|Peter Tatchell joining the Green Party in 2004|
|Born||Peter Gary Tatchell
25 January 1952
|Nationality||British (Australian citizenship removed on naturalisation as a British citizen)|
|Political party||Green Party of England and Wales (2004–)|
|Labour Party (1978–2000)|
|Alma mater||University of North London|
Tatchell was selected as Labour Party Parliamentary candidate for Bermondsey in 1981. He was then denounced by party leader Michael Foot for supporting extra-parliamentary action against the Thatcher government. Labour subsequently allowed him to stand in the Bermondsey by-election in February 1983. In the 1990s he campaigned for LGBT rights through the direct action group OutRage!, which he co-founded. He has worked on various campaigns, such as Stop Murder Music against music lyrics allegedly inciting violence against LGBT people and writes and broadcasts on various human rights and social justice issues. He attempted a citizen's arrest of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in 1999 and again in 2001.
In April 2004, he joined the Green Party of England and Wales and in 2007 was selected as prospective parliamentary candidate in the constituency of Oxford East, but in December 2009 announced he was standing down due to brain damage he says was caused by a bus accident as well as damage inflicted by Mugabe's bodyguards when Tatchell tried to arrest him in 2001, and by neo-Nazis in Moscow while campaigning for gay rights.
- 1 Personal life
- 2 Political activity
- 3 Campaigns
- 3.1 OutRage!
- 3.2 Age of consent laws
- 3.3 Zimbabwe
- 3.4 Stop Murder Music campaign
- 3.5 Imperialism
- 3.6 South Africa
- 3.7 National Front and British National Party
- 3.8 Gaza and the West Bank
- 3.9 2008 Olympics
- 3.10 Anglican and Catholic churches
- 3.11 Islam
- 3.12 Secondary issues
- 4 Columnist and other pursuits
- 5 Awards
- 6 Bibliography
- 7 See also
- 8 Footnotes
- 9 References
- 10 External links
Tatchell was born in Melbourne, Australia. His father was a lathe operator and his mother worked in a biscuit factory. His parents divorced when he was four and his mother remarried soon afterwards. Because the family finances were strained by medical bills, he had to leave school at 16 in 1968. He started work as a sign-writer and window-dresser in department stores. Tatchell claims to have incorporated the theatricality of these displays into his activism. Raised as a Christian, Tatchell says that he "ditched [his] faith a long time ago" and is an atheist. It is widely reported that Tatchell is a vegan, however Tatchell himself only states that he eats no meat, but does eat eggs, cheese, and, according to Richard Fairbrass, wild salmon, meaning Tatchell is in fact a pescatarian.
He became interested in outdoor adventurous activities such as surfing and mountain climbing. Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Any Questions about how insurance and legal risks were making British teachers reluctant to take pupils on outdoor adventures, he said outdoor activities helped him develop the courage to take political risks in adult life.
His political activity began at Mount Waverley Secondary College, where in 1967 he launched campaigns in support of Australia's Aboriginal people. Tatchell was elected secretary of the school's Student Representative Council. In his final year in 1968, as school captain, took the lead in setting up a scholarship scheme for Aborigines and led a campaign for Aboriginal land rights. These activities led the headmaster to claim he had been manipulated by communists.
In 2004 he proposed the renaming of Australian capital cities with their Aborigine place names. He joined the Australian campaign against the death penalty. Prompted by the impending hanging of Ronald Ryan in 1967, Tatchell went round his local area painting slogans against the hanging, a fact he did not reveal until nearly 30 years later. Ryan was accused of killing a prison warder while escaping from Pentridge Prison. Tatchell claimed, unsuccessfully, that the trajectory of the bullet through the warder's body probably made it impossible that Ryan could have fired the fatal shot.
In 1968 Tatchell began campaigning against the United States's and Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War, in his view a war of aggression in support of a "brutal and corrupt dictatorship" responsible for torture and executions. The Victorian state government and Melbourne city council attempted to suppress the anti-Vietnam War campaign by banning street leafleting and taking police action against anti-war demonstrations.
