible effect. Social Attitudes Surveys of the time saw anti-gay sentiment, already high, rise during this period: the percentage of people who believed same-sex activity was “always or mostly wrong” was nearly 80% in both the US and the UK.

National newspapers frequently ran homophobic front page stories. The “Keep the clause” anti-repeal campaign was particularly vicious.

The period leading up to the repeal of Section 28/Clause 2A was particularly unpleasant in Scotland, with billboards and newspaper articles urging us to keep the clause to protect our children.

Won’t somebody think of the children?
We’re not homophobic. We just have genuine concerns.

History repeats.

Where Richard Littlejohn used to write about “the government’s determination to lower the age at which schoolboys can be sodomised”; he now rails against the supposed evils of trans people.

Many other columnists who once railed against gay people now battle “Transgenderism” and the “sinister transgender agenda”.

Innocuous kids’ books such as “Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity?” have been slammed by the likes of the Mail on Sunday, Lord Tebbit and Sarah Vine (“We are threatening the sanity of – and yes I’m going to say it – normal children”).

Piers Morgan monetises transphobia on TV.

Social attitudes surveys show that after years of gradual improvements, anti-LGBT sentiment is on the rise.

History is supposed to be a warning, not a how-to guide.


The ever-excellent Another Angry Woman is thinking what I’m thinking. And Stonewall’s Ruth Hunt draws parallels in The Independent.