Can I come out Now?
13th February 2019
Hi, this week we have a guest blogger, James Wood, President of the University’s LGBT+ Student Society
I’m sure you know that February, is LGBT history month in the UK; it is an observation and celebration of the progress of LGBT history and rights. While the USA celebrates LGBT history in October (to coincide with national coming out day) the UK celebrates it in February as it was in the month of February that Section 28 was abolished.
LGBT History Month is a special time for the LGBT community, and its allies. It represents a chance for us to reflect on the past hardships and struggles, but also celebrate the progress we’ve made, the hurdles we have overcome and what the future holds. 2019 also marks 50 years since the stonewall riots, a pivotal moment in the fight for LGBT Equality and rights we have today.
On the 28th June 1969, the police of New York City raided a gay club, the Stonewall Inn. The raid sparked the beginning of a riot among its patrons and neighbours as police roughly hauled employees and patrons out of the bar. This led to six days of protests and violent clashes with law enforcement outside the bar and nearby streets. Despite the bar previously being raided, this time was different as the employees of the bar were not tipped off this time, as usually corrupt officers would inform of an impending raid due to the bar being mafia run who paid off the local police. At one point during the riot, an officer hit a lesbian over the head as he forced her into a wagon — she shouted to onlookers to act, the crowd then began to throw pennies, bottles, cobble stones, and other objects at the police. Shortly after, a full-blown riot involving hundreds of people began. The police and a few prisoners barricaded themselves in the bar, which the mob attempted to set on fire after breaching the barricade repeatedly. The fire was eventually put out and the crowd in the immediate vicinity dispersed. However, the protests, sometimes involving thousands of people, continued in the area for five more days. The Stonewall Riots served as a catalyst for the gay rights movement in the United States and around the world.
Section 28 and the addition of section 2a, which was enacted on 24 May 1988, stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality” or “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. While homosexuality was legal in the UK by this point, there was rising negative sentiments towards it, peaking in 1987.
The Act did not create a criminal offence, resulting in no prosecution ever being brought under the provision. However, its mere existence caused many groups to close or limit their activities. Furthermore, a number of LGBT student support groups in schools and colleges across Britain were closed due to fears by council legal staff that they could breach the Act.
Section 28 stimulated the disparate British gay rights movement into action. Resulting in a protest which saw the creation of Stonewall, started by, amongst other people, Ian McKellen and OutRage!
The act was finally repealed on 21 June 2000 in Scotland by the Ethical Standards in Public Life etc. (Scotland) Act 2000 and on 18 November 2003 in the rest of the United Kingdom by section 122 of the Local Government Act 2003.
If you want to find out more information on the introduction of Section 28, which is a complicated and perfect mix of political instability, the AIDs crisis and other external pressures, click here.
Present day and a bit more local…
To celebrate LGBT History month and the anniversary of the riots, the University of Gloucestershire LGBT+ Society is organising a special event: Can I Come Out Now? Working with the LGBT Partnership Cheltenham and the SU, the event will see a number of stalls pop up in an empty shop unit in the Regent Arcade and a series of workshops in John Lewis & Partners on the 23rd February. Visit the Eventbrite for more information.