On 22 February, it was Purple Friday. It takes place on the last Friday of LGBT history month and is a day to stand against homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia. I saw coverage about the secretary of state for Scotland David Mundell MP speaking up about the importance of marking LGBT history month. But I couldn’t help but reflect on LGBTQI+ history of the Conservative Party, and felt the need to write him an open letter. Most importantly because Mundell said “coming out was one of the most difficult things I have done”.
Dear David Mundell,
I am writing this letter after seeing your comments about how “difficult” it was ‘coming out’. As reported in PinkNews, you said it was one of the most important and difficult things you have done. You also said you received support from friends, family, and colleagues – which would have been invaluable. I can relate to a lot of what you went through in January 2016, as I am a gay man too. You’re right, coming out is difficult but freeing. But I take issue with the historic stance of your party on LGBTQI+ issues. And more specifically, your own early voting record on said issues. I was a pupil of the UK education system under Section 28. And that policy made it even more difficult for millions of LGBTQI+ individuals to come out – including myself.
As you will be aware Mr Mundell, Section 28 was an amendment to the Local Government Act 1988. It was made legislation by Margaret Thatcher’s government. As described in the Guardian, the legislation was to prevent the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality or those “pretended family relationships” by local government. This meant any materials that included same-sex relationships or families were banned in schools – including novels and important health advice. This is particularly worrying as this policy was imposed at the height of the HIV/AIDs crisis. Section 28 also prevented councils from using funds on educational materials or other projects that ‘promoted’ an LGBTQI+ lifestyle. Essentially it was silencing the LGBTQI+ community from education in the UK. It oppressed a community that you now belong to.
Your party and your voting record
This policy was abhorrent. But after the creation of the Scottish Parliament in 1999, Section 28 was repealed in Scotland in June 2000. It was later repealed across England and Wales in 2003. You will know that, Mr Mundell, as you sat as an MSP for the South Scotland region at the time. You voted with your Scottish Conservative colleagues to keep Section 28. Your party was the only one not to back its repeal. You were also not present for the vote on equalising the age of consent for gay men to the same as heterosexual couples. Another policy of equality that your colleagues did not support. It is fair to say the Tories’ position on LGBTQI+ issues was appalling.
I do hope you now regret that decision to vote against the repeal of Section 28. Because that policy made high school a confusing time for me and many other LGBTQI+ individuals. Being LGBTQI+ wasn’t mainstream, and to some, it seemed ‘wrong’. I know plenty of people who also struggled coming out in this environment. And as a gay man, I find it mind-boggling that you can even support the Conservative Party, let alone serve on the frontbench at Westminster.
I profoundly disagree with you on many policy areas but can respect your choice to your political views. But you were a part of the party that made coming out difficult for every member of the LGBTQI+ community of my generation. You were a member, an activist, and an MSP in the Scottish Parliament for the Scottish Conservative Party whilst Section 28 was in place. Whilst you were unable to be comfortable with your own homosexuality, you were depriving others of the means to be comfortable with theirs. And I find that hard to get my head around and impossible to respect.
You must understand and accept it
I understand everyone has different personal circumstances that can make coming out challenging. I was lucky to have supporting and encouraging parents – so that helped. And you having children must have brought unique stressors that I can’t comprehend. But when you say coming out was difficult, you must understand and accept that your party has made it difficult for millions to come out and be themselves. And you must accept that you were partly to blame.
Featured image via Chris McAndrews /Wiki Commons
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?