This 1980s video from Sunderland where people give their views on homosexuality is enlightening

This 1980s video from Sunderland where people give their views on homosexuality is enlightening

A television clip from 1980 showing people in Sunderland sharing their views on homosexuality suggests that public opinion on the issue was more tolerant than you might imagine.

The footage was filmed just 13 years after homosexuality was partly decriminalised in the UK and eight years before the introduction of Margaret Thatcher's anti-gay Section 28 legislation in schools.

The presenter asked the people of Sunderland “What does homosexuality mean to you?"

One woman said:

Not perverted, like most people think. Just ordinary people as far as I’m concerned.

A young man added:

There’s nothing the matter with them, because it’s what they ought to do, not what everybody else wants them to do.

They want to be different, so if they want to be homosexual, then be homosexual.

It doesn’t bother me one little bit, it shouldn’t bother other people either, it’s their life.”

Another man who was asked how he would feel if his best friend was gay said:

He is! My mate!

Not with me though.

Many people were surprised that the responses among locals were more nuanced than you might expect.

Although others were a bit distracted by this man in a top hat...

Some said that the clip shows that discrimination is not necessarily a generational issue

The woman mentioned in the clip was asked how she would feel if she saw two boys walking down the street holding hands. She replied:

Well it's done every day... We're living in an enlightened world aren't we.

However, some of those questioned had less tolerant views.

One older woman said:

I don't find any fault with them. I mean to say I feel it's disgusting myself, but they can't help it can they."

Another woman said:

Well, I definitely wouldn’t like it but if it happened I don’t suppose there’s much you can do about it.

While the clip suggests that public opinion on the issue of homosexuality was more divided than expected, it preceded an era of rising intolerance and anti-gay rhetoric in British society.

Thatcher's highly controversial Section 28 legislation introduced in 1988 which banned the "promotion" of homosexuality by local authorities and in Britain's schools was introduced eight years in 1988.

However, one woman in the clip who was asked how she would feel about a gay woman teaching her children replied:

Doesn’t make any difference to the teaching does it? What they do in their private lives is their own business.

H/T Pink News

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