Russell Tovey says he and others in his generation have ‘Section 28 in their blood’

Entertainment, Film and TV, Gay, LGBTQ, Margaret Thatcher, Russell Tovey, Section 28, UK

Russell Tovey. (Getty/ David Levenson)

Actor Russell Tovey has described how he and others in his generation have “Section 28 in their blood”, having grown up in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain.

Tovey, who is currently starring in the West End revival of Constellations at London’s the Vaudeville Theatre, came out as gay when he was 18 years old.

Although Thatcher was no longer prime minister by the time he came out, the homophobic legislation was still in place and Tovey, now 39, told The Guardian that he is part of a “whole generation of queer people who have section 28 in our blood”.

Section 28 was introduced by Margaret Thatcher and prevented local authorities and schools from “promoting homosexuality”. It was not repealed until 2003. 

Tovey said the message of the legislation was: “You’re a pervert, there’s no place for you. Your only opportunities are to stay in the closet if you want success and happiness, but you won’t be happy anyway.

“And if you come out, you’re going to get AIDS and no one’s going to love you.”

Although going into acting, Tovey found a more LGBT-friendly community, Section 28 was still part of his “psyche”.

Russell Tovey thinks the openness of young queer people now is ‘f**king wonderful’

For some in Russell Tovey’s generation, it’s hard to see “a world now where kids are coming up going like, well, ‘I’m pansexual, I’m fluid, I haven’t really decided yet.’”

“I can understand when someone is chewed up by that, because that isn’t their experience,” he said.

“They’ve got self-hate that has been embedded in them by the government.”

For Tovey though, the comparative freedom that young queer people have now is “f**king wonderful”: “Isn’t this a great time to be alive?”

Throughout his life, the actor has had to deal with the legacy of Thatcher’s legislation – internalised homophobia. But now, he added: “I feel the most settled and the most calm I’ve been for a long, long time. Definitely.”

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