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‘Teaching Blocks’, The Pink Paper, 27th January 1995. LGBT+ collection, Archives+

The debate of whether LGBT+ lifestyles, relationships and sex life should be talked about in schools under the Sex Education curriculum has been talked about in multiple platforms earlier this year. Everything from the evening news to other media outlets, battled it out among the usual footfalls of religion, concerned parents and the LGBT+ community itself.

A journey into the Manchester Central Library Archives+ revealed that the same discussion occurred over twenty years ago under the creation of Section 28, a piece of legislation that bans the promotion of homosexuality.

Though there have been great milestones taken in the name of LGBT+ Rights, such as the legalisation of Gay Marriage in many parts of the world, and inclusive steps taken by creatives in film and television, for example Love, Simon and Marvel’s first openly LGBT Superhero in Valkyrie for the upcoming Thor: Love & Thunder, equality is still fought for across the globe. With the debate of Section 28 rearing its head again only this year, the same that marked 50 years since the Stonewall Riots that sparked the Gay Right Movement, reveals a discrepancy in just how close to equality we really are.

Section 28 march in Manchester, 1988. LGBT+ collection, Archives+

Officially, Section 28 is government legislation that states local authorities cannot “intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality. This also extends to schools and education syllabus for teaching the “acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.” The legislation was brought in during the late 80’s and dominated newspapers of all kinds across varying view points, political stand points and religious alignments.

From archived newspaper articles we can see the same conversations about Section 28 from the 80’s and 90’s as we do now, with clear lines drawn between those who agree that talking about homosexuality is the same as promoting it and those wanting to help support young people who might be questioning their own sexual identity. Newspaper article ‘Teaching Blocks’ published in 1995, by The Pink Paper, suggests that a more inclusive and widely reaching Sex Education criteria is needed to support questioning youth. The same article furthering the need for open discussion with reliable information for young people, “surveys consistently show that young gay people report feelings of intense isolation due to the lack of information about homosexuality”.

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‘The Journal of Human Sexuality: The Gay Suicide Myth’, by Peter LaBarbera 4th February, 1994. LGBT+ collection, Archives+

Further found articles speak more candidly about the effects of negative imagery of homosexuality to a young person, whether they’re questioning or already assured of their own identity. A university paper citing the Gibson Study, criticises the same work which talks about the impact of society on the mental health of the LGBT+ community. “Homosexual youths are two to three times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers”. Gibson explaining that cases of suicide in those who are LGBT+ “is caused by the internalisation of homophobia and violence directed at gays.” Something we are still seeing today, the most talked about of which being the attack of two LBGT+ women on a London bus.

Several articles speak of the effects not just on LGBT+ Youth but also about the efforts of those trying to help outside of formal education. In ‘Building Self Esteem’ from The Pink Paper 1993, author Terry Sanderson explains the pressures of society and a lack of self esteem commonly found in LGBT+ youth, “The problem stems from conditioning as a child, and the damage is hard to shake off.” While a response section to an article on Section 28, which would be officially enacted in May of the following year, expresses the concerns of a teacher from that time, “I feel very troubled … I believe I am being asked to start to lie to my students. .. I am told I must not suggest that to be a homosexual is ‘normal’. But as far as I can see it is.”

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‘Why humility is needed in defining normality’, 8th December, 1987.
LGBT+ collection, Archives+

For a further look into the LGBT + collection visit the Archives+ Flickr album