Friday, 12 April 2013

Margaret Thatcher, RIP

It was with no regret whatsoever that I heard a few days ago of the death of Baroness Thatcher.

Since then there has been outpourings of grief and of vitriol -  you can guess which part of the political spectrum each came from, I'm sure.

And I'll confess to a sneaky voice in my head singing, "Ding dong...". I'm not proud of that. As a child, if I couldn't say something nice about someone, I was always encouraged to say nothing instead. So I've been able to resist the temptation to actually sing it out loud, though I have made reference to it in at least one Facebook post.

So, my basic reaction to Mrs T's passing is - 'Oh'. Indifference. I didn't know her personally, so I feel no sadness. And, although I will say that I despised her coldhearted policies and lack of insight into their effect on the vulnerable, I don't feel an urge to dance and rejoice either.

For me, Margaret Thatcher was a cold, ambitious individual. Anyone who thinks she should be an icon for women should, in my view, consider whether she actually did very much to improve the lot of women. A lot of articles written over the past few days by women make it plain than none of the writers think she did anything of value for women.

As a gay man, my dislike of her stems from Section 28, which her government brought in. A mean-spirited piece of legislation whose repercussions for LGBT young people are still being felt. A number of LGBT commentators have written about this.

In February of 2009, as part of a day long event I helped to present for LGBT History Month, I gave a presentation called 'The Shadow of Section 28', that gives some idea of my thinking.

In my view, while Margaret Thatcher was not the main architect of this legislation, it is quite obvious that she was content to support it and felt happy to fall in with the rhetoric about the 'poor children'. And she was, after all, the leader of the government responsible for making it clear that LGBT people were not worthy of the protection of the law, were beyond the Pale. By making it difficult (to say the least) to talk about LGBT lives to young people, another generation grew up knowing only what was rumoured about them. Never a constructive way.

The lack of discussion about LGBT people at school, indeed the fear that some teachers had of doing so, in case they got into trouble, has damaged countless lives and encouraged a school culture that has resulted in the high levels of homophobic bullying we see reported in Stonewall's The School Report. I lay the blame for that at her door, as the Prime Minister whose government brought Section 28 into being.

More information:

This link shows Mrs T in October 1987 making her feeling known about the need for Section 28, making a connection, as homophobes so often do, to children.

Stonewall's The School Report 2012:

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