“An inalienable right to be gay?”

Deni and Peter remember the homophobic context which surrounded the introduction of Section 28 in the late 1980s.



I think Section 28 for me – my experience was, it was already happening. I think for me it was just that that was now almost like a stamp. It was a policy. It was something that was now enforced. And I think the difference for me was it just increased the fear. Not only the fear for me, but I was already around, through my sport, many, many PE teachers, who were absolutely, very certain that they couldn’t be their true authentic selves. They were absolutely having to hide who they were. Now, don’t get me wrong, I think that was happening anyway. But it was just almost like the confirmation that was needed. The unspoken became the spoken.



It was just the latest blow, it was just a culmination of all the other horrors of being a gay person at that time. So in a way, it felt sort of normal. It wasn’t like it came out of the blue, as, you know, oh my goodness now they’re turning on us, you know. It was something that – I mean if you were sort of growing up at that time where I did, and for most people I think, socially being gay meant ostracization. It meant loss of friendship, probably or possibly loss of family. I had a kind of religious upbringing which told me that I was going to hell. I had an education, a kind of biological education, about sexual reproduction, which said there is a normal way of doing things. We had, you know, legislation which said it’s fine to sack people for being gay. Just every aspect of life that you could think of was – you could be evicted, you could be sacked, anything, you know, all of this was fine, if people sort of discovered that you were gay. 

And then in among all of this, there was, of course, there was the AIDS crisis, which, you know, had been building up during the 1980s. So, you know, it was – it wasn’t out of the question to think, you know, I’m going to die quite soon. You know, maybe it wasn’t quite so articulated as that, I don’t know. I mean, these things just kind of infuse into who you are and how you think about the world. But you know, all of these things seemed possible. And of course, that just fanned the homophobia and the hate, etc. So in this background, in this context, the idea that there would be a government coming along and introducing legislation like, you know, Section 28, as it became, it was just part of that brutality. It was part of the whole atmosphere of coming out, which made a lot of gay people very frightened and kind of despairing of any kind of future.