A new exhibition is bringing to light the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ people in the South West during the era of Section 28. This law, introduced in 1988, prohibited local authorities and schools from “promoting the teaching of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship,” casting a long shadow over the lives of many in the LGBTQ+ community.
Voices from the Past: The Impact of Legislation
Titled “Section 28 and its Afterlives,” the exhibition features personal accounts from 12 LGBTQ+ individuals, providing insights into how this legislation affected their lives in various spheres, including education, home, and work. These narratives paint a vivid picture of the struggles faced by the LGBTQ+ community under the oppressive atmosphere fostered by Section 28.
Marking Two Decades Since Repeal
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the repeal of Section 28 in England and Wales, a significant milestone in LGBTQ+ history. The exhibition not only commemorates this event but also serves as a platform for reflection on the long-lasting effects of such discriminatory laws on individuals and communities.
A Legacy of Silencing and Shame
Dr. Hannah Young, a history lecturer and co-lead of the project, emphasized the profound impact of Section 28, which perpetuated a culture of silence and shame deeply felt across public and private life. One participant poignantly described the experience as feeling “like being erased while you’re still alive,” a sentiment that resonates with many even two decades after the law’s repeal.
Expanding the Narrative
Currently showcased at the University of Exeter’s Streatham Campus, the exhibition will move to the Positive Light Projects in Exeter. In its ongoing efforts to capture a more comprehensive history, the project team is seeking additional stories from LGBTQ+ people in the South West who lived under the shadow of Section 28, aiming to amplify voices that have long been marginalized.