THE LOG BOOKS
Season 2 Episode 7 - “Fatally disruptive”
Presenters: Tash Walker, Adam Zmith
Contributors: Catherine Lee, Ruth, Neal Cavalier-Smith, Femi Otitoju, Olly Pike.
Producers: Shivani Dave, Tash Walker, Adam Zmith
Music: Tom Foskett-Barnes
Artwork: Natalie Doto
AZ: This episode contains stories about attacks on LGBTQ plus people and some of those stories contain language that people may find offensive.
[Dial tone. Music]
Log Book Reader 1: These are clippings from the house of lords transcript pasted into the log book from December 1986 to February 1987. The speaker is Frank Longford, the seventh Earl of Longford in support of the local government act 1986 including the clause that became Section 28, and he said: Today we're asked to support a bill which would prevent the promotion of what is called now ‘a positive image of homosexuality’ by certain London boroughs. That means that the insistence in the growing propaganda of these boroughs that heterosexuality and homosexuality should be placed on precisely the same footing – I'm bound to say having studied some of this propaganda that I agree with the noble Earl that it’s shocking and is not really suitable for the delicate ears of your lordships. And I feel I should do his voice now because I remember these characters and they spoke like this they said: [In posh aristocratic accent] Of course the promotion of homosexuality goes hand in hand with a good deal of promotion of promiscuity of all kinds. Aimed in quite a few cases of very young children, it's revolting stuff. Can any country claiming to be Christians spend public money on the active propagation of actual homosexual practices? These are being promoted now in some areas as an alternative to fidelity in marriage and family life. The tragedy of such people is that they cannot enjoy family life. Insofar as an attempt is being made to expand homosexualism throughout this community the outcome can only be fatally destructive for the family. I'm not saying that the promotion of acts of homosexuality should necessarily be made illegal, I say only that it should not be financed by public bodies in a country that still claims to be Christian.
TW: But what makes a family? AZ: Ah good question! I guess this Lord thought that it was like a man and a woman and probably two point four kids. It's funny to hear that Lord give a speech in the House of Lords about ‘expanding homosexualism’ through the community.
TW: But seriously this is a speech given in the House of Lords in my lifetime. AZ: Yeah it's just mad to think of that. TW: You're listening to the love back stories from Britain's LGBTQ+ history and conversations about being queer today. AZ: In partnership with switchboards the LGBT+ helpline I'm Adam Zmith. TW: And I’m Tash Walker. In this season, we’re reading through the notes made by the volunteers who took calls between 1983 and 1991. AZ: Episode seven, ‘Fatally disruptive’.
TW: In this episode we’re gonna be talking about Section 28 which was the law passed by Margaret Thatcher's conservative government in 1988 to stop local authorities from promoting homosexuality and to stop schools and libraries from teaching the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.
AZ: I still just can’t believe Tash that that was the language from the government in our lifetimes. TW: It feels so archaic. AZ: And the voices you're going to hear in this episode are from people who were teachers, or training to be teachers, when this law was passed, including those who protested it and those who it silenced. Tash we didn't find a lot of calls to switchboard about Section 28 in the log books when we were reading through them for this period.
TW: No not specifically but I don't think the volunteers always used Section 28 in those log book entries. You know callers were contacting switchboard at this period of time because of the direct impacts of Section 28. The direct impact of the sort of fear and oppression that was happening in this period of time.
AZ: Of course that speech that we had at the beginning was taped into the log book, the speech from the House of Lords by one of the volunteers.I mean they were clearly listening in to what was going on in parliament.
