‘I taught in schools when it was illegal to mention homosexuality – now I help them be LGBT inclusive

By Staff

A teacher who taught under Thatcher’s Section 28 now promotes LGBT+ topics in the classroom after years of being unable to even mention homosexuality in classes. Mel Lane, 56, was a teacher – and still is – at the time of Section 28, but now she uses those experiences plus ones developed from her own life to help teach LGBT+ education in schools alongside the London-based group Pop’n’Olly.

Section 28 banned the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ by local authorities and in schools even though homosexuality had been decriminalised. Mel said: “When I was a young teacher Section 28 was still in place. And I know from that time we as teachers were extremely concerned that if we said anything about LGBT+ we could lose our jobs. There was such a particularly homophobic atmosphere at the time.”

It wasn’t just teaching under Section 28 that inspired Mel to become an LGBT+ educator to help tackle prejudice, it was also her experience with her son who came out as gay when he was 18. She said: “When my son came out I started to realise we just need more visibility.”

READ MORE: ‘I hid my true self for 20 years – now I’m sharing my journey with children’

She continued: “But he had kept it a secret for years. And, while talking to him, I learned that one of the biggest reasons for doing LGBT+ work and talking about LGBT+ families in school is because when you don’t talk about it, children build up such a strong sense that this is not something that it’s okay to talk about.”

Mel was inspired by her son to make a change and bring more visibility to LGBT+ lives as his experience at school was ‘that being gay meant that he would always be miserable, that he would have a really hard life because he hadn’t seen that positive representation’.

“Loads of children have family members, have people in their friendship groups too, who are LGBT+ and then when we and they talk about LGBT+ lives, it’s just another life too, just another way to be a human.”

Section 28 came into force on May 24, 1988. It stated that local authorities ‘shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality’ or ‘promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship’.

On the act, Mel said: “I think that the silence that imposed meant that a whole generation of people grew up where there was no conversation, there was no access to, any information for any age children, either a positive depiction of LGBT+ lives or useful information.”

In 2003 Section 122 of the Local Government Act 2003 repealed Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 allowing for true LGBT+ education to start in schools. Now, many of the children of that period are adults who still find it difficult to know how to talk about LGBT+ lives.

As an LGBT+ educator who goes into schools and does training with teachers as well as students, Mel said that she has met many teachers who are in just that position. She said: “The reality is that virtually all teachers – and I’ve done training sessions with thousands – are supportive of LGBT+ families and students and it is very rare to find ones that are not supportive. But they are nervous about ‘what can I say? What if I say the wrong thing? What if it’s inappropriate?'”

This is where Mel and her co-workers at Pop’n’Olly come it. They provided classroom resources to help ‘schools across the UK, and beyond, to teach about equality and diversity’.

Being a teacher she used her skills and knowledge to create workshops which led her to collaborate with Pop’n’Olly, spreading her message countrywide and building a positive, harmonious narrative to help educate not only the next generation but all generations about LGBT+ lives and the importance of defeating prejudice.

You can read more about Mel through her website here. You can read more about Pop’n’Olly through their website here.

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