History of Education Society UK Podcast

4_01 Catherine Lee Legacies of Section 28

November 13, 2023 History of Education Society UK Season 4 Episode 1
4_01 Catherine Lee Legacies of Section 28
History of Education Society UK Podcast
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History of Education Society UK Podcast
4_01 Catherine Lee Legacies of Section 28
Nov 13, 2023 Season 4 Episode 1
History of Education Society UK

Professor Catherine Lee of Anglia Ruskin University in conversation with Syeda Ali about her research into Section of the Local Government Act which was passed in the UK in 1988.  The law prohibited the 'promotion' of 'homosexuality' by local authorities in state schools  and was the first anti gay-propaganda law. Lee reflects on her time as teacher during Section 28, and subsequently as a researcher and campaigner for LGBTQ+ teachers'.

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Professor Catherine Lee of Anglia Ruskin University in conversation with Syeda Ali about her research into Section of the Local Government Act which was passed in the UK in 1988.  The law prohibited the 'promotion' of 'homosexuality' by local authorities in state schools  and was the first anti gay-propaganda law. Lee reflects on her time as teacher during Section 28, and subsequently as a researcher and campaigner for LGBTQ+ teachers'.


Eps 4_01


Mon, Nov 13, 2023 


schools, teachers, section, gay, women, people, lesbian, write, talking, history, experiences, book, teaching, identities, research, pretended, absolutely, wanted, sexuality, work


CL, Syeda Ali


Syeda Ali  00:00

Hi. I'm delighted to welcome you to this episode of passing notes, the podcast of the History of Education Society. I'm Syeda Ali, and I'm speaking to Katherine Lee, who's professor of Inclusive Education and Leadership at Anglia Ruskin University. Catherine is the author of the book Pretended: historical, cultural and personal perspectives on section 28. On the 20 year anniversary of the repeal of section 28, of the Local Government Act, which prohibited the promotion of homosexuality in schools in England and Wales, we will be discussing Professor Lee's research and personal experience of section 28. It is therefore a timely moment for us to be evaluating the meaning of section 28. I wonder if Professor Lee, you could begin by telling us about the law. And what brought you to your research?


