Celebrating writers who are criminalised in their country for being who they are
In the relatively liberal West, LGBTQI+ rights continue to move forward. Pronouns have expanded, gender identity is more fluid, marriage is legal and largely there is a mood of acceptance in both government and society. But this openness has been born out of reform, of protest and challenge, of opposition and of objection. In 1980s Britain, a destructive legislation was drafted and then passed: it was dubbed Section 28.
Enacted in 1988, Section 28 sought to “refrain local authorities from promoting homosexuality”. What this really meant was a prohibiting of culture: theatre, art, literature – all banned from depicting anything other than heterosexual love and relations. In the wake of this deplorable law, there followed a lost fifteen years for those who identified, publicly or privately, as part of the LGBTQI+ community. Identity questioned and criminalised, shame and fear in loving someone you weren’t legally permitted to, feelings of forced ‘assimilation’ and conformity.
Rightly, Section 28 has since been repealed in the UK, but around the world, there are many countries still encouraging persecution towards any consenting adult partnerships considered anything other than heterosexual.
So in this collection, titled Section 28, we’ve chosen stories that fearlessly challenge those who deny their rights. These narratives are courageous and defiant stances, which spotlight the struggle of the LGBTQI+ community in places where to identify is to be illegal.
It’s our hope that through this collection, we have not only given a platform to those who feel outlawed by their home nation, but also that the stories will serve as a reminder to the Western world of the fight today’s freedom took, and of those who are still fighting.
“We celebrate the struggles of identity and acceptance taking place all over the world”
- Wrongly criminalised
Our Section 28 anthology aimed to provide more context, not only to the cultural climate that preceded anti-gay legislation in the UK but also to today’s global state-of-play on LGBTQI+ rights. In 2020, there were 73 countries – mostly in the Middle East, Africa and Asia – where homosexual activity between consenting adults was illegal. Punishment varies in severity, from prison terms to the death penalty, but regardless of the official sentence – shame and stigma is inescapable, and abuse against the community in these areas of the world is inherent.
Of course, the suffering and sanctions don’t only come from the institutions but are intrinsically carried by those born into a country or culture that persecutes their identity. It can be difficult to go beyond the statistics to look at the issues facing the everyday lives of LGBTQIA+ communities around the world. Beneath the numbers are cruelties and challenges, with some of the most common being the absence of anti-discrimination law and rights, conversion therapy, homophobic hate crimes, persecution of transgender people, invisibility of bisexuals, non-essential surgery on intersex infants, treatment of LGBTQI+ asylum seeks and refugees.
The Heady Mix Section 28 anthology contains a carefully curated collection of essays, which examine the treatment of the LGBTQI+ community around the world, particularly in relation to state-sponsored actions. Too frequently, it makes for uncomfortable reading, but like all of our collections, the intention is only for inspiration and hope. And it’s by reading and engaging with stories like these that we can all contribute to the global efforts of reversing the plight of millions who are persecuted for being who they are.