Section 28 amended the Local Government Act in 1986. It was repealed in England in 2003. Section 28 pushed back learning, understanding and social knowledge about diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity, and, as a result, we have adults with little or no knowledge of what it means to live in socially-diverse environments where the human rights of all are respected. Furthermore we have people who have suffered from the emotional damage caused by a denial of their identity and the mental health of our LGBTQ+ community continues to be affected by this.
When Section 28 was introduced by Jill Knight MP, it was supported by the major religious groups and institutions. What work have political representatives, religious institutions and allies done to address oppression and discrimination towards others when it comes to gender and sexual diversity?
Section 28 was introduced because it was felt that teaching about sexual diversity and gender diversity would ‘promote homosexuality’ and ‘indoctrinate vulnerable people’. It was introduced with no evidence backing up the claim even though for the rest of the educational curriculum in all settings there has to be at least some evidence to show efficacy.
Section 28 had wide-spread consequences in creating a climate of fear, persecution, shame and prejudice. It also damaged the growth of inclusive cultures in different organisations. Those who supported healthy, honest education were uncertain if they were going to be penalised for trying to do their jobs. Those who were LGBTQ+ in schools, colleges, workplaces were stigmatised, forced to be closeted and left feeling that they were not valued or that their experiences were real and healthy. This contributed to higher levels of mental health problems, substance abuse and suicide – we can still see this in LGBTQ+ communities now, particularly those who come through different healthcare settings.
The current climate of antagonism towards educating our children, workforce and employers about LGBTQ+ lives is a fall-out from Section 28. We have a lot of work to do to educate people about what human rights means for everyone, and how belonging to society means including people who are different from yourself and learning about diversity.
Let us also not forget that all LGBTQ+ identities are intersectional. By effectively shutting down discourse and knowledge sources with Section 28, we also now have a lack of understanding that LGBTQ+ people may also be disabled, parents, people of colour, in older age groups, from different economic backgrounds, from different countries, with different religions or beliefs. Many LGBTQ+ people from religious communities have been excluded from sources of support for so long it has caused real damage to their lives. It has also made it difficult when delivering healthcare to these groups because of real fear of disclosure.
For those who continue to oppose gender and sexual diversity education (in all settings) and knowledge of diverse communities, it is worth remembering that the UN Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 upholds the following core values, and the UK is a signatory of the Declaration:
- We are all born equal in dignity and rights
- We have a right to freedom of opinion and expression (as long as it does not curb that of others).
- Freedom from discrimination.
- All are equal before the law and entitled to equal protection of the law.
- Freedom from interference with privacy, family, home and correspondence, and attacks to reputation.
- Right to marriage and family.
- Right to education; promote understanding and tolerance.
BSUH NHS Trust runs gender and sexual diversity workshops for all staff that request it. This is to improve the level of knowledge of our staff so we can deliver fair care and put our patient needs first. Contact us for details.