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Shaun Dellenty Talks Pride In Education

To mark fifty years of Pride, author and educator Shaun Dellenty discusses what it meant to grow up in the time of Section 28 and pushing for the change he wanted to see in the world of education.

It’s 2016. I’m at Vancouver Pride. I’ve just photographed Justin Trudeau waving a rainbow flag. And yet, my prevailing memory of that sweltering day isn’t pollical allyship, but of a number of children proudly representing schools alongside teachers – a stark contrast to the days of Section 28.

Enacted in 1988 by Margaret Thatcher’s government, Section 28 prohibited the ‘promotion of homosexuality’ by local authorities overseeing schools.

LGBT+ inclusive education is acknowledging that LGBT+ people exist and contribute to our families, societies, workplaces, communities, economies and schools. The only ‘promotion’ involved is of rights, respect and compassion.

Against the onset of the HIV/AIDS crisis, Section 28 precluded the learning LGBT+ youth sorely needed to stay safe, whilst making it difficult to access support. It did nothing for their pride, well-being or health. I know, I was one of them. Repealed in England in 2003 after years of protests, it left a toxic shadow. I exited school due to homophobic bullying in 1987 feeling isolated, ashamed and suicidal.

In the 90s, I trained as a school leader. In 2009, homophobic bullying amongst the pupils in my then primary school resulted in me coming out during an assembly. I devised LGBT+ inclusive teacher training for my school, before delivering it across the UK and subsequently to twenty-five countries.

In 2016, I was designated a ‘Point of Light’ by the Prime Minister for services to the LGBT+ community. The Independent even named me one of their Top 100 UK influential LGBT+ figures and The Guardian featured me in their Top 20 Global Diversity List 2021.

Bloomsbury commissioned my book, ‘Celebrating Difference-A Whole School Approach to LGBT+ Inclusion’, which was to be a summation of my change process and of the LGBT+ work that I and others do in schools. The book, which was recommended in Parliament by Lord Cashman, an antidote to Section 28, which mustn’t happen again.

Currently, the UK has the Equality Act 2010, but this could change. Pushback exists, and progress is rarely linear. Heed those Section 28

protestors. Pride is a celebration and a protest. We must never lose our voices and freedoms to protest, nor must we only speak out against injustices against our own kind.

What fundamentally changed for me, having shamefully left school in 1987 due to homophobia and subsequently working on a global stage with LGBT+ education? Pride, 1996.

There, I witnessed, for the first-time, countless smiling LGBT+ humans. It was a profound, joyful moment of self-acceptance which empowered me to be fully and proudly me. Pride still has that power; let’s see more young people walking proudly with their parents and teachers. One day, I’ll walk Pride with a Pride student group, offering them the gift of self-acceptance they so deserve.

You belong, you’re beautiful; the LGB, the T, the NBs and the ‘+’s. Be kind, be safe, be proud – be you!

To find out more about Shaun, click here to visit his website. You can purchase his book from Amazon here.

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