'I had to stand by my beliefs'

4th February 2000 at 00:00
James was 28 and lecturing in design at a north-eastern FE college in 1988 when section 28 was rushed through. It was a turning point for him: he came out for the first time to fellow staff members.

"There was little reaction to the clause in the staffroom at first; most people didn't see it as affecting them. But as a teacher I saw my job as nourishing individuality. If a student wanted to come out, how could I say 'section 28 prohibits me from talking about this'. It forced me to come out."

As well as checking that the college library still stocked the gay newspaper Pink Paper - it did - James took literature from gay groups to college and approached the National Union of Teachers for support. "I wantedto find out what the position was. I wasn't prepared to refuse to discuss homosexuality if it should arise. I wanted to know if they could offer me back-up if I was going to be a test case." He says the union and staff were supportive - and many began to see how dangerous the legislation was.

As a result of his actions, James says, senior staff appointed him in a pastoral role "as someone who would be prepared to discuss gay issues. They only did that because I was out and had union support."

Two years after the introduction of section 28, James also came out to one of his year groups of 20 students - "some of them really macho lads. They asked me if I was gay. How could I tell them I wasn't?"

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a TES/ TESS subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


Get Tes online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to Tes online and the Tes app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off Tes Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the Tes online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar, Buyagift.com, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order today