TW: Yeah but we’ve had enough from those old Lords for now. In this episode we wanted to pool the voices of the people impacted by the effects of this awful law. R: Hello my name is Ruth. I am lesbian teacher, I’ve been teaching for 34 years and we're going to talk today largely about the time when I worked in a large South London girls comprehensive school. So going back to the 1980s I was in my early twenties. I’d finished at University in Manchester, come back to London trained to be a teacher. Finished my probation year at a school in Tower Hamlets, done a year's supply teaching and then my third year of teaching would have been 1988. And I landed my dream job, when I was going to teach religious studies in a South London secondary school. I was excited I was very idealistic, I was very optimistic. I felt as though I had the world at my feet. I joined the school in 1988 and I was a religious studies teacher and religious studies was an interesting subject because, throughout the whole time of Section 28 homosexuality was part of the curriculum, it was part of exam syllabuses. So in looking back through text books homosexuality always features. And I've got some text books here that I've been looking through and it it's very much there. The classroom was a microcosm of London life, it was the most exciting place to be a teacher. It had every faith, every belief and none. It had every kind of family represented. There were over seventy languages spoken in the school, so it was incredibly stimulating and exciting. KL: We had eggs at the window a couple of time. We had fireworks through the letterbox on one occasion. But it was never the girls, it was it was always the boyfriends or brothers. My name is Catherine Lee and I started to train to be a teacher in 1986. Okay so this is an account and it’s a memory of the time when I was teaching in Liverpool shortly before Christmas in the early 1990s. The piece says: We both stare silently at my car glistening beneath the streetlights outside our small terraced house. Every window has been smashed and it stands in an enormous pool of broken glass which makes it twinkle like some kind of sick gameshow prize. I go out in my slippers and wade through the glass. I tried the door handle. I noticed that each of the locks has been filled with a poly-filler type mixture. I reach inside carefully avoiding the broken glass and open the glove compartment to see what's been stolen. To my amazement the fascia of my stereo and £12 in cash remain exactly as I have left them. As I peer into the dark interior of the car I then see what’s motivated this act of vandalism. In the same poly-filler mixture someone has written with their finger ‘Dykes Die’ across my dashboard. I feel faint and really frightened. As I struggled to slow my racing heartbeat my partner Sarah beckons me to come and have a look at the front of the car. Across the bonnet in letters around ten inches high someone has gouged the word ‘Dyke’ into the paintwork. Sarah and I go inside to call the police and try and arrange a lift to school the following day. We’ve been here before, so know the routine. The police won’t do anything as they’ll be no witnesses and anyway I’ll feel too embarrassed by this crude revelation of my sexuality to pursue it further. The police will give me another victim support leaflet to add to my collection.
Switchboard Volunteer: I was doing my teacher training at that time and I could see that there were a lot of students struggling with their sexuality. So as a student, I wrote to the education authority, and said I would like to just be able to just talk to these students. Not to counsel them but just to give themsmaybe a phone number so that they could get some advice from an organization like Switchboard, and I received a response back in no uncertain terms to say that I should not speak to these young people and if I did I'd be thrown off my course basically. And I wouldn’t be able to be able to teach again. So I felt I was deliberately keeping those young people isolated even more and I decided not to go into teaching. It wasn't the only reason but it was a key reason in me not continuing to teach. The irony is is that I trained to teach Classics and English and of course in classical civilizations you've got many many references to homosexuality because it wasn't viewed in the same way that it was in our society at that time. So you're trying to teach a subject which had women like Sappho it had Julius Caesar, Aristotle, a lot of the key male figures especially had male partners as well. So how can you teach a subject like that and not talk about homosexuality in its context? AZ: So Tash how old were you when Section 28 was revealed in 2003? TW: I would have been 17 seventeen going on 18.
TW: What about you Adam? AZ: I think the same. Oh no no I think I'm a bit older than you? So I was eighteen going on nineteen yeah exactly. So our whole mandatory education careers was actually in parallel with Section 28 which ran from ‘88 to 2003.
TW: Yeah that's actually crazy I've never really thought about that. Starting primary school in ‘89 right? Yeah what I do remember is trying to talk to teachers about my sexuality or understanding. AZ: And what happened? TW: It didn't go very well I kind of didn't really get anywhere, with them. I sort of spoke to two teachers who I really looked up to, trusted and admired. I spoke to them because I thought that they were LGBTQ+ and they sort of shut it down, said they were straight. I just went back to the booksI guess and felt very alone.
[Old news footage plays] Reporter: Sue and Barry Blakelock have withdrawn their son Russell from school and will now teach him at home. They support equal opportunities policies for gay people but unlike the council they don't wish homosexuality to be promoted as a positive choice to their young children.
Sue Blakelock: Of course I want what every parent wants, tha’st for their son to grow up as what some people call normal, and to have a family of his own. And grandchildren of course, I think that's what everyone wants.