CL  00:59

Yeah, so section 28 is, as you say, it came into law in 1988. In, in the UK, and it said that schools must not, or local authorities under which schools were governed back in the day that schools must not promote homosexuality as a pretended family relationship. So I was a brand new teacher, the very start of my career in 1988. And through my university experience, it had kind of come out as gay. And so I arrived at my first teaching post in Section 28 arrived at pretty much the same time. So this career that I've been excited to, to study for and prepare for. It was, it was a lot more challenging than I expected it to be. And, you know, the, I've called my book pretended, because of that phrase, that, you know, homosexuality should not be promoted as a pretended family relationship. I was in a pretended family relationship. I lived with my girlfriend at the time, but pretended became actually a way of coping, I had to pretty much live with the ball a double life, really, I pretended to live on my own. So if anybody asked me in the staff room, who I lived with, I said, I lived on my own. I didn't people ask me who I was going on holiday, where the water did the weekend, I would pretend to have boyfriends. Or couldn't you say to me, oh, Catherine, you're a very private person, I really got quite adept at flipping questions around in the staff room, so that somebody asked me, I asked them straight away back to deflect on any personal relationships that I might be having. And I guess the thing that I struggle with the most looking back is I pretended to be too busy to support young people, if I thought that they were about to come out to me and tell her they were gay, or I pretended to be too busy or not to hear if I could see a student getting a hard time in the corridor, because being accused of being gay. So this, this word pretended seems to have been quite constant, really, and it's it's a word I very much associated section 21. Thank you. I'm keen to follow up some of those ideas, which you've expressed. And particularly in the structure of your book, which begins with more traditional historiography, particularly talking about women, teachers experiences in the 20th century. And then you move into memoir drawing on some very personal experiences during the period that you write about. So thinking about your research, interviews and interactions with the people that you write about, could you elaborate on the importance of their personal experiences, and how that enriches our understanding of section 28? For example, one of the recurring themes that you write about our teachers feelings of fear, often of the unknown, and I'm just interested how, how that came through in the interviews that you did, and the conversations which you had, which informed your research Yeah, so you know, I I didn't leave teaching until till 2010. And that it was so I knew that this law section 28 had been constant throughout my career. So my, my own research wanted me out I wanted to kind of find out whether I'd had I'd had a more challenging experience than most or whether others could relate to, you know, what I'd experienced. And actually, I struggled to find people. My teaching careers have been the last 15 years or so we're in, in Suffolk down the road from where we are in, in Cambridgeshire. And so I was quite interested in the rural perspective, what was it like for LGBT teachers in in rural schools, and I set out doing absolutely everything I can, I've got lots of networks, from years of being a teacher, I couldn't find people prepared to talk to me, and this was 2010 2011 2013. I couldn't people were too uncomfortable to come to come forward. And that really, really, really shocked, shocked me. And, of course, as a responsible researcher, I was going to ensure their anonymity and that I, you know, I had lots of national campaigns, diva magazine lesbi magazine in the UK, advertised my research out there, and I couldn't get six people who were prepared to speak to me. So actually, the research that I've done on the legacy of section 28 was done with an anonymous online survey instead, and doesn't get anywhere near to the depths of qualitative kind of research that I that I wanted to, to achieve. It was partly why as well, I found myself writing about my own experiences. So you know, my, my research, when I set off looking at this topic was never supposed to be about about me, it was supposed to be about other people. And it was the difficulty I had in, in finding others that led me to learn about auto ethnography in particular. So auto ethnography, as the name suggests, is field notes and in depth qualitative sort of research and writing that, that the auto as an autobiography, you know about one's own experiences. And the memoir, part of my book pretended he's draws very much on the auto ethnography their diaries and journals and trying to reflect on those critically, but an avenue that I found myself in because I struggled to, to get engagement from teachers who had experience section 28, and wanted to talk about it. Thank you. That's, that's fascinating, actually, because to some extent, some of that reflects my own experience of trying to recruit interview participants for oral history interviews. And it's been a very difficult process. But also, I feel it can be self selecting, as well in the people who are willing to speak about section 28. And you've you've probably noticed this in the literature that there is a repetition of the same people, the same voices in a lot of these LGBTQ oral histories, actually, throughout these periods, and it can tend to be activist as well. One of the things that it's made me think about trying to gather interview participants, is the concept of the gaps or the silences which exist in the histories of section 28. Have you found that have you found that there are gaps that you're conscious of or particular voices which haven't been able to be heard within this? Yeah, I am. I think that you know, the section, the section 28 era, you know, when he, when it is portrayed, often focuses on activism and you know, I will be for ever grateful to all those people that that went to London and to Manchester and marched in in protest against section 28. But as a teacher, that was never something that I could do, even though as a lesbian teacher, I was I was affected by him more than more than most because the risk of being seen or being photographed through a newspaper. I don't know, but I just could not have been seen to Who to be associated with with that at all. I think also in that era, we're talking about late 80s, to the early 2000s. We had in this country, across the world, the, the the AIDS and HIV, epidemic him. And a lot of the narrative around that time, quite rightly sits with gay men who were, you know, losing, losing friends losing partners through through aids, HIV, and the lesbian experience is kind of it's lost, it seems to have been lost a little bit from from that era. And so I wanted to write about my own experiences as as a lesbian teacher during that same period of history, because I didn't want that notion of those of us that were just trying to discreetly, quietly slip under the radar and not be noticed, but for our histories to be to be