Schools face gay book test

The author of a story about a young homosexual fears it could contravene Section 28. Mike Addelman reports

SCHOOLS face a dilemma over whether to stock a new book for teenagers about a gay 10-year-old boy. Librarians have been urging schools to buy it but Paul Magys, its author, believes it may test Section 28 of the 1988 Local Government Act which outlaws "the intentional promotion of homosexuality" by councils.

Strange Boy is the story of David who discovers he has sexual feelings for another boy while his parents are going through a divorce.

Jonathan Douglas, youth adviser for the Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals, said: "Young people need to read stories about children who are going through similar experiences to develop their own sense of identity. And heterosexual youngsters will benefit by learning about other people's experiences too."

But Mr Magys, who is gay, said: "Section 28 is a grey area and it could be tested if libraries stock the book. It deals most directly with being gay and knowing it from an early age, as I did. It is terrible that 'queer' and 'poof' are terms of abuse at school before children even know what they mean."

Colin Hart, director of the Christian Alliance which supports Section 28, warned that if the book promoted homosexuality, it would break the law. He said: "We believe that marriage should be the only context for sexual activity. Homosexuality is wrong."

A spokesman for the Church of England, which runs 200 secondary schools and 4,500 primaries, said: "We support a sex education which includes gay issues. But it is up to individual governors whether their schools should stock this book."

Peter Algacs is a leader of London gay youth group Outzone, which has 300 teenage members. He said: "The book is an interesting way to look at someone who feels different."

Strange Boy explores the homosexual awakening of a boy growing up in the north-east of England in the 1970s and is based on the author's own experience.

Like the author, 10-year-old David lives on a Newton Aycliffe housing estate. He develops a crush on his neighbour John, a boy four years his senior, and they share an outdoor sexual experience.

But David is torn between his parents and John, so rationalises his feelings by fantasising about superheroes in comic books.

'Strange Boy' is published by Simon and Schuster, price pound;7.99

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