[News footage stops]
TW: Section 28 was so awful wasnt it. AZ: Yeah it didn't go through without a fight though.
TW: I think it's really important to mention, or remember, that you know Section 28 really was the result of the backlash against this bubbling discrimination and fear around AIDS and HIV that was represented daily in the press, and that started to move into politics. And what it was effectively was a right wing parliament trying to stamp out public acceptance of homosexuality. AZ: Yeah.
[Old news footage plays] Presenter: There are a lot of people particularly on the right of the Tory party, but there are a lot of people throughout parliament, who have always been anti gay and they've kept quiet about it until recently. I think what's happening at the moment and it's not just happening to lesbians and gay men, it's happening to other minorities as well, is that we're seeing something which happened in the thirties happen again - which is that certain minorities are getting persecuted in order to distract people's attention away from the really lousy things that are happening in life, like unemployment like poverty like homelessness which are issues for everybody. But by picking out one of two bug bears it’s very easy for the government, for the media, to say you can have a go at these people and then you’ll feel a bit better.
[Old news footage stops]
AZ: But Tash, and you and I have to be grateful for this, our people fought back.
TW: Yeah exactly. Yeah in the log books there’s this wonderful poster pasted in with this very yellowing tape, all these years later. That has ‘Stop Clause 28’ stamped onto it, it’s in red, it's sort of like graffiti styled onto this brick wall background. It says ‘Skin deep by Nigel Pugh’ ‘Abide with Me’ by Barrie Keeffe’, and it runs from the 25th of May to the 12th of June at the Three Horseshoes in Hampstead.
AZ: So they are plays that are being put on for £3.50 or £2.50 concession and to raise money for Stop Clause 28, or stop Section 28 Campaigns.
TW: Yeah exactly and it looks like that Switchboard volunteers, if they showed their card could could get that concession rate of £2.50.
AZ: Very nice.
Log book Reader 2: This is a log book entry from June 5th, 1988. 11.15 AM. Women in East London wanting to know implications of Clause 28 on starting a new lesbian gay restaurant there. Encouraged. A later note adds Julian has found some. Wonderful man. Log book Reader 3: This is a look back entry from May 14th, 1988. Woman caller wanting to know when she can buy a Stop The Clause Tshirt. If anyone knows can they write it here, she will phone back in a few days to see if we found out. Answer: Well you can order them from Spare Rib and the Pink Paper you can buy them from Sister Right.
R: The t-shirts were really hard to come by. I think I bought mine at a concert on June 5th. I wasn't able to get one for the march because that photograph of me on the March I’m wearing a very big pink sweatshirt and big earrings, because everything was big in the 1980s. Big shoulders, big everything, huge t-shirts they were quite hard to buy but I think I bought mine at the concert.
Log book Volunteer: There was lots of actresses, lots of famous people. It was a really big rally. And that was the first time that I saw parents of gay people, out with banners being supportive. There was a woman there saying ‘I love my lesbian daughter’ and there were banners saying ‘We love our lesbian and gay funds’. It was, ah! It reduced me to tears. So that was a fantastic march. And there was another one it was smaller, it wasn’t such a big rally in Leeds. Our niece was only about what 8 or so, and she was wrapped up in everything, she had her thermals on she had jumpers on, she had her anorak on. She had all these layers on, but she was still cold. And we’d just bought this Clause 28 t-shirt. So we put that over the top of her coat and it came down over her knees, you know this adult top on this little girl - that came all the way down to her knees. She was loving it, cus she loved shouting, it was the only time as a small kid that you could shout as much as you liked and the adults seemed to like it without telling you to shut up. So she really enjoyed the march. And, some photographers snapped a picture of her in this Clause 28 t-shirt. What did it say? It said ‘Stop 28’. And it made it into Gay Times. And it ended up on the front cover of Gay Times. [Laughter].
AZ: I love that thing of everything being bigger in the 80s. TW: Yeah I feel like I'm still owning that oversized t-shirt look.
AZ: [Laughter] My mum and dad had a giant Audi car, no no no not and Audi they had a Lada.
TW: I’ve never heard of a Lada.
