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Margaret Thatcher: Her Most Important Legacy

“Children who need to be taught to respect traditional moral values are being taught that they have an inalienable right to be gay”.

Barry Church-Woods

GSH 50

Today marks the funeral of Margaret Thatcher.  It seems like lazy writing to say she was divisive.  It’s a word I’ve read a thousand times in the 9 days since her death.  During this period, I’ve witnessed street parties, national mourning, a very long yet well crafted documentary in Sweden and watched people tear each other apart on social media discussing her legacy and the legitimacy of rejoicing at someone’s death.  I’ve also made a joke about respectfully halting production of my S&M film The Iron Lady Garden.

It’s fair to say, as a child of the 70s I was never a fan.  Policies implemented under her leadership impacted directly on my quality of life.  Poverty was rife in the West Lothian New Town of Livingston with high unemployment and questionable avenues to education.

In 1988 however, Thatcher led on one policy that would forever impact my life.  Section 28.

Introduced during the AIDS epidemic as part of the Local Government Act, Section 28 stated that a local authority “shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality”.

Short lived and repealed in 2003, the legislation was massively controversial, meaning that teachers in schools in Scotland, England and Wales faced fear of revealing their own homosexuality or discussing alternative sexual orientations as an acceptable way of life.  It was never illegal to do so, though perpetrators of these “offenses” faced disciplinary action and job uncertainty.

For many gay men of my generation, Thatcher will always be considered a hate figure.  Today however, I choose to salute her.

Not because of any misinformed loyalty to her or because she was one of only a few conservative politicians to vote in favour of the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1967, but because of this:

Section 28 was one of the most high profile attacks on the LGBT community carried out since the final solution.  It mobilized the LGBT community to get together and make a lot of noise about the infringements of gay rights.  It caused a national uproar and guaranteed homophobic front-page coverage of nearly every tabloid newspaper in the UK.  It got people talking and it got the LGBT community shouting.  We were not happy.  Things had to change.

In the 25 years since the introduction of Section 28, LGBT equality has come on leaps and bounds thanks to the tireless campaigning from groups such as Stonewall, the Equality Network, Outrage and many more.

2001 seen the implementation of an equal age of consent regardless of sexual orientation, the Civil Partnership Act of 2004 gave same sex couples the same rights and responsibilities as civil marriage and this year, Scottish and British parliament are both progressing laws to legalise same-sex marriage in Scotland, England and Wales.  Not bad for a quarter of a century.

Without a doubt, Thatcher changed the world.

It seems fitting that for a policy that impacted so widely on education to quote Newton’s third law of motion:

“For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”.

To me, this cements her most important legacy.

I’ll leave you with a quote she gave to a series of small businesses in 1988.  I much prefer it in the context of this article.

“I came to office with one deliberate intent: to change Britain from a dependent to a self-reliant society — from a give-it-to-me, to a do-it-yourself nation. A get-up-and-go, instead of a sit-back-and-wait-for-it Britain”.

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Categories: Bisexual Celebrities Gay Lesbian LGBT Margaret Thatcher News Opinion Politics Role Models Section 28 Transgender

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7 replies

  1. Reblogged this on Windy and commented:
    Beware of the “traditional moral values” meme. It covers a multitude of grotesque traditions. There is really nothing inherently “good” about tradition. We may enjoy some comfort in the familiarity of traditions, but look at some of the awful places we’ve sat over the course of our history.

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  2. Barry, I commend your attempt to find a way to look beyond the “divisive” Thatcher by saluting her with a post mortem “she helped us in spite of herself” honour, but I think you’ve drawn a very long bow.

    I salute LGBTQI Britons because they effectively mobilised themselves long before Section 28, like all western LGBTQI did in the years that our leaders wouldn’t listen to the needs of people who were already dying of HIV/AIDS related conditions, and the ones who loved and lost them.

    Written up to a decade before Section 28, the words of Larry Kramer, re-published in LBBT icons last week, are testament to that.

    Margaret Thatcher’s vote in support of decriminalising homosexuality (and a woman’s right to choose abortion) is proof, to me, that the divisive definition so widely used for her is so very apt.

    It shows that a conscience in support of human rights had clearly touched her long before she became Prime Minister.

    But she was unable to reconcile that conscience as leader, when she advocated for the rights of only one side of Britain’s population. This alienated the half of British society who are now celebrating her death.

    We all know it, you’re sick of hearing it, we’re sick of hearing it. Perhaps it’s time for us to just accept that division fuelled Thatcher’s tank?

    Her divisiveness is the one inarguable fact about Margaret Thatcher – she has been farewelled with sorrow and glee in equal measure, making “divisive” not a lazy term, but just the kindest way to describe the woman.

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    1. Thanks Michael, clearly I am a little narrow-focussed on my own experiences of the time and the backlash. The intention was not to demean the achievements of those that came before the late 80s response, but to reflect on a time where I witnessed thousands of people come together to protest a common goal. Until then, my experience of the LGBT community in the UK was that it was fractured; to quote Larry Kramer once more : “Well, what about Lesbians?…they’re…different”. It’s a division that still exists today on the scene, but Section 28, and in particular Brian Soutar’s funding of the Keep the Clause campaign brought people together in a way that just hadn’t happened so visibly in the past.

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      1. It could be argued that a thread for the gay community’s liberation and mobilisation goes back as far as human existence. Britain’s 1967 decriminalisation and 1988 Section 28, and the global HIV/AIDS epidemic are just blips along the way.

        My point really was that the only positive support Thatcher provided for the cause was in 1967 when she voted to decriminalise homosexuality between men.

        How wonderful that she thought and felt enough to do so. How interesting that few Tories are talking about that now.

        Crediting Thatcher with having given support for same sex attracted people, even by default, is an interesting notion. I’d imagine that, if put to a large group of people, it would be a divisive subject.

        But there’s the “D” word again … like I said, it’s an unarguable Thatcher tag.

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