lost. Because I think even in even some ways, our stories weren't, as weren't as dramatic, or as life changing the they were still the still important and still shaped who we were then. And actually, in my case, in particular, who I've gone on to, to become I wrote as well, in the book, I started the book, talking about the history of sexuality and teachers, but in particular, the lesbian perspective on this, because, you know, when you look historically, the kind of well, warm narratives around sexuality and history, we will start in, we start with Queen Victoria and Queen Victoria. There was, homosexuality was, was there's this myth that she believed that it only took place between two men and women would never have conceived of such a thing. And it was unthinkable and that's actually as my book reveals, it's not quite how it happened. But all the kind of historical milestones around sexuality tend to be based around legislation covering the the act of homosexuality between men, so the act of of buggery, basically, and not about lifestyles and identities. And I think what sets section 28 Apart from all of the, the legislation that had gone before it was that it was a law, not against an act, not against a sexual act, but against an identity and, and the core of who a person was. And so I wanted to kind of go back in time and draw that out, rather than the well worn kind of, you know, the the wolfenden report against, you know, decency between men and that, not that these and lesbians, again, were work completely and utterly Not, not visible, weren't apparent in in that history. And I guess, the petite The reason why I wanted to focus historically on lesbian and gay teachers, I think it's important to stress here, you know, I always tend to use the acronym LGBTQ plus when I'm talking about the sexual and gender identity. But here I talk about lesbian and gay teachers, because this was a law about homosexuality, not about not not about gender identity, but there was something quite impossible about being either a gay or lesbian. teacher teaching was one of the ways in which women who were in same sex relationships could live in plain sight, ostensibly with another school mistress in a school house. And it's one of the only professions in which a woman could, you know, earn money and live independently of a man, you know, in a society in the school house, often with another woman, but you know, back in the day, then marriage and marrying well was was was so much more it was lauded as been so much more important than being a teacher. So those women who were teachers were seem to have they seem to have failed as a woman and failed to attract a man and then by the same token, lots of male teachers left to fight In the world wars and then didn't come come back. And those that didn't come back to teaching and those that were left in teaching were those who, for whatever reason, hadn't gone to war. And there's lots of because the sort of lots of kind of memoir from that time of men teachers being effeminate and somehow weak, and somehow not quite manly enough and a risk to children, and this this impossibility that whether you were a gay man, or not even a gay man, just an effeminate man, slightly weak in some way that you had to finish up in teaching, because you couldn't go off to war, or you couldn't do something that was less like childcare. And and women, you know, they couldn't get married, because they were too unattractive, or whatever. So teaching was this place where I think this idea of somehow odd or men and women who were less than resided. And I think that's where this sort of most suspicion and lack of ease about the identities of teachers kind of originates from, and now actually hearing you explain it, but reading the section in your book, where you're talking about the suspicion upon women teachers, and it actually put me in mind of something which as Neil said, Who's often seen as the, this highly progressive educational theorist and his description of the problem teacher being the homosexual teacher. So this sex starved woman who doesn't have a love life, and he says, it may be masculine arrogance on my part, when I say that women teachers who have no sex life, are more dangerous to children than men, teachers in the same predicament. A system that puts the education of girls in the hands of a body of women who have no sex life is a mad one, it affords too much opportunity for jealousy, the homosexual woman does not want her girls to go on to heterosexuality. And that's from 1939. So it's it's really clear that these ideas have been fizzing around for a long time. And I think you, you resolve really well, this idea of how the role of women in education was a necessary one and a crucial one for women's economic circumstances. But it was, as you say, it was an impossible irreconcilable position for those women. I'm wondering, Were you conscious at the time that even at that time, there would have been more women teachers than men? And were you conscious that there were high proportion of lesbian teachers within schools or not? Absolutely, absolutely. Not, at all. You know, I think there's often this myth that prior to this terrible law in 1988, called Section 28, that that education was a place in which people teachers could could come out and be be themselves was absolutely not the case. I think there was just a complete it was not acceptable, it was not not appropriate at all. So I think that section 28 Didn't it wasn't regressive particularly but it just stopped any any progress taking you know, taking place and I didn't know a single person who was gay when I when I was growing up in any capacity and of course, it's before the the internet and you know, we've got three channels on TV and you you think about how little I was kind of exposed to and as you know, I started my career as a as a PE teacher and Chile. I wasn't particularly that sporty but I suspected that one or two of my PE teachers were possibly gay, they were they were women that wore tracksuits. And you know, now we have you know, we have ranges of sportswear that are kind of, you know, tailored for women but back in the day, you know, it was a tracksuit, whether you're a man or a woman you were a tracksuit was the same tracksuits. And, and so so any woman who taught PE would would present you know, in a fairly masculine way, and I guess I I decided that I wanted to be a PE teacher because that literally was the only reference point I had my own PE staff to the fact that might be a place where I could be myself. And, you know, I think now about how, you know how we thought social media and all the the opportunities for people to learn things and connect with people with the same kind of mindsets. I was in, you know, South South Yorkshire in a little village, and you can't be what you can't see. And that is, I now know that even back then there were lesbians in all walks of life.  But of course, you know, I didn't know anybody or see anybody. And so hence, hence me starting a career in PE, it gives us a lot of context there for what it was like outside of the school, as well. And if that's what the teachers were experiencing, then you also have this group of children who are growing up in that environment. 


