As a child of the eighties, I thought Maggie cut a rather marvellous figure, sailing through the decade with her shoulder power-pads, furs and that bulletproof hair – lacquered to within an inch of its existence.
I was far too young to understand the political ramifications of her tenure: the hardship that fell upon millions in towns where industry was decimated, the rights to buy, or the silencing of a generation’s gays – instead as I played, building my own Lego empire in front of the Beeb’s 6 o’clock news I saw this rather robust and resilient red-lipped woman disembark the steps of yet another 747, shake the hands of craggy leaders around the world and uttering the iconic words ‘Vanity, vanity vanity. ‘ I thought, looking up from my empire construction, ‘this is a woman I should take note of.’
When Section 28 was introduced I was a pre-teen. What could it possible mean to an eight year old boy, who preferred theatre and designing clothes for Barbie?
In fact if asked what Section 28 was, I’m sure I would have pointed at the largely ignored volumes of red ultra-bound Britannica Children’s Encyclopaedias my mother had purchased, ‘at great expense’ she constantly reminds us, for the education of her offspring.
However Section 28 lived on much longer than Thatcher’s premiership. In fact it wouldn’t be repealed until I was 21 – out of school and out of the closet.
I was unaware that in the mid nineties sitting in a classroom at my north London comprehensive for a PSR lesson (yes that’s Personal Social Responsibility) I would be made to feel dirty, embarrassed and illegal.
It was 1995. Six years away from the repeal of Section 28. Section 28 of the Local Government Act, prohibited the promotion of homosexuality in schools. It was enacted in 1988.
Somewhere in among ‘Energy Saving’ and ‘Litter Picking’, Homosexuality was brought up by the teacher, who promptly said: “We can’t talk about this – but one in ten people are gay, that means at least two people in this class room will be gay’ and with that sword-swipe of a statement turned his back on the room as hands started to raise and a united ‘eurgggh’ sound resounded. All eyes it felt, fell on me.
Turning a shade of Maggie’s Lips, I felt strangled. The teacher refused to say anymore in fear of having a legal case brought against him.
Where was the explanation of homosexuality?
Where were the ‘It’s Ok To Be Gay’ badges?
The Tote Bags of Equality?
The “So You Think You’re Gay” pamphlets?
In that moment I became the love that dare not speak it’s name, too risky and illicit to talk about. Now that I write that down, it feels sexy and very Jilly Cooper, but at the time my head was exploding with questions, with the need to be reassured, to be rescued from the looming, baying mob, who were suspiciously eyeing up their classmates to see which one was the homo. I had my mark. My path was set.
So what are the long-term effects of Maggie’s rule to my illicit generation?
It’s hard to say.
Had the children of the 80s and 90s been able to talk more freely of their sexuality would we be more politically focussed rather than a numbed number? Aren’t we a little guilty for using Pride as an excuse to drink and meet with friends to commiserate times past? Rather than the political statement it was intended? Aren’t we guilty of being a little bit apathetic when it comes to rallies and demonstrations?
Do we feel stymied by our formative years? We are proud, but not with a capital P.
I recently attended an Anti-Gay Marriage rally in Trafalgar Square. The ‘Pro’s’ far outweighed by the ‘Anti’s’ – but as I glanced around my fellow queers and allies, I wondered where were my generation?
It felt all these people were 5 to 10 years older or younger than me. They were far more politically charged.
Why is it that the 80’s babies aren’t fighting as hard as those born in the 70s or 60s? Maybe it’s because our predecessors had their milk taken away by mother Maggie. Is their political protesting born out of some sort of fight for survival?
Maybe they are the generation that could actually understand the implications of Section 28 and remember the times where homosexuality was still illegal.
I sit and talk to my peers about the passing of the Iron Lady and we shrug. Muted. Nonplussed by it all, but feel nostalgic as we watch our childhood play out in the nightly news – reruns of Maggie – once again, dressed in cobalt blue power suits, surrounded by aids and bodyguards blazing through international conferences or sat atop a tank blasting cannons into a field.
Meanwhile students, who weren’t even twinkles in their parents’ eyes at the time of her resignation rejoice at her passing, while the generation above sneer and remember songs by Billy Bragg and Morrisey.
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Opinions expressed in this article may not reflect those of THEGAYUK, its management or editorial teams. If you'd like to comment or write a comment, opinion or blog piece, please click here.