SECTION 28.THE FIGHT AGAINST IT IN MERSEYSIDE. REPORTAGE/LGBT ARCHIVE/UNWRITTEN HISTORIES.BY STEVEN BENSON.

This is (rare) testimony about the Anti- Section 28 campaign in Merseyside in 1988. Section 28 was the infamous, insidious and homophobic piece of “legislation” put in place, in 1988, within the Local Government Act, by the Thatcher government, which forbade the “promotion of homosexuality” , especially the “the teaching in any maintained school  of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended{sic} family relationship” ; whilst it led to no actual prosecutions, it DID put the fear of God(sometimes literally) in local authorities’ education departments, and led to a negligible availability of teaching of being lgbt as anything positive, especially in regards to sex education.It was not repealed in England and Wales till 2003(2000 in Scotland). It led to a lot of anxiety.

I am very proud to have been part of the Merseyside wing of the campaign against the section (earlier a clause). My memories are sketchy; but I can piece together the following:

  1. there were only a few gay/bisexual men in the local campaign(all in our 20s) and quite a few women. The 80s were a period  when many women, including (and especially) lesbians/gay women, needed a time of self-definition and their own identarian politics (quite rightly so as secondwave feminism was only at its start, because equality, in many areas,-as well as societal views of women-was still often tokenistic at best). But we worked together, men and women, allowing for our politically different emphases and concerns:).
  2.  I remember: My quirky friend, N, also part of the campaign; and his run-down flat and the 2 am visits to chippies!
  3. I remember:we had a delegation(of which I was part) to the (now sadly defunct) Merseyside Trade Union and Unemployed Resource Centre to get them to include sexual orientation  into their Equal Opportunities Policy(hitherto absent from it); they included it, without a fuss!:). At least one person(probably a lot more!), from MTUURC, whom I still know, went on the massive Anti Section 28 march in Manchester that year; and thus showed solidarity at a time when many Trade Unions marginalised sexuality or were embarrassed by it or focussed solely on class issues(to the detriment of other Equal Opportunities concerns).MTUURC were like the National Union of Miners in 1985 in this way, whose block vote got the Labour Party to enshrine lg rights in their manifesto, after the “Lesbians and Gays support the Miners” Campaign  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHJhbwEcgrA

I am forever respectful of that man’s action: a shining example of minorities working together to overcome common oppressors.

4. I remember: being part of  approach  to the leader of the erstwhile Merseyside County Council, Keva Coombes (though I wasn’t a member of the actual delegation); they too included sexual orientation in their Equal Opps policy , for the first time, thanks to our pressure group.

5. I remember: meeting in a ramshackle, communitarian Mutual Aid Centre in Seel Street Liverpool, which was also a squat,providing shelter to homeless people; and, vaguely, meetings at other venues.

6. I remember: leafleting in the Albert Dock ( a bit scary in the 1980s!)on the possible effects on young people of the lack of sexual and social education about homosexuality, owing to the pernicious possible effects of the section.

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There is, also, a lot I forget; or could only recall with great effort. ? involuntary memory; would a catalyst recollection help? Perhaps, deep down, buried under the layers of internalized self-oppression, Proust himself would have approved and given me a madeleine; perhaps not-just wishful thinking.

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But, seriously, I am proud of my little part in that big movement. The Merseyside campaign, and our little but not unpowerful group,needs proper recording and, thus, perpetuation, as a trace-from past  to present/future-so that it can illuminate present-day struggles (especially with the slow change of societal attitudes) a la projects Stonewall volunteers have done recently. At least, I have recorded it here….

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About decayetude

ENTHUSIASMS: CLASSICAL MUSIC, ESPECIALLY OBSCURE ROMANTIC COMPOSERS; BACH/HANDEL LITERATURE, ESPECIALLY THOUGHTFUL, WELL-WRITTEN(STYLISTICALLY)NOVELS W G SEBALD WALTER BENJAMIN THEODOR ADORNO(JUST BEGINNING!) AESTHETIC PHILOSOPHY GAY MEN'S WRITING;QUEER THEORY STIMULATING DISCUSSIONS(EMOTIONALLY AND INTELLECTUALLY) GOOD RICH THICK ESPRESSO MICHAEL PONTI SPRITUALITY/LIFE'S "AURA"(BENJAMIN), WHATEVER TRANSCENDENTAL THING YOU WANT TO CALL THIS MEMORY-the elusiveness thereof. LOST TIME AND AN ATTEMPT AT ITS REDEMPTION(NON THEISTICALLY/RELIGIOUSLY)
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One Response to SECTION 28.THE FIGHT AGAINST IT IN MERSEYSIDE. REPORTAGE/LGBT ARCHIVE/UNWRITTEN HISTORIES.BY STEVEN BENSON.

  1. decayetude says:

    Thanks, as always, Gill:)xx

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