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1 February 2022

Celebrating LGBT+ History Month: School’s Out

School鈥檚 out, and so was I鈥

I was 14 when I came out. It was 2001, to a teacher who wanted to know why I鈥檇 run out of class and wouldn鈥檛 go back in.

I鈥檇 just been 鈥榦uted鈥 by someone who I鈥檇 built up the courage to tell a few weeks before.

The teacher鈥檚 response was a look of horror.

I was asked to leave class, sent to the head teacher鈥檚 office and into a room with a small army of senior staff franticly checking the big book of rules to find out what they should do. It demolished me.

My mum was called at work and asked to come in – all they would tell her over the phone was that I wasn鈥檛 hurt, and I hadn鈥檛 killed anyone. That must have been the longest drive ever.

What could have been a moment of support and understanding, was instead confirmation of my fears and a realisation that I wasn鈥檛 ready to deal with it myself yet, let alone share it with my family.

Years later I found out why it happened the way it did – a law so cruel it sparked a legacy that still stings decades later 鈥 Section 28.

It was introduced by the Conservative government in the 80s, to stop local authorities 鈥榩romoting homosexuality鈥. In practice it paralysed schools from dealing with homophobic bullying, making it impossible to relate to anything that you might of felt inside. Teachers had to walk a fine line between managing abuse and appearing to support it. 聽For me it also meant I lived my final years at high school in black and white 鈥 my flame still burnt brightly, I was already considered 鈥榯heatrical鈥, but this… 聽well, I wasn鈥檛 going back in the closet for anyone. The experience had to count for something. I think it might have been the first 鈥榓dult鈥 decision I ever had to make.

Section 28 was finally repealed in February 2003, too late for me and so many others. But something special marked it鈥檚 departure 鈥 the very first LGBT+ History Month.

As well as marking the end of a time when schools were silent prisons for young queer people, over the last 18 years History Month has kept it鈥檚 roots in education, evolving to share the progress we鈥檝e made, and the brave people whose shoulders we stand on today. It reminds us that education is vital cog in equality and understanding for everyone.

Bauer has celebrated LGBT+ History Month for the last two years, led by Hits Radio Pride 鈥 the UK鈥檚 first LGBTQ+ radio station from a major broadcaster. Its powerful legacy are also a huge part of our values as a business.

This year sees us taking another step forward with reflections across more of our brands including Jazz FM, Scala and Kerrang! This isn鈥檛 Pride 鈥榩ink washing鈥, it鈥檚 heartfelt and personal.

I can鈥檛 tell you how much pride it gives me, knowing that another 14-year-old out there today might see and hear stories and voices from people who they can look up to 鈥 just as I had wished 鈥 on radio stations and in magazines that are already part of their lives.

I鈥檓 lucky 鈥 I got through it, so many didn鈥檛 and there鈥檚 still more we can do. Writing these words, I don鈥檛 feel sad or angry, it鈥檚 simply part of my story. I鈥檓 not sure I鈥檇 be who am today without it happening. But it could have been so much easier.

A 14-year-old Ross was constantly being told 鈥渋t gets better鈥, it鈥檚 thanks to the campaigners against Section 28, whom we celebrate this month, that for many young people it finally is.

Ross Tilley,聽Commercial Digital Editor, 四不像玄机图 Northern Ireland