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Gillian Anderson’s portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Crown is bringing up painful memories for the LGBT+ community

Reiss Smith November 16, 2020

Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher in The Crown. (Netflix)

Gillian Anderson’s sympathetic portrayal of Margaret Thatcher is winning plaudits for The Crown, but is drudging up bitter memories for many in the LGBT+ community.

The Crown season four was released on Sunday (15 November) to instant critical acclaim, with many heralding the arrival of the Iron Lady as a high-point for the drama.

But Anderson’s turn as Thatcher is proving divisive for the LGBT+ community, with many struggling to wrap their heads around the image of the queer icon transformed into a woman who inflicted such pain on an entire generation.

Margaret Thatcher: LGBT+ community lives with the scars of Section 28.

Margaret Thatcher was – and remains – reviled by swathes of queer Britain for introducing Section 28, the law which banned the “promotion” of homosexuality in schools and by local authorities.

The law was enacted on 24 May, 1988 and remained in place for more than a decade, being repealed in Scotland in 2000 and later in England and Wales in 2003.

For the interim period, schools were forbidden from even discussing the existence of LGBT+ people.

Countless queer kids were condemned to homophobic bullying on the playground, with teachers who were sympathetic powerless to help.

Thatcher set out her opposition to LGBT+ rights in an infamous Conservative Party Conference speech in 1987 – one that is doing the rounds following The Crown’s release.

“It’s the plight of individual boys and girls that worries me most,” Thatcher said.

“Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay.

“All of those children are being cheated of a sound start in life. Yes, cheated.”

As well as Section 28, Thatcher presided over the AIDS crisis of the ’80s.

Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher is seen giving her last speech as prime minister before being removed by her own colleagues. (Getty)

At the time of her death in 2013, human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said she “did nothing to challenge [the] villification” of gay men at the time, who were “widely demonised and scapegoated for the AIDS pandemic”.

Tatchell also noted that “during her rule, arrests and convictions for consenting same-sex behaviour rocketed, as did queer bashing violence and murder”.

“She was extraordinary for mostly the wrong reasons,” he added.

Speaking ahead of The Crown’s release, Gillian Anderson alluded to her discomfort around Margaret Thatcher’s politics. The actor has previously spoken about her own queerness, revealing that she was once in a relationship with a woman who later died of a brain tumour.

“I had to get to a point where it’s nothing to do with my opinions of her policies, of her actions,” she told Harper’s Bazaar.

“It is only about her as a human being and her motivation as a politician and as a mother.”

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