Gay Liberation Front
To avoid conscription into the Australian Army, Tatchell moved to London in 1971. He had accepted being gay in 1969, and in London became a leading member of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) until its 1974 collapse. During this time Tatchell was prominent in organising sit-ins at pubs that refused to serve "poofs" and protests against police harassment and the medical classification of homosexuality as an illness. With others he helped organise Britain's first Gay Pride march in 1972.
In 1973 he attended the 10th World Youth Festival in East Berlin on GLF's behalf. His actions triggered opposition within and between different groups of national delegates including the British Communist Party and National Union of Students. He was banned from conferences, had his leaflets confiscated and burned, interrogated by the secret police (the Stasi) and was threatened and assaulted by other delegates, mostly communists. Tatchell later claimed that this was the first time gay liberation politics were publicly disseminated and discussed in a communist country, although he noted that, in terms of decriminalisation and the age of consent, gay men had greater rights in East Germany at the time than in Britain and much of the West.
Describing his campaigning, he is quoted as saying: “Despite our differences, we shared a radical idealism – a dream of what the world could and should be – free from not just homophobia but the whole sex-shame culture, which oppressed straights as much as LGBTs. We were sexual liberationists and social revolutionaries, out to turn the world upside down... GLF’s strategy for queer emancipation was to change society’s values and norms, rather than adapt to them. We sought a cultural revolution to overturn centuries of male heterosexual domination and thereby free both queers and women. GLF’s gender agenda has been partly won.”
At PNL he was a member of the National Union of Students Gay Rights Campaign. On graduating he became a freelance journalist specialising in foreign stories, during which he publicised the Indonesian annexation of West Papua and child labour on British-owned tea farms in Malawi.
He opposed the appointment of Ruth Kelly as Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in 2006. The Department had responsibility for equalities[clarification needed] while Kelly, a practising Roman Catholic, had not supported equal treatment of lesbians and gay men in any parliamentary votes. Tatchell said "her appointment suggests the government does not take lesbian and gay rights seriously", adding "Tony Blair would never appoint someone to a race-equality post who had a lukewarm record of opposing racism".
Labour candidate for Bermondsey
From October 1979, he became a leading member in a group of left-wingers planning to depose the right-wing caucus of Southwark councillors that controlled the Bermondsey Constituency Labour Party (CLP). At CLP's AGM in February 1980, the left group won control and Tatchell was elected Secretary.
When the sitting Labour MP, Bob Mellish, announced his retirement in 1981, Tatchell was selected as his successor. The selection was a surprise, as Arthur Latham, a former MP and former Chairman of the Tribune Group), was the favourite. Later the Militant tendency was cited as the reason for Tatchell's selection, but he has pointed out that at that time it had only a handful of members in the constituency, he had never been a member and Militant did not support his selection. Tatchell ascribed his selection to the support of the "older, 'born and bred' working class; the younger professional and intellectual members swung behind Latham".
In an article for a left-wing magazine, Tatchell urged the Labour Party to support direct action campaigning to challenge the Margaret Thatcher-led Tory government. Social Democratic Party MP James Wellbeloved, arguing the article was anti-Parliamentary, quoted it at Prime Minister's Questions in December 1981 to embarrass Labour leader Michael Foot. Unexpectedly, Foot denounced Tatchell, stating that he would not be endorsed as a candidate. Foot narrowly won a vote at the Labour Party National Executive Committee to deny Tatchell's endorsement. However, the Bermondsey Labour Party continued to support him and he worked on convincing Foot that his article was in the tradition of the Chartists and the Suffragettes and had been misinterpreted by his political opponents. It was eventually agreed that when the selection was rerun, Tatchell would be eligible, and he duly won. When Mellish resigned from Parliament and triggered a by-election, Tatchell's candidacy was endorsed.
The divisions in the Labour Party, which Tatchell's far left views had exposed, and his homosexuality (which he refused to confirm or deny in media appearances), were used against him, in an election campaign widely regarded as one of the dirtiest and most violent in modern British history. Tatchell was assaulted in the street, had his flat attacked, and had a death threat and a live bullet put through his letterbox in the night. Although the Bermondsey seat had long been a Labour stronghold, the Liberal candidate, Simon Hughes, won the election. During the campaign, allegations were made[who?] that some Liberal canvassers stirred up xenophobia and homophobia on the doorsteps, playing up the fact that Tatchell was born in Australia and making an issue of his homosexuality. Members of the Liberal Gay Action Group campaigned wearing lapel badges emblazoned with the words, "I've been kissed by Peter Tatchell" as a protest against the perception that he was attempting to hide his sexuality (see Bermondsey by-election, 1983). One of Hughes' campaign leaflets was condemned[who?] for claiming the election was "a straight choice" between Liberal and Labour, but this phrase is regularly used by many parties within the UK, and Hughes has since apologised for what may have been perceived as an inadvertent slur. Hughes later admitted to bisexuality in 2006.
