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Comment: The legacy of Section 28, ten years on

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  1. Are you seriously blaming Section 28 for you contracting HIV/AIDS? Did you not learn anything about sex except during a Section 28-era school education? Even in the time since Section 28 was abolished there has been a huge amount of information on safe sex and STIs – especially AIDS – made available. Go to any gay bar or club, and you’ll see posters advising against unprotected sex and free condoms and lube.

  2. Ten years? How about nearly 26 years ago! Get your numbers right boy.

    1. This article is about the anniversary of the repeal of Section 28, not its enactment. Read the article right dear.

  3. This an appalling article. Section 28 is long gone, and great pains have been gone to over the last ten years to make sure everyone understands this fact. Section 28 never specified which teachers could or couldn’t do, only local authorities, although few teachers were prepared to risk their careers on that interpretation.

    I can tell exactly the same story, set a year later. I’m a year younger, I came out at the same age, and had the same token gesture at straight-only sex education. I don’t have HIV or a long history of STIs, because that’s not determined by whether you grew up with section 28. This is not a warning of the terrible effects of such things, we need only point to contemporary Russia for that; this is finger pointing.

    Section 28 is long gone. A lot of things have changed and I’m glad that people now won’t be so badly affected as my peers and I. But that doesn’t mean we should just blame a misguided law for everything that’s ever gone wrong in our lives.

    1. “Section 28 never specified which teachers could or couldn’t do, only local authorities…”

      Schools are largely controlled by local authorities (or they were before academies and free schools, anyway). The whole aim of Section 28 was to stop schools from suggesting that homosexuality was acceptable.

      We do know that comprehensive sex education reduces the incidence of STIs. That doesn’t mean individuals should blame their STIs specifically on Section 28 (in the same way that we can’t blame a specific storm on global warming), but it does mean that LGBT people would probably be healthier on the whole if it had never been passed.

      My story is different – I didn’t come out until after I left school, as I heard lots of homophobic remarks from the other kids every day, the teachers (several of whom I now know were gay) just ignored them, and I was terrified. I feel pretty sure I would have been at least a little happier and more confident if that law had not been in place.

    2. Younger sister 18 Nov 2013, 1:47pm

      My sister got pretty much the same info and ended up having no idea what sex actually entitled, or how to prevent a pregnancy since talking about contraceptives was a big no no. We lived in an area where we had never even heard of a Planned Parenthood or abortion She got pregnant at 14 because she got coerced into sex with a guy. When she described it to me years later it sounded basically like he threatened her into having sex, which she described as incredibly painful and left her sore for weeks after. She made it sound like it was normal, she honestly thought esx was supposed to hurt because that is what she was told. She got the real sex talk from me when she came to me with a question about her daughter. No one had ever been willing to talk to her about sex and she didn’t have access to literature and didn’t know where to even begin looking it up on the internet. She’s an extreme example mind you. I grew up in a different area of the US entirely and got a comprehensive Sex Ed.

  4. Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho 18 Nov 2013, 12:33pm

    At the risk of shameless promotion – Anyone who’s interested in the origins of section 28 may want to give this a view.

    It’s a brand new drag comedy christmas musical about Margaret Thatcher and the creation of section 28 – with one or two twists along the way. Running at Theatre503 in Battersea from the 10th December to the 4th January.

  5. An Ex Teacher 18 Nov 2013, 12:46pm

    It’s not just academies and free schools dropping sex ed. I taught in a comprehensive between 2008-12, and there was no formal sex education whatsoever. I know this as a group of students started (respectfully) asking me questions about the mechanics of sex, and I answered as scientifically as possible (I was teaching them English!).

    When I mentioned this in the staff room, the PE and Science teachers said that it wasn’t on their curriculum, so they didn’t teach it. In the end, only an art teacher and myself put our hands up to sit Year 9 down as a year group for a frank and open sex ed assembly (which I was taken off as it was during a GCSE English lesson).

    Section 28 may be gone, but I got the distinct impression from my colleagues that teachers still fear the legal implications of talking to teenagers honestly about sex, STIs, and relationships.