AZ: Yeah Lada, it was giant. I think that’s what I was driven around in as a baby. Oh my god it’s all coming back!
TW: We’re about to hear from DJ Ritu who we heard in Season 1 and we’ve heard a couple of times already in Season 2 who has some stories to share about the time she worked for Haringey.
AZ: And you can hear there’s not just tension between people on the streets, there's also tension between people at work.
DJR: One of the outstanding memories that I have with regard to challenging Section 28, is myself and a group of colleagues from Haringey youth and community services – all of us being at a demo outside Haringey Civic Centre - and, you know there was us and there was them - and the ‘them’ included local parents. They were very very vocal they had placards, there was a group of Greek women, Cypriot women that were right in the front of that side of the demo and they were hurling insults at my very close colleague Kyriakos. He was the gay male outreach worker in the youth service, he was quite young at that time, well actually we were roughly the same age, early twenties. There was this, you know, kind of clash between them in Greek – I didn't really understand it you know, what was actually being said. It was very acrimonious and really frightening actually to see these parents that were just hell bent, clearly they were frightened, they were frightened about their children being taught how to be gay. They were frightened that their children would catch gayness even if we said actually our parents are straight you know [laughter] Hey Hey well we we don't have gay parents you know. Hey but look out you know but yeah there was a there was a lot of anger a lot of bitterness a lot of nastiness at that time. We felt it within the youth services while we were working which had a very robust equal opportunities policy Haringey council itself had a lesbian and gay unit by this point, it had a race equality unit, it had a womens equality unit it had a disabilities unit and it also had a lesbian and gay unit. But Section 28 just really, it set the cat amongst the pigeons.I guess this was stuff that was waiting to come up, of course it would be in the eighties, because everyone still hated us. When the LGBTQ youth project was set up by the youth services Kyriakos, as I say my friend who I’ve mentioned the Greek Cypriot guy - there was him and there were two other workers assigned to that unit we were based in the education offices off Haringey council. If Kyriakos got up to make a coffee, when he left and he put his mark back in the big tray where the coffee making facilities were, a kettle and everything, mugs and teacups. Two of the admin staff they’d go, pick up the cup, throw it away in the bin, they’d throw away the tea towel that he touched.
[Sombre music plays] Log book Volunteer 2: I remember going on a protest march, on an anti Section 28 protest march, and the police were literally arresting the stragglers at the back of the march. I remember getting queer bashed in Trafalgar Square, they broke my jaw and the police were there and I said to the police I've just being beaten up because I'm gay and the police said ‘Well are you gay?’ and I said ‘yes’ and then they said ‘well there's nothing we can do about in then’. And the people that had beaten me up were literally less than a hundred yards away at this point, I mean if they cared they could have arrested them, but the police told me very clearly because you are gay we don't care if you get attacked. And that's what it was like back then, the police weren’t our friends and we saw the numbers on the Sunday Section 28 protests that we have never seen before with any congregation of LGBT people. I remember the one in Manchester and I think I have a photo of it and I think it's labeled Matthew Hodson an twenty thousand people. It’s labeled my name because it was taken by my boyfriend not because I’m particularly special. Being amongst twenty thousand people who are almost entirely LGBT, because the LGBT ally thing was not then what it is now, was an amazing feeling and we felt that we had power and we built on that. AZ: Section 28 kicked off a new wave of political activism from LGBTQ+ people Neal Cavalier-Smith was part of this. He was involved in student politics at the time and an international network of similarly young and spunky troublemakers called I.G.L.Y.O so here's what they got up to. NCS: And partly because of clause 28 I.G.L.Y.O decided to have its global Congress in London, so that we could both show solidarity to British people and make some kind of an action against the government. The organisation was sponsored by various European and International bodies and we flew over a hundred young lesbians and gays from all around the world, from as far afield as South America and the U. S. and as close, as you know lots and lots from Holland and Denmark and Scandinavia all those and Germany with the low countries that were very far progressed in terms of gay rights. So we assembled a hundred or more hundred twenty or so gay and lesbian young people all under twenty five, for a conference in in central London which lasted a week. And we decided to take some direct action and go and stage demonstration, we decide to stage a kiss-in because at the time you could be arrested for kissing someone of the same sex and so we thought well if we could get a 120 people from all around the world arrested for kissing it would make a120 separate diplomatic incidents all around the world. So we announced by press release that we're gonna do this rented a couple of coaches and passed bussed over to Piccadilly circus where one of the Norwegians immediately climbed to the very top of Eros and and kissed the arse of Eros and everyone