Syeda Ali  20:57

Were you conscious of many children coming to you or coming to teachers or coming to the school with questions about their gender or sexual identities at this time?


CL  21:08

When when I was a teacher during section 28? Yeah, oh, blimey. Yes. I mean, it was, I remember I write about it in the book, receiving a note from a student who'd got the female student got killed, he got a crush on me. I know that young people having let's face it, you know, 11 to 18, which was the age group I taught, you know, it's, it was painful years of adolescence. And again, I look back as the pastorals. Or I look now at the pastoral support in schools. And the way in which we have so much more, kind of in tune to students well being but you know, there were lots of young people who tried to tell me that they thought they were gay. And I closed down the conversation in the one of the stories that I share in my book pretended is when I went down to a gay bar in in Liverpool where I was where I was teaching and bumped into one of my sixth form netball team in in the bar and how I fully expected that because of section 28. When I went to school on Monday morning, she would help me to the senior leadership of the school who were all nuns, because this was a Catholic convent school, and that would be the end of me. And it absolutely didn't work out like that she came to speak to me and she needed my support. And I was I was unkind to her and said to her that I could reassure her that she wasn't gay, and that that club that she pub was not a very nice place full of not very nice people. And I obviously included myself in that. And I think that says something about the shame that I was I was feeling and the way in which I just couldn't risk offering support to this young young person. And for those, those listeners that have seen the film, Blue Jean, they'll know that that particular incident that I that I wrote about was in part, the inspiration for for the film, Blue Jean, which tells tells that story. 


Syeda Ali  23:43

And that comes across as in the film as a really brutal moment, both for the student and teacher who is having this experience of all this, how am I going to survive in this situation? What What line am I going to take and this fear and the the bearing of section 28 upon that teachers experience there, that's a really hard hitting moment there, where that teacher has made the decision. This is more than my job. This is more than my reputation. This is more than anything is worth I cannot do this at this moment.  And that brings me on to the question of whether you have come across in your research any teachers who resisted in ways which have not been documented as the high level protests were, I mean, you said yourself it was impossible for some teachers, as they were to see themselves being able to go out protest publicly, but were you conscious that there were teachers who were able to resist in any small ways in the schools.


CL  25:09

I mean, there are clearly you know, there are high profile examples and Jane Brown in in London, the head teacher that protested around the gift of Romeo and Juliet  tickets was then absolutely crucified by the by the tabloid press. But I've since I've since got to know, people who were teachers in London, and predominantly in London, and they, they were not as fearful they don't they, they were able to be out to an extent, in when they've been at a place for a long time. If they've got a secure network of friends amongst the staff, some of them were able to be to be them themselves as St. was predominantly predominantly in London. I, you know, I think it's important to stress, you know, my career started in inner city, Liverpool, but in a faith school and my teaching career continued then into in rural Suffolk. So I not necessarily had an entirely typical kind of experiences as a teacher, but you know, all of all of that those those that were able to perhaps be out to the staff, all of that relied on kind of a certain way of behaving, that was absolutely, you know, exemplary at all times, you know, those that have written about lesbian teachers, particularly with regards to leadership said that there is a real tension, because as a gay as a lesbian teacher, you know, I spent 22 years in essentially an entry level jobs, because I was doing absolutely I do everything I could not to be noticed in school, to slip under the radar to not form the relationships not to network, because it was too risky for me, as soon as I moved into higher education, and was able to bring my whole self to work. I've been last decade probably being promoted, there's no six or seven times. Because all of that energy that I have, I can dedicate to being at work, not managing that intersection of the personal and professional and worrying that it was going to it was going to collide. Those Those lesbian and gay teachers who who are, who are successful, who now and thankfully, you know, there are those that go on to be head teachers, for example, as their out authentic selves talk about over performing, putting inordinate amounts of energy into being the very, very best version of themselves, that they could be just in case just in case, somebody would take against the fact that they were lesbian or gay, and might find a reason to get rid of them or move them on. So you tend to get these two, these two sorts of types of teacher the one that absolutely works twice as hard as their heterosexual and sis Kent counterpart counterparts, or those that have quite a transactional relationship with their school. And I was very much the latter in a sort of, you know, if I could be out of the out of the school gates at 330. And home, I would be home because actually, the staff room was far more traumatic for me as a closeted teacher. And I just wanted to get out of them. And of course, you know, those those people don't get promoted into leadership. 