  6. Fast forward eleven years and you have me receiving my HIV diagnosis, after nine years of getting various STIs – all because my school and my teachers, the people supposed to prepare me for life, felt unable or unwilling to do so because of a piece of legislation passed by right wing homophobes in 1986

    I’m a bit confused did you not know about HIV. In my day sex without a condom would have got you ostracised

    1. Younger sister 18 Nov 2013, 2:09pm

      My sister didn’t hear about condoms till she was in her 20s. She got pregnant at 14 because she didn’t actually know what sex entitled. She actually thought sex was supposed to hurt and cause bleeding. Contraceptives weren’t sold in the area either, nor discussed in Sex Ed. Neither were STI’s, STD’s nor illnesses or disorders that affected the private areas. We weren’t even allowed to look at books that discussed anything more from the library and we didn’t have a computer till years later. This was in the US in the 1990s. I didn’t get access to the internet till around 2001. I was lucky to have my sex ed in a different area of the country entirely, I got the full comprehensive sex ed, which I would later relate to my older sister and her daughter. Included in the things I told her was the answer to the feminine problems she and her daugher shared. I got them to see a doctor armed with the right info and got them both diagnosed after years of suffering.

  7. I think you’ve got a minor detail wrong: Section 28 was passed in 1988, not 1986. It was an amendment to the Local Government Act 1986, which might be what confused you.

  8. Galadriel1010 18 Nov 2013, 3:07pm

    I’m five years younger, and my sex education seems to have been good compared to schools around us. We had teachers who actually told us that sex is fun, and gay relationships were mentioned. Admittedly that was with out of date information, as we were told about the unequal age of consent, and the suggestion of gay women having sex somehow never got mentioned. Like many kids still do, I got my information from porn, and I can’t have been more than 13 when I was looking for it because the friend I was discussing it with moved away around then. A combination of hangovers from Section 28 and the unwillingness to talk about sex at all, and there we go.

    At least I do remember ‘always use a condom’ being hammered into us, but I also remember the LGBT society at uni discovering femidoms and being generally bewildered and vaguely horrified.

  9. Boy George’s “No Clause 28” was a great anthem to end that policy

  10. James Orpin 18 Nov 2013, 3:48pm

    Section 28 was an appalling piece of bigoted legislation. It was widely misinterpreted by teachers to limit sex ed regarding homosexuality. However the description you give suggests that most of the poor sex Ed was nothing to do with section 28.

    I feel strongly that schools should feature good sex ed as part of a comprehensive education but what about the author’s parents. He told them he was gay, I presume they knew about HIV they were around in the 80s, why did they not educate their child?

  11. I can’t believe that it was only 10 years ago. Section 28 was a form of segregation. Equality is still a long way off.

  12. TheBigGayAl 18 Nov 2013, 6:44pm

    No doubt that Section 28 was a hateful, backward and damaging piece of legislation, but I don’t think you can blame it for years of contracting various STI’s.

    In my day, sex education wasn’t sex education at all – just the biology of making babies. Certainly there was no need for straight or gay sex education and I am not sure that there is now. It’s important that people (and I include children in that) should be able to ask whatever they want and have a right to honest and frank answers, but what would you teach under the auspices of gay sex education? Mutual wanking? Not necessarily gay. Anal? Just as apt for straight people and would exclude a very many gay people.

    What schools need to teach is HEALTH education. How to stay happy, safe and healthy. That doesn’t then require differentiation between boys/girls/gays/straights.

  13. NINE years of getting VARIOUS STIs but, somehow, it all boils down to the lack of sex-ed in school aged 13 for contracting HIV?
    Looks like the NHS might be getting more of the blame if the many nurses and doctors seen during these 9 years couldn’t explain the basics. That or not being arsed about reading a book, a magazine, the f-ing internet on the topic.

    Section 28 did a lot of harm and repealing it was definitely the way to go, but this article is just looking to blame it for things others impacted on.

  14. I’ve read some of Tom’s works before on here. Until I read this article, I thought he was a very intelligent, thoughtful man (and rather cute, too). I then read the line where he blamed his school and lack of sex education provided by them for his contraction of HIV and other STDs.

    Tom, Tom, Tom….. how about a little personal responsibility? I’m only a few years older than you, was educated in the Catholic schooling system in Australia, so there was NO WAY we were given any information on gay sex, STDs, prophylactics, etc.

    I can honestly say that I am a 40yo gay man who has never had an STD (unless you count coldsores, and because I acquired HSV from my mother as a child, I don’t count that as sexually transmitted). This is because I have taken personal responsibility for my well being – blaming someone or something else is an easy out.

  15. Is Brian Souter of Stagecoach still against this and want it reactivated again along with making being gay illegal.
    I remember him wanting all gay lifestyle banned

    1. Unless he becomes PM, I could not care less what he thinks. There are too many brainless fat cats lifting their snouts from the trough and sticking them in affairs that are none of their business (other than that they are voters, like all of us, gay or straight). Sykes is another.

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