From 4pm, join us in the Forum at the University of Exeter’s Streatham Campus for the launch of our exhibition on Section 28 and its afterlives, which tells for the first time the story of Section 28 in Exeter and the South West. Rather than focusing on London and other metropolitan experiences, this exhibition puts the spotlight on local LGBTQ+ history, giving audiences insight into the profound and long-lasting impacts of Section 28 on LGBTQ+ people in the South West. The exhibition launch will be followed by a panel discussion (from 6pm) led by the project team and featuring contributions from a range of invited speakers, including representatives from local LGBTQ+ organisations and initiatives (including the Intercom Trust and the Plymouth LGBT Archive), as well as academics and activists. In the panel discussion, we will reflect on what Section 28 meant for those who lived through it, and on what Section 28 means today in terms of legacies, parallels, and warnings.
Throughout the event there will be plenty of opportunities to share your own experiences and reflections if you wish. Although all are welcome, we are particularly keen to engage members of the LGBTQ+ community of all generations. We want to provide a space for LGBTQ+ people who lived through Section 28 to see the stories being told, acknowledged, and validated. And we want younger LGBTQ+ people who may not have heard of Section 28 before to learn more about this important part of community history, so that they are empowered to draw on history to respond to similar contemporary challenges to LGBTQ+ rights. We hope this will be the starting point for further intergenerational LGBTQ+ dialogue, and we’re working with the Intercom Trust – the leading charity supporting LGBTQ+ people in the South West – to run reflective cafes to continue the conversation over the coming year.
18 November 2023 marks the 20th anniversary of the repeal of Section 28 in England and Wales. Section 28 of the Local Government Act was a piece of legislation that came into force in 1988 and sought to ban schools and other local authority bodies from ‘promoting homosexuality’. It blighted LGBTQ+ people’s experiences of school, as students, teachers, and parents. It sustained a wider atmosphere of silence and shame deeply felt at home, work, and the public sphere. And it inspired bold, defiant acts of protest and pride. Twenty years on from its repeal, join us at the University of Exeter on Monday 13 November for the launch of a public exhibition and panel discussion on what Section 28 meant for those who lived through it – and why understanding this history has never been more important or more urgent.
Section 28 tried to silence LGBTQ+ voices. Drawing on oral history interviews conducted with LGBTQ+ people in the South West the exhibition launch and panel discussion will put LGBTQ+ voices front and centre, helping to ensure that this difficult and often overlooked period of recent LGBTQ+ history can be better understood from the perspectives of those affected by it most. As well as looking back, this event uses the anniversary of the repeal of Section 28 to ask whether this history is truly past, and to reflect on the troubling legacies and parallels we can see today in attacks on hard-won LGBTQ+ rights, in this country and beyond.
Remembering Section 28 on the 20th anniversary of its repeal is led by Dr Helen Birkett, Dr Chris Sandal-Wilson, and Dr Hannah Young, historians at the University of Exeter, with the kind support of a number of community and heritage organisations.
All are welcome, we are particularly keen to engage members of the LGBTQ+ community of all generations.