else kissed each other, a good twenty minutes half an hour, I mean yeah we were getting [laughter] we we kept on kissing until the cameras stopped clicking! I particularly remember a double decker bus of Japanese tourists that stopped next to us, because it just became this fabulous wall of cameras and flashbulbs and you know the Japanese in those days seemed to have two cameras each hanging from their necks and so the bus almost leant towards Eros and we just played up to the fascinated tourists. It was peculiar no one seemed to mind, I think there might have been one old lady with a shopping trolley who tutted a bit, but here’s a headline from Capital Gay. That’s us me and my boyfriend at the time, Mark, kissing . It says ‘Cor what a smacker a hundred join kiss-in’ and this interestingly was featured in newspapers far and wide around the world but not very much in the U. K. It hit the gay press everywhere but was largely ignored by the straight press because the police stayed away. So though it was rush hour in London in probably the most heavily policed corner of our capital, they actively withdrew and left us to it because they had made a decision not to give us the publicity that we were looking for. TW: And now we’re going to hear from previous volunteer Femi, who Adam you went to interview AZ: Yes I went to interview her in Haringey in north London and Haringey is really significant in this story. FO: So we’re in Haringey, and I I think it's interesting that right at this moment as we’re doing this interview, we are sitting in the place where the reason for Section 28 was signed. So at that time it would have been 1986/7 I was working in the Lesbian and Gay unit at Haringey just a mile or so away from where we are now, and a mile or so in the other direction is the Town Hall where the first discussion started around Section 28. It was never ever about that, they were about the portrayal of lesbians and gay men positively in schools. And I remember the debates very clearly because the catalysts for them came out of the place where I was working – the borough, the Labour borough here Haringey, had committed as part of its manifesto, to ensure that lesbians and gay men were positively portrayed in education. And we, as the unit, offered to help all the schools in the borough do that. Unrelated to that initiative, which was just sending a letter out to the schools, Haringey central library which is just up the road from here, had in it’s teachers section had a book called Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin. [Old news report plays] Presenter: Educational publications which equates gay lifestyles with normality. One such book, now notorious, is ‘Jenny lives with Eric and Martin’ describing a little girl's life with her father and his homosexual lover. ‘I'm hungry’ says Jenny ‘Can’t we have breakfast soon?’ ‘All right all right’ says Martin, sitting up and rubbing his eyes ‘We’ll have breakfast then’ Rick stretches and yawns ‘Oh good it's Saturday’
[News report stops] FO: And I remember hearing that somebody apparently seeing that book had assumed that it was being given out to children, or at least tried to portray it that way. And then questions were asked in our own local town hall and the local newspaper picked it up, and then the national press and then the next thing we heard was it being discussed in parliament. The Secretary for Education was asking about it, it might have been Ken Baker at the time, and then Dame Jill Knight then pushed through this amendment to the local government bill which was already kind of on its journey towards getting sent, and added the amendment which at that time was Clause 2A, but later became Section 28 of the Local Government Act. I remember counsellors fasting on our town hall on the steps, I remember huge debates in the council chamber, false accusations about my colleagues who were accused of physical assault which they hadn’t done. And I remember people trying to say that the pro lesbian and gay stance of the council was racist because the black communities didn’t have lesbian and gay men in them. But what that did, that piece of legislation, once it actually got onto the statute books, is it gave license to everybody who had always been harbouring those prejudices to say Section 28 was a nasty pernicious piece of legislation partly because what it said, but largely because of what it unleashed. TW: On reflection when we heard from everyone about the memories of Section 28 the fight against it and then it you know it coming into legislation, what it feels like hangs in the air the most is the threat of Section 28. AZ: That’s it, because people say well no-one was convicted under Section 28, no teacher officially lost their job because they spoke about being a lesbian or something like that and yet it had this chilling effect. As we've definitely heard from all these interviews. TW: Another big impact that it had was the reason why the charity Stonewall was founded in 1989 by a small group of people who had been active in a protest in the struggles against Section 28 and it's still going very strong today. AZ: As a piece of legislation it wasn't repealed until fifteen years later in 2003 and fortunately Stonewall the organization that was set up to fight to fight it, or in response to it and you know has outlived the legislation itself and become bigger and more important. TW: You know we need to remember that it really did leave a lasting impact on people like Ruth. R: Yeah it is difficult though. This has really kind of opened it up for me, really kind of made me go back then I do think a lot of it is buried. I think it’s trauma. You know just as any kind of oppression or any kind of hatred traumatises people.
