I grew up lucky, there’s no other way to describe my circumstances, I got all the advantages of being the child of two long term middle class families (with a touch of aristocracy thrown into the mix). There’s no-one in my family I can think of who suffered unduly financially because of Thatcher’s policies, and I’m fairly certain that we probably benefited in many ways from her ruthless policies.
So unlike many of the people in my life today, I grew up being told of all the good work that Thatcher did, how it was the socialists who were the boogeyman threatening to drag us back into the dark and fear. So as one of those who grew into adulthood in a post-thatcher world, what do I as an individual (no caring for our fellow britons after all) have to complain about…
Well actually Thatcher was not “mostly harmless” to me and my family…. because she was a homophobic bigot of the order that Christian Institute members have hot sweaty “sinful incidents” about.
Today we think of the current queer rights movement as scarily young, and most of us wish we could have started out at schools like those that exist in 2013, not those that existed 1986 as I did. I grew up in terror, in fear that people would work out I was different, and not just in the obvious socially awkward introverted ways that were all people saw of me.
I didn’t get the chance to be who I was at school, I never got to explore being what a teenager was, I didn’t even get the chance to explore at university, because everything that mattered about me, was strangled, gutted, and buried under a concrete slab of self loathing and fear. It wasn’t just the legal framework, it was the social climate that she reflected, embraced, and promoted, one in which I had no right to exist.
There’s a lie I told above, that the queer rights movement is “scarily young”, it actually became something important and world changing more than a decade before I was born, when young queer people braver than I am said they were not going to be trodden on any more. The first move for marriage equality in the US was submitted to the supreme court 2 years after Loving vs Virginia was handed down, In politics Harvey Milk and a few others overcame huge hurdles and fought off the homophobic backlash levelled at them. When the British Gov’t had determined finally that decriminalising homosexuality was right, the Archbishop of Canterbury at the time (in the 1950s no less) said it was immoral to prosecute people for their inbuilt nature, so our generation did not need to be one that lived under the shadow of institutional homophobia.
Then came HIV, a new kind of virus, never documented before, slow, silent, invisible, deadly, and transmitted only by the most personal and intimate of connections… it ravaged communities who thought that the era of disease was over, and into this age of paranoia and misinformation stepped two cowards, named Reagan and Thatcher. What was needed was for these supposedly iron backbone politicians was to be leaders, to tell the truth, and to remove the fear and ignorance, but of course they both fed it.
With Reagan, while courting the evangelical hate, he purposefully ignored the situation. He refused to address or act on what was known while thousands died and hundreds of thousands more got infected. What Thatcher did, was far far worse. She attacked every single queer person in Britain for daring to exist, then she heaped on more bile and rhetoric before her coup de grace, section 28. This was a bill that made “don’t say gay” in Tennessee or Henepin County’s “neutrality” policy look like positively queer friendly policies, and I and so many like me still feel the scars because of it.
Now I’ve seen some people attempt to defend her, by claiming she had no choice, or she didn’t know better, but these fly in the face of two undeniable facts about her.
Throughout her prime ministerial career she never did things for political expediency, she never changed her course because it was inconvenient or hard, and this is something that people laud about her, so either she was a hate filled bigot acting on principle, or on gay rights she abandoned her backbone and kowtowed to the homophobes in her party.
Secondly one thing you could never accuse Thatcher of being was ignorance, she was stone cold brilliant, she was a grocers daughter who went to Oxford in 1943, which was hardly a bastion of feminism or egalitarianism at the time. You are left with trying to explain how someone who should and could have known better gave into her inner homophobia and unleashed it on a vulnerable population.
Now maybe even in a world in which Thatcher wasn’t an ignorant bigot on queer issues, I wouldn’t have had an easy ride being open as me at school in the 90s, but maybe I would have been strong enough to walk along a hard road, rather than the impossible road she turned it into.
So this is why, even if I were one of Thatcher’s bastard stepchildren, embracing the self serving vicious Randian policies she implemented, I would still loathe her for the harm she did not need to do to people like me.
But its not the 1980s any more, and I’m here, I’m really me, I have a good job, I have someone in my life who makes me very happy and I’m surrounded by amazing queer people who flourished in-spite of her. My future is bright, and full of hope, and Thatcher and her hate filled social policies are dead, and soon to be buried.