Silence and Absence in the Political Discourse on Section 28 and Children’s Literature in the United Kingdom
This article considers the previously unexamined political uses of children’s literature in the 1986–1988 British Parliamentary debates of the legislation that became Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988. This law, now repealed, prohibited the “promotion” of homosexuality and “pretended” same-sex family relationships by local authorities in the United Kingdom. The effect of the legislation was a widespread silencing of LGBT+ people in institutions across the nation. But while much has been written about those effects and on Section 28 generally over the past 30 years, there has been less sustained attention, within the context of the debates, given to those children’s books and how they were used by politicians to justify the law. With a particular focus on two of the most prominent texts in the Parliamentary debates – David Rees’ teen novel, The Milkman’s on his Way (1982), and Susanne Bösche’s picturebook, Mette bor hos Morten og Erik, published in English as Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin (1981/1983) – this article examines the political uses and constructions of children’s texts and argues that silence and absence were a key discursive strategy deployed by supporters of the law.
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