Syeda Ali  29:06

Thank you. We've talked a lot about the importance of coming out and being out. And I think in your book, one of the things that comes across is this feeling of loss, I could say almost on a lot of levels of not being able to be out at work. And I'm wondering whether we're conscious of a sense of fear of the consequences of coming out. Were there any examples that you were aware of, of people being treated differently if they had come out? Or if they had been outed? Or was it just something that was never openly spoken about but felt?


CL  29:51

I mean, I think it's important to know that not a single teacher was prosecuted under Section 28. And, you know, I now look Back in the wording of it, this pretended family relationship idea, I think, actually, it was completely unenforceable. But we didn't know, we didn't know that at the time. I know. And again, going back to colleagues that I've since met who worked in, in schools, particularly again in in London, who tried to be out, they would often find themselves moved on. So whilst and, you know, schools were different back then, nowadays, they tend to belong to a sort of chain of a cat under a chain of academies, a consortium of schools, but pretty much all the all state schools belong to the local authority, and you were employed by the local authority. So they could pick a teacher out of one school and go and put them for six weeks in another school under the auspices of helping out but often it was a ruse to move on a problem teacher or to give schools a break, if perhaps parents were suspicious or something like that. So there was a lot of moving around of teachers who were lesbian and gay during that that time. 


Syeda Ali  31:22

And that's interesting that you mentioned parents there, do you have any particular examples of parents have having intervened with schools where they had issues with either curricula that were being taught or with particular teachers, or pupils that were perceived as being lesbian or gay, because obviously, we had the very high profile protests in Harringay by the parents rights group in the 80s, before section 28 came into law, but I'm wondering if you know of any other situations where parents would get involved,


CL  32:02

I wasn't I wasn't at the time, because there was this complete silence of upsetting her sexual identity was not talked about at all, in any of the schools that I worked in, unless it was a homophobic slur from one student to to another, which often because of section 28 was not picked up and challenged in the way that, you know, a racist slur or, you know, any other kind of kindness would have would have been, I left teaching out, you know, I think it's important to say I, I continued in teaching after section 28 was repealed, I had done a beard in education, it was all I was qualified to do. It was sort of, I thought that I had to stay in this in this career for life. I finally left teaching in 2002 1009, because of because of a parent of children who were at my school who I didn't teach, went to see my head teacher and asked him Did he know about my living arrangement with another woman, and said, I shouldn't be teaching children. And my head teacher at the time seemed to think that section 28 was still the law, and put parent power and keeping keeping parents happy above his responsibilities to me, was before just before the Equality Act, and that was, that was the last straw and even, you know, a long time after section 28 It convinced me that actually, it was still going to be really really hard for me to ever be my myself at work. And I dreaded that sort of thing happening. And you know, all of us that were gay, and we're teachers dreaded it. When it happened, I was just finished. It was just it really, it really did hurt me a lot. But I think you know, all of this is, this isn't something that happened to me, this is something that happened to all of us pretty much we've all got, we all we all carry these fears. We all had these concerns. We all had difficult times in in in schools and it isn't I'm I'm just in a position now because I am no longer a teacher and it goes back to what you said actually about not being able to find teachers who want to share an oral history around this. This is this is this is left a legacy of, of shame and real anxiety for all of us that lived through it. 


Syeda Ali  35:11

Thank you, I suppose it changes over time and by generation and the feelings of the people, I mean, you are part of a generation, which started at the exact point that that law came in. And without a doubt, the experiences of people who were in teaching before that would have been different. People who came into teaching, after or later would have had different experiences of not having been through that particular moment that you described with section 28. But I wonder if you noticed with younger teachers during that period, as they came in later, after, if there was a change in their behaviour, or attitudes, or, for example, if somebody came in during the period of section 28, later on whether they were more likely to talk freely about sexuality. With all as long as changed over time, did these things change? Or is it just a generational thing? Or as we had more than three television channels or more gay prayers? I wonder if you noticed a difference with younger colleagues? Or was it the same pervasive sense of fear?


