Section 28 was a series of laws in Britain that prohibited any form of promotion of homosexuality by local authorities and schools. The law was passed by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government and existed from 1988-2003.

Section 28 deprived a generation of LGBTQ+ children and students from being taught about people like them. It prohibited them from learning about the rich history of queer and trans people from around the world. Teachers were not allowed to teach LGBTQ+ topics as they could be at risk of disciplinary action.

While it has been almost two decades since Section 28 ended, LGBTQ+ people who lived under the law still feel the long-lasting effects of it. According to the Stonewall School Report 2017, over half of pupils reported hearing homophobic slurs at school around that time.

We interviewed one of our team members to talk about his experience living under Section 28. Kai Barratt works as a counsellor at GenderGP. He has been with the company since March of this year after initially coming to us as a patient looking for gender-affirming treatment options. Due to his extensive expertise in the field of counselling, Kai was asked to work for us which he gladly accepted.

section 28

How was your experience living under Section 28?

When I was living through it, I didn’t know it was a thing. While I always remembered Section 28 … I never really put it into my own experience. But then I started looking back, and I remember being at school and being really alienated.

Everyone at school knew that I was gay – Kai is a trans man, however, when he was growing up, he used to identify as gay – and I remember it was really painful. All of the kids and the teachers all moved away from me. When everyone found out, I was off from school for about a month.

When I finally came back to school, I came out of a classroom … and the whole of the corridor shouted, ‘disease coming’. All of the kids would part ways … no one would come near me. The teachers were also aware, but they never said anything to me. There was no support; nothing at all.

How were LGBTQ+ issues handled between family members and friends?

The only person that knew I was gay and stood by me was my best mate. I had written my mate a letter when I was about 13 telling her I was gay. She hid that letter at home. We had to use secret language as well … because if her mom found out, she wouldn’t have let our friendship continue.

My uncle is gay, and I remember through most of my life my mom always saying to me that it was a secret.

Were LGBTQ+ topics ever mentioned at school?

No, never! It was a nightmare! I remember I found one book in the library … and it was the only book I ever came across that hinted at anything to do with being a lesbian.

When we all got our GCSEs and I left, I had excelled in ‘Drama’. I was in a group and the ‘Drama’ teacher went around every single one of my classmates hugging them and when she got to me, she walked away, didn’t touch me, didn’t come near me. It was horrific.

Over the years, I realised how much I internalised the word ‘disease’, … you just feel like you have got a disease, you feel like you’re a freak. That is still very internalised in me now, even to this day. I currently have a friend who I have been seeing and she has hinted at a relationship, but I won’t go there because I feel like I am some kind of pervert … because of my past experiences.

Did you feel a difference after Section 28 was lifted?

I know that legally my uncle was able to come out and he was able to be a bit more relaxed about his sexuality after Section 28 was lifted. I think by the time they change the law it takes so long to feel it. Even now, I am working in schools for social care, and I am still fighting.

Now it isn’t about gay people anymore, it’s about trans people. Unfortunately, Section 28 gave me a template of understanding the world around me … and these first few templates form in our minds at those ages. Can you unwrite them?

As much as I know that I am not a ‘disease’, that childhood side of me is really set down like a template that I still struggle to shake. It's an ingrained cultural thing that changed our law and people’s mindsets adapted to it.

The impacts continue

We want to thank Kai for sharing his experience. Unfortunately Kai is not alone, and the after shocks of Section 28 continue to impact many. If you feel it would be beneficial to speak to someone, counselling can help to process past emotions and trauma. You can see more on this here.