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New book tells of legacy of homophobic law

Published: 23 January 2023 at 12:00

Book cover

Professor Catherine Lee to launch new book Pretended at Anglia Ruskin University

A book that lays bare the struggles of lesbian and gay teachers during a time of anti-gay legislation in the UK will be launched at Anglia Ruskin University (ARU) in February. 
Pretended: Schools and Section 28: Historical, Cultural and Personal Perspectives, a new book by ARU academic Professor Catherine Lee MBE, considers the landscape for lesbian and gay teachers leading up to, during and after the repeal of Section 28, a law that forbade schools from “promoting” same-sex relationships.  
In practice, this meant teachers were not able to reveal their sexuality in the school workplace and feared being sacked if anyone in the school community found out they were gay. Books that featured same-sex relationships were banned from classrooms and teachers were not allowed to discuss sexual identity with young people needing support.  
The law was repealed in 2003, but Professor Lee’s own research has shown the mental health impact of the law still impacts the careers of lesbian and gay teachers today. 
In Pretended, Professor Lee draws on her own diary entries from her time as a teacher under Section 28 to convey the challenges facing her and countless other teachers in schools and in their personal lives. 
Last year, Professor Lee was an advisor on the acclaimed film Blue Jean, which also focused on the impact of Section 28 and has already won several awards at international film festivals. The film was recently nominated for a BAFTA for Outstanding Debut. Professor Lee was awarded an MBE for services to equality in education in King Charles’ first New Year Honours List. 
During the launch event of Pretended, Professor Lee will reflect on the historical narrative of lesbian and gay teachers in schools and read from her own Section 28 diaries. She will also reveal how working on Blue Jean has enabled her to make her own peace with how Section 28 affected her. 
Professor Lee said:

“Section 28 was in place for 15 years and had a devastating effect on the mental health of a generation of lesbian and gay teachers and students. People in these communities who attended school during the time of Section 28 never saw people like them, never had role models and never had adults in school that they could talk to about their identity. 
“Working on Blue Jean was tremendously helpful to me and helped me gain some closure on what was a very difficult time. 
“I hope Pretended will resonate with both teachers and students who struggled through the time of Section 28, and equally people who perhaps did not know anything about it.” 

Pretended: Schools and Section 28: Historical, Cultural and Personal Perspectives is published on 3 February and is available for pre-order now. The launch event will take place at ARU’s Cambridge campus on Wednesday, 8 February at 6,30pm. It will be free to attend, but places must be booked. For more information, visit Pretended: Schools and Section 28 - ARU