CL  36:35

No, I think I think it did. I think it did change. I think as, as there was greater cultural and media awareness. And we started to see LGBT people on our TVs and, and relationships in soaps. And I think about Michael cash, nuns first gay kiss in EastEnders and programming. The first of the reality TV programmes like Big Brother, you know, when there was maybe one or two contestants in that that were that were gay. They started so things relaxed, and I think it became possible to be out in in a staff room. But I wasn't while I was teaching, I wasn't aware of teachers being being out to students, and certainly not to parents or governors, at all. And after section 28, was was a Local Government Act, it wasn't a Schools Act. So it came to an end. And as far as I know, there was no sort of circular that were around to schools from the Department for Education or whatever the equivalent was back then. And that said, Oh, well, you know, section 28 is over, as you were everybody had I really didn't happen like that nothing changed. But as that became greater tolerance, exposure to people who were gay, in in the media, there was a relaxation, I think around just more generally in society, and often schools are kind of microcosms of, of society. I always look back at that era after 2003. And until 2010, which was when I finally left 2009. Finally left teaching I call it the don't ask don't tell you is because, you know, that's based on Bill Clinton's administration when he wanted to stop the ban on on lesbian and gay people serving in the military. And, you know, there was an agreement, a tacit agreement then that they would, soldiers would not have their bedside tables ransacked for love letters and things, as long as they were discreet and didn't talk about their partners or flaunt their sexuality, whatever that means. And schools were quite like that. You were it was okay to be the quirky gay teacher in the staff room. But it certainly wasn't okay to talk about yourself as somebody attracted to somebody else or to, to, to kind of, yeah, be a to be human in any way. You just this had to be something that was a bit a bit quirky about you, but discretion was absolutely massively important at all times. And, you know, I've, I've often talked earlier on about being in a being in a gay club and bumping into a student and I know there are lots of teachers that didn't go out on the gay scene back in the day for that very reason. And there's something, something about those places, though, those bars that were so, so special, they were the only places outside our homes where we could be authentically ourselves, you know, I walk around the city, and there were often same sex couples holding hands and nobody, nobody bats an eyelid. But that was not a thing. And so, unless you were in the privacy of your own home, the only place you could be your authentic self was at those at those bars at those clubs, which were always underground, which would never have windows were very dark and dingy. And there was a sense of, of shame in going downstairs, but also a slight thrill of theme. Being been out in inner city and being able to, to just for a few hours, hold your partner's hand or dance with your partner or something like that. And yeah, I think, you know, people often in my generation, say, oh, where have all the women's bars gone? Wherever the gay bars gone? And, you know, isn't it great that we don't need them anymore. And actually, you know, you can go in any bar, and it's a gay bar, you can go in any bar, you know, that those sorts of things. We don't need them in the way that they were sanctuaries back in the day.


Syeda Ali  41:47

That's a really rich and evocative description of how I guess cultural life was for lesbian and gay people outside of the school. And it's really, I think it's really helpful to have that context for people who did not live through that period to understand the the relationship between what was happening in the school and what was happening in the world outside. Because I think it's quite difficult to understand a world where there aren't easy identities to access, where you can't walk freely down the street with your same sex partner, where suspicion is cast on you if your identity is not stereotypically a masculine man or stereotypically a feminine woman. So I think there is there's a huge difference there between what was going on in wider society, and what it feels like now. So if people understand that the fear was reinforced from outside of the school, and not just what was happening in the school. And then that brings me to my kind of closing thoughts or questions for you that I couldn't speak about section 28, particularly on the anniversary of its repeal, without asking you what you think the implications are of this history for schools today? Is there a broader history of education into which section 28 fits? Or is it limited to our understanding of teaching gender and sexuality in schools? And I'd just be really interested in your thoughts on that.