[Sombre music plays] AZ: The thing made conservatives passed that anti LGBTQ+ legislation Section 28, was a children's book called ‘Jenny lives with Eric and Martin’. And that book of course was banned from schools and libraries because of the law. TW: Which is now thankfully in the bin. AZ: Yes but the need to make sure our young people know about different kinds of families and relationships is definitely still around. TW: And recently a new book was published. AZ: And you'll never guess what it was called… TW: Kenny lives with Erica and Martina. [Laughter] AZ: Do you see what they did there?
TW: The author Olly Pike who also makes YouTube videos had a launch in London and we went along to that event for some free snacks and to hear why the book is so important.
[Cheering, whistling and applause]
[Olly Pike speaks through a microphone]
OP: Oh my gosh guys thank you so much for coming. I am literally overwhelmed by how many people are here so thank you so so much.
Attendee 1: I’ve followed Olly’s work over the last couple of years and I really really love the books. I've bought the books for riends and family who have young kids and they absolutely love the stories so seeing what Olly is doing today I think is absolutely amazing. Trying to get the books into formal schools is absolutely brilliant, I think that's a massive juxtaposition to where things were in the eighties when books were being removed and Section 28 was then formed so I think it’s absolutely amazing what he’s doing and I love his work and I’ll be buying more books tonight. Attendee 2: Well, I was born in 1938 so I’m 81. And if you were breaking the law, anything you might do, even thoughts, and it was all rather subversive, which on some occasions was quite exciting and to think of things like this being hopefully readily available, and let’s hope they do get into all the schools - I think it’s quite remarkable, the change that’s happened. Attendee 3: I run a charity in the education sector that exists to support the wellbeing of anyone working in education, and obviously in the current climate with protests in Birmingham and so on so forth with an increasing amount of interest in how LGBT plus teachers might be feeling in the face of parental responses to the changing curriculum. So that's what brings me here.
Attendee 4: I’m one of the backers of the book. I saw Pop’n’Olly on Youtube. There was nothing like this when I was growing up so it’s important that the kids of tomorrow get the information about different relationships and different families and so on and so forth. I believe they should have these books, they taught in schools about acceptance of all different people, different cultures and religions. We’re no different. People need to know, and by teaching the children we’re gonna be teaching the adults, cus they’re gonna go home and well, we learnt this in school - and perhaps mummy or daddy you need to change your views.
OP: From very humble beginnings, namely my mum and dads front living room, Pop’n’Olly has now become a go-to LGBT+ edutainment resource. Children, parents, carers and teachers.
[Sombre music plays] TW: In the next episode we're going to continue hearing stories about Section 28 impact but also,more widely about the experience for young people between 1983 and 1991.
AZ: Calls to Switchboard are confidential, so to bring The Log Books to life, we’ve changed the callers names. The Log Books is produced by Shivani Dave, Adam Zmith and Tash Walker in partnership with Switchboard, the LGBT+ helpline. TW: If you think other people would like The Log books, please rate and review us on Apple Podcasts. These ratings and reviews really help others to discover the show. You can send us your feedback and stories to firstname.lastname@example.org or join the conversation on social media with the hashtag #TheLogBooks. Switchboard continues to take phone calls from 10am to 10pm every day. If you’re affected by any of the issues in this podcast, or need to discuss anything to do with your gender identity or sexuality, you can call Switchboard on 0300 330 0630. Email email@example.com or instant message via switchboard.lgbt where you can also donate money, or time, to help.