How much do you know about queer life in the 1990s? Thanks to Section 28 and a total lack of positive media representation, I nearly didn’t survive it.
When I was eleven years old, Section 28 was very much still the flavour of the month. This horrific law effectively made it illegal for anyone who worked with children to discuss, promote, or even acknowledge LGBTQ+ identities.
In practice, it meant one thing: queer kids like me had no role models. And it sucked.
There was no Heartstopper or Glee or Beautiful People. Instead, we got newspaper headlines panicking about AIDS and calling queer people perverts. The only representation of trans identities was as the butt of a joke.
Then there was me. A nerdy kid who loved Star Trek.
Fast forward to 2022 and the long-running space franchise finally has queer representation with Ian Alexander and Anthony Rapp, one of my long-time personal heroes. It would have blown my closeted tween mind.
And now Heartstopper’s Yasmine Finney, an openly trans young actress, is set to become a household name as The Doctor’s next companion.
Before mass media representation we didn’t have the words to say who we were. I didn’t know there was anyone like me. Now there’s light, positivity, and knowledge. But for me, the cruel legacy of Section 28 still looms tall.
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There is so much positivity on display now. So why am I still plagued with the fear and doubt of darker days?
Watching Heartstopper gave me some clues. Between Kit and Joe and the incredible Yasmine, I saw what could have been.
I wept – not just because of the beautiful storyline, but at the sudden realisation that a youth like that just wasn’t possible for me and so many in my generation.
But after the tears, I cried out in joy, in celebration of how far we’ve come.
It’s easy for those of us who’ve been activists for a long time to forget that, while we’ve still got so far to go, we’ve come a heck of a long way.
The disconnect many felt after Heartstopper made me realise how important it is to build bridges between the generations.
The UK’s slide back in LGBTQIA+ rights rankings in the same year we mark 50 years of Pride in the UK is a reminder that history is not static. The future is only bright if we make it.
Bringing together people young and old will allow us to examine where we’ve come from so we can propel ourselves and our community forward.
With the fight ahead of us, we need to be humbled by past stories and victories, and work together to keep winning for years to come.
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