CL  43:34

I don't think that section 28 was about teaching, or students or gender or sexuality. I think that section 28 was about the right wing government at the time, Mrs. Thatcher's government being threatened by by the Labour by the Labour Party, and in and really wanting to create moral panic, particularly in the rise of some of the London, the left wing local authorities in London. And so, you know, section 28 began with a library book called Jenny lips with Eric Martin, which was a children's book that was was bought by a couple of libraries in London. And it was about Jenny, a girl who's got two dads and she bakes a birthday cake with one of the dads for the other doubt. And this book, created with the help of the media and with the help of the the Conservative government moral panic that the left the left of the political sphere will want to corrupt our young people into a gay lifestyle. And the book, this little book, this little yellow book called Jenny lives with Eric Martin became became a symbol of that, I think those of us that were either LGBTQ and growing up, and we're at school, you're between 1988 2003 as students, or those of us that were in same sex relationships, and we're teachers, and we're living a double life, and we're living fearfully.  We were collateral in that political debate, that political posturing and, you know, as we look forward to possibly to a general election next year, and we have a government with, you know, who keeps promising that they will give us guidance on for trans and non binary identities in schools and continue to fail to do so and much delayed, and I think, I think ahead to the political debates that are likely to take place on TV and on the radio and online. And you can just, I can just anticipate it now that trans and non binary identities and politicians views about, you know, is is a trans woman or woman, we can I, you know, this, we will be collateral once again, in the, but it won't be lesbian and gay identities will be trans and non binary identities, will become that same political football, as, as we, you know, as we enter this kind of next phase of politics in a general election, I really hope that, in me, sort of speaking up about my own experiences as a teacher back in that time and writing about it, but also everybody else has done some, you know, there's some superb work, Paul Baker's book on, on section 28, from an activists kind of perspective, that we will look back, and we'll say, let's learn from that history. And let's, let's not do that, again, let's not do section 28 2.0, for the trans and non binary members of our community, because I'm starting to see the same moral panic around trans and non binary identities and schools that we had in you know, back in the 80s, under Section 28.


Syeda Ali  47:55

I'd like to mention the work that you now do following on from this. So you are a professor of inclusive education and leadership. And you must see a huge positive shift in attitudes, and what happens in schools through the work that you do. So I wondered if you could just round off this discussion, by taking a moment to explain how the work you do is directly connected to what you've been talking about in your research.


CL  48:21

Yeah, I, you know, I look back with such regret, that I wasn't braver that I wasn't able to be a role model for the young people that I know probably needed somebody like me back in the day under Section 28. And I guess I've spent the first of the second part of my career atoning in some ways first. So one of the things that I've been really pleased to be involved in is you case first leadership development programme for LGBTQ teachers who want to be head teachers and senior leaders in schools and working with teachers. You know, we've created almost 100 LGBT school leaders, not all head teachers, some are heads of department heads of year, but hopefully through that programme, giving them the confidence the tools to become effective leaders as their authentic selves and I'm really proud of that programme because it you know, I wasn't able to be that role model for those young people but when I see that yeah, the teachers that I've worked with that I mentor that I support, going in and starting pride clubs and baking rainbow cupcakes for history moms and an all the and the inclusive, good practice that goes on in in schools. I Just you know, it makes me feel really, really pleased and relieved that I'm playing, I'm still able, through the research, the mentoring the work with schools that I do in my capacity now at a university, that I'm helping to make it better for, for the teachers that came after me. And, you know, and it's a privilege to do that and say that there is nothing more. I absolutely love, Pride History Month, and all those those experiences, the chances to go into schools and, and, you know, the kids, you know, I wrote something for Netflix recently on heartstopper. And I don't know if you've seen heartstopper it's a Boy Meets Boy, school, young, teenage sort of love story and hightest, you know, that's based very much around school. And I, I find, even though that series is really not, it's not aimed at somebody as old as me, I absolutely, like just half an hour of joy to watch those, to watch that. And it's so great. There are gay teachers in heartstopper. And they just kind of quietly there in the background, and providing the support that I could, you know, that I felt that I could never, ever provide. So, it's there's a lot to celebrate, lots to celebrate. And I do. I do hope, though, that we, you know, I still, I'm still researching, writing, talking, thinking about section 28, 20 years after it was repealed. And you know, these things, when when legislation tells you that there is something wrong with you as a person, not your behaviour, but you as a person, your very identity. You can't help but internalise that and believe that you are not as good as anybody else, and you are less than you are inferior. Let's do absolutely everything in our power, that when trans and non binary identities become the subject of political debate as we go into the next general election, that we that we call that out that we stop that that that we don't leave the trans or non binary members of our community feeling like those of us who experienced section 28 were left to feel 


Syeda Ali  53:00

Thank you. It's been wonderful talking to you. Thank you for your time.


CL  53:04

Thank you for inviting me. It's been a pleasure. Thank you.


Syeda Ali  53:09

Passing notes is a production of the history of Education Society, UK. Our social media manager is Elena Rossi, and our executive producer is Heather Ellis. This episode was written and produced by me Syeda Ali. You can find a transcript of this episode, as well as more information about our events, publications and conferences at our website history of education.org.uk

Lesbian teachers' experiences
LGBT expereinces in school during Section 28
Gender and sexuality during Section 28
The challenge of being a closeted teacher
LGBT rights and education history