Oak, Ken, Melissa, and Rebecca F reflect on the legacies of Section 28.



The legacy of Section 28…? I think people died because of Section 28. I think people died of AIDS because of Section 28. I think people died because they put themselves in unsafe situations or died by suicide as the result of Section 28.

I think Section 28 taught us that people in power are going to use their power against us. Certainly, it taught me that I’m not safe in the classroom. That anyone with any power over me will attempt to use that. That schools aren’t safe places. It’s made it really hard for me to send my children to school, because school is a place where adults are abusive to you. And it’s an environment where they are empowered to be abusive to you and that you have no defence over that. And that’s a really, really tricky thing when you’ve got your own children and you have to send them to school because apparently they’re supposed to be educated.

It has made me more determined to bring up my kids in a different way. They do have an unalienable right to be gay, and an unalienable right to be trans, and they know it. And then, societally, some of my friends, they do a lot of LGBT youth work. And I think part of the reason is just because we can. And it’s like, right, ok, we’re going to try and make this less bad. And we know how to make it less bad because we know what it looks like when it’s bad. And the way that you make it less bad is that you send some people into schools, and you talk to the young people, and you tell them that queer people exist. You tell them that queer people have always existed. You tell them that it’s fine. And you listen to them. And you empower the adults to do the same thing. 



The legacy is probably in people of my generation, where we’re still having mental health problems because of not being able to be ourselves all our lives. I think there is, sadly, a reality that once you’ve had legislation in place, even if it’s removed, there’s a chance that it can come back. I mean, look to America at the moment. And we’re, in many ways, the UK is a mirror of what happens over there, just on a delay. So I think if anything, at the moment, the legacy is to remind people to be on their guard, that things don’t slide back, and that can happen, sadly.



The biggest effect was me not being able to actually figure out that I’m transgender. That lack of information meant that I was unable to put my experiences into any context, and give me an understanding that what I needed was actually possible, what my life could have been.

That childhood that I experienced instead was pretty awful. I had quite extreme gender dysphoria between 10 and 11, with the onset of puberty. I almost took my life at that age. And part of that was because I did not understand what was going on with me. I was horrified at what was going on with me. I thought I was broken, I thought I was, well, all horrible, horrible things. And if I had been told that it was a thing that you could do and be, and there was a possibility, then that would have saved me an awful lot of pain. And that’s the biggest impact that, I would say, that lack of information had.

Rebecca F


So, there’s two forms of legacy, I think. One of which is a kind of bully’s playbook, if you like, a kind of bigot’s and bully’s playbook, which is: how do you, while legislating something that looks quite vague – I mean, that takes advantage of its vagueness, and its breadth. So there was no definition of what promotion meant. The Tories would never define it. There were no – I think there was maybe one prosecution that attempted to be brought or some kind of legal action that was attempted to be bought under Section 28. But nonetheless it did the job. It did the job in terms of scaring people and squashing debate and making it really hard for schools to be inclusive and for them to be worried about what was in their libraries and so on.

And that is a lesson that has been well learnt, and not just with us but in the US, in terms of – that you don’t actually have to get to the stage of prosecutions and can just frighten people in a very broad kind of way and try and sort of leverage particular points of vulnerability in all sorts of contexts.

So on the one hand, there’s a kind of a playbook, which is being looked at. On the other hand, there’s a legacy of social movement. We are in a position where the, whatever it’s called, social attitude surveys are very, very different than they were, which the movement around Section 28 was part of. I mean it’s much more complicated than that, there’s all sorts of things going on. But that is part of the story.

So there’s a kind of double legacy. There’s a legacy of the legislation and its project, and there’s a legacy of the opposition to it.