Homophobic legacy of Section 28


30 years on: warnings over homophobic legacy of Section 28

On 24 May 1988 (30 years ago) a law was introduced in England which banned “the promotion of homosexuality”.

Section 28 of the Local Government Act impacted sex education in schools, and also caused confusion over the legality of funding initiatives for lesbian, gay or transgender people.

It was greeted by huge opposition protests across the country – with Manchester seeing around 25,000 people take to the streets.

Protests to Section 28 took place across the UK. More than 20,000 turned out in Manchester. Credit: Nick Lansley

Tony Openshaw was one of those who spoke at a mass rally opposing Section 28 in Manchester in 1988.

He says the legislation felt “like a backwards step” – with the ostracism he and his partner faced being symptomatic of a homophobic turn in parts of society.

Tony is urging people over 55 to embrace their sexuality and seek support if they’re lonely. Credit: ITV News

My parents disowned me. I missed everything. I think they only talked to me two or three times in the last 35 years.

I didn’t get invited to my mother’s 90th birthday, at all. My partner who died 7 years ago, nobody attended his funeral from my family, so I’ve missed out on a lot of things.


There were serious concerns raised that Section 28 would stop council funding of initiatives for LGBT people. Credit: Nick Lansley

Section 28 was repealed in 2003, but a charity is warning that the hostile atmosphere towards the LGBT community which inspired such legislation left a whole generation of people more vulnerable to social isolation.

Research by Age UK shows that older LGBT people are especially vulnerable to loneliness as they are more likely to be single, live alone, and have lower levels of contact with relatives.

Older people generally are at greater risk of social isolation and loneliness, and in particular older LGBT people perhaps are more at risk of that.

Especially if they aren’t living as open a lifestyle as they wish that they could. Identify as LGBT today is a very different experience to say 30 years ago, when we were in the throes of section 28.


A support group for LGBT+ people over the age of 50 meets in Manchester. Credit: ITV News

Age UK Manchester runs a support group for people from the LGBT+ community in Manchester.

Part of their aim is to address the challenged which people growing up in certain generations faced when coming out to family or wider society.

The group means a lot to me in the sense that it’s the only group I can see in the town centre that deals more with our age people, the over 50s, and it takes me out of myself on a Wednesday and a Thursday.



It’s a lifesaver really, because otherwise you’re just sat at home, doing nothing, wondering what to do, where to go… and this is a place to go.

It’s like a family, I don’t know what I’d do without it. It’s to show people that you don’t have to be in the closet. Let yourself go.


Advice and support for LGBT+ people

You can watch the full report by Lise McNally below:

Click on this image and then scroll to bottom of new page to see video

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