It’s LGBTQ+ History Month, and to put it mildly, it’s needed now more than ever. The trans community in the UK has been the subject of cruel misrepresentation as well as generally being used as a scapegoat by a failing government for far too long now. This is the time to reflect on our shared history, and why we must stand together against those who seek to roll back LGBTQ rights across the board. Make no mistake, it never stops at just one group.
In particular, I’d like to focus on fairly recent LGBTQ+ history, and the utterly vile piece of legislation that was Section 28. For those who don’t know, this was legislation brought in under Margaret Thatcher that made it illegal for local authorities to “promote homosexuality”. It was forbidden to “promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”. For those of us who were at school while Section 28 was in effect, it was essentially a gagging order for our teachers. They couldn’t even mention the fact that gay people existed. Even after the repeal of Section 28, it has taken years for schools to begin to do better when it comes to LGBTQ+ inclusive education.
A petition was recently circulated that called for the removal of all LGBTQ+ materials from schools. A return to Section 28. There are also those who call for a Section 28-style law prohibiting transgender issues being discussed at schools. That some of those calling for this are gay is truly heart-breaking. Such people either didn’t live through the misery inflicted by Section 28, or else they are so motivated by their hatred of trans people that they just don’t care. There are those who cry that being gay and being trans aren’t the same thing, so comparisons to Section 28 are unjustified. While it is true that sexual orientation and gender identity are separate, how those who aren’t heterosexual or cisgender have been treated are very much linked. That’s what binds us.
The overall argument for prohibiting discussion of LGBTQ+ issues seems to be that young people can’t possibly know themselves well enough to make up their own mind. LGBTQ+ inclusive RSE is misrepresented by certain individuals as ‘indoctrination’. As though teachers (or indeed anyone) is going around telling young people that they must be gay, or that they are definitely trans. This, of course, is not the case. The advances we’ve made over the last few years allows schools to discuss LGBTQ+ issues, and I truly mean ‘discuss’. Open discussion that allows young people to voice their thoughts, listen to the views of others, and form their own opinions. It also, for the minority of pupils in any given class that are LGBTQ+, just might bestow the confidence to be themselves. Some people, when they see a young person confidently stating that they are anything other than straight and cis, jump straight to accusations of grooming and indoctrination. They cannot possibly entertain the notion that young people are capable of knowing themselves.
I’ve come across a fair few vile individuals on Twitter lately. Most of them have been blocked, some I chose to engage with to make a point. To show any person who comes across the exchange and might be struggling with their sexuality or gender identity that the homophobes and transphobes can be stood up to. I came across one recently that I’m going to share here, as a particularly good example of why we mustn’t forget the history that the LGBTQ+ community shares.
Now, let’s take a look at the above set of tweets. Firstly there’s the condescending tone, which is apt because this individual generally seems to view trans people as incapable of knowing themselves. Call me odd, but I find denying an entire group of people autonomy over their own sense of self somewhat repulsive. There’s the assertion that “in our day”, being gay wasn’t considered a problem. I’m very fortunate in that I had friends and family who were very supportive when I came out at 18. Plenty at the time weren’t so fortunate, and many aren’t as fortunate even today. That, and given that Section 28 was still very much in effect back in our day, shows that this individual wishes to re-write history so that being gay was always accepted. A common technique used by transphobes, and one that never stands up to any scrutiny.
They then go on to list all the people they believe are currently telling young people that if you’re a boy who fancies other boys, you must really be a girl. No evidence cited, surprisingly enough. Such assertions are always intentionally vague and all encompassing to try and make it seem as though young people are being ‘convinced’ they’re trans on a massive scale. The possibility that more young people are simply coming forward as trans because it’s who they are doesn’t cross the mind of this individual. To accept such a notion would scupper their efforts to stop trans people being themselves at all costs.
The feeble attempt at a link to “stupid ideas of hairstyles/fashion” carries no weight with me personally. At 15 or any other age I generally wore what I wanted to regardless of others and have never really done much with my hair. It’s this individual’s attempt to liken being trans to a fad that I find truly appalling. Yet another attempt to dismiss the autonomy of trans people. As someone who was told that I would “grow out” of being gay, it only adds further strength to the notion that the LGBTQ+ community must stand together.
I promise the above is the last tweet I’ll post from this particular individual. Believe me, it was no more enjoyable to engage with them than it was for you to read their bile. The above screencap, however, quite succinctly underlines the mindset of this individual and many others. They literally said that trans people “don’t understand what’s happening”. You couldn’t get a more blatant dismissal of the autonomy of an entire demographic of society. Luckily this individual is particularly clumsy, but there are those who maintain the mask a little better.
The underlying point they try to make is always that they are looking to somehow ‘protect’ trans people from themselves. Giving trans people autonomy over their identities and their bodies is just too risky, so they would have us believe. Recycled bigotry from those who brought us Section 28. They thought young people were being ‘brainwashed’ into thinking they were gay. We were considered a danger to young people. We were accused of being predatory, of being paedophiles. The LGBTQ+ community condemns paedophilia, and I most certainly do too. Educating young people on LGBTQ+ issues is not, and never has been, indoctrination. It is education, and for those who hold on to their irrational hatred of any minority, education is seen as a bad thing.
I intend to spend much of this LGBTQ+ history month reflecting on what unites us. It serves as a great antidote to those who very much want to focus on differences, and to then use any and all differences to try and drive a wedge into our community. Our shared history unites us. Not just in this country but all around the world, in many different cultures, there have been LGBTQ+ people standing together and there have been those seeking to destroy us. Don’t let them. Stand together. Stay strong.
My very best wishes to everyone for this month. I’m hoping to blog more on LGBTQ+ issues, as well as generally blogging more. Never forget that you are wonderful. You are supported, and you are loved.