Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin was a Danish children’s book designed to introduce young children to the idea that some young people grew up with two Daddies or two Mummies. It was published in Denmark in 1981 and translated into English in 1983. There was a copy of this in an Inner London Education Authority’s Teacher Centre, as a resource.
Once the press had got hold of this fact, it became a story about how Loony Left councils were forcing children to ‘become’ gay all over London. So bad was the coverage that the school and ILEA made formal complaints to the Press Council about the lies in the Daily Mail and the like. The Press Council, being constituted by the Press itself, did nothing. The book was condemned by the Secretary of State for Education, Kenneth Baker, who also forbad safer sex education in schools.
One of the foremost campaigners against ‘gay propaganda’ in schools was Dame Jill Knight, ennobled in 1985. She and David Wilshire introduced Clause 14, later to become Section 28, as an amendment to the Local Government Act 1988. This forbade councils to ‘promote homosexuality’ as a ‘pretended family relationship’.
She claimed in parliament that children under two had access to lesbian and gay books in the London Borough of Lambeth. The claim has never been substantiated, but if true would have demonstrated a remarkable level of literacy South of the river.
But what of the characters themselves, and their story? Jenny Lives with Eric and Martin is a sweet, not to say saccharine, tale of a five-year-old in a run-of-the-mill household taking part in activities like having breakfast with the dads in bed, doing the washing, mending a bike, planting potatoes.
Jenny is also introduced to the idea that some people don’t like homosexuals, and also that gay dads sometimes quarrel [over the potatoes]. It is all very gentle and positive – but is it the true story?
Jenny is Martin’s daughter, but his lover Eric tells a different story of a demanding little girl who was foisted on them, whom Eric resents passionately. She has disrupted their fun gay life in Copenhagen, and things can never be the same again – or can they?
This scenario – monologue almost – has been excluded from the cycle of The Gay Century proper, because many of its themes were encompassed in 1986: A Shot at the Future. It is included here in the hope that it might one day be a stand-alone scena of the kind written by Haydn and Mozart in the 18th century.
Peter Scott‐Presland June 2020
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