In the mid- and late 1980s, Tatchell wrote books including The Battle for Bermondsey (the story of the by-election), Democratic Defence and a ground-breaking guide to surviving with HIV and AIDS, AIDS: A Guide to Survival. His book Europe in the Pink described the varying laws on homosexuality through the European Union. In 1990 Tatchell sought (unsuccessfully) the Labour nomination for Hampstead and Highgate, but was defeated by actress Glenda Jackson.
Tatchell's book Democratic Defence was published in 1985. This outlined how defence of the United Kingdom might be assured after the nuclear disarmament that he and the Labour Party were then committed to. (Labour has since abandoned this policy). Tatchell argued that the British military was still organised on an imperialist strategy of basing troops abroad rather than on a strategy of defending the UK itself against foreign attacks. Citing the problems that the British army was facing in Northern Ireland, he argued that their long-established methods were ineffective against guerilla warfare. He argued for a range of methods to liberalise the regime in the armed forces so that troops could be allowed to join trade unions and political parties, and to end [what he referred to as] the "bull" of "petty regulations" and harsh punishments for violating them. He upheld the British Home Guard as an example of a citizens' army that had been effective in fighting Nazi Germany, and also upheld the armed forces of Sweden, Switzerland and Yugoslavia as effective in deterring foreign aggression.
Tatchell argued for withdrawal from NATO and for the establishment of a European Self-Defence Organisation, independent of both the United States and the Soviet Union. Regarding the United States, he felt that Europe had become too dependent on their military protection and that this was inappropriate given the differing interests of many European countries. He condemned the Soviet Union's invasions of Czechoslovakia and of Afghanistan, as well as condemning its internal repression. He wrote, "It is quite evident that the Soviet system today represents the complete opposite of everything that the left in the West is striving for..." He quoted with approval Enoch Powell's argument that the threat from the Soviet Union to the UK was exaggerated.
In February 2000 Tatchell resigned from Labour, citing the treatment of Ken Livingstone during the nomination of a candidate for Mayor of London, and of similar cases in the Scottish and Welsh elections, as evidence that the party "no longer has any mechanism for democratic involvement and transformation". He fought unsuccessfully for a seat on the London Assembly as an Independent Green Left candidate, in support of Livingstone. On 7 April 2004 he announced that he had joined the Green Party of England and Wales but did not envisage standing for election. However, in 2007, he became the party's parliamentary candidate for Oxford East.
On 16 December 2009, he withdrew as a candidate claiming brain damage from an assault while protesting in Brussels in 2001, while protesting in Moscow in 2007 and in a bus accident in July 2009.
Tatchell opposes nuclear power; instead he advocates concentrated solar power. In Tribune, he pointed out the adverse effects of climate change: "By 2050, if climate change proceeds unchecked, England will no longer be a green and pleasant land. In between periods of prolonged scorching drought, we are likely to suffer widespread flooding."
For many years, he supported a green-red alliance. More recently, he helped launch the Green Left grouping within the Green Party. He urged links between trade unions and the Greens. On 27 April 2010, he urged Green Party supporters to vote for Liberal Democrats in constituencies where they had an incumbent MP or a strong chance of winning.
Tatchell opposed the Iraq war and the subsequent occupation. He had previously advocated military and financial aid to opponents of the Saddam government, suggesting that anti-Saddam organisations be given "tanks, helicopter gun-ships, fighter planes, heavy artillery and anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles". While opposing western intervention, he advocated regime change from within in countries such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Syria." Tatchell has written that on 12 March 2003 he ambushed Tony Blair's motorcade in an anti-Iraq war protest. He forced Blair's limousine to stop, and then unfolded a banner that read "Arm the Kurds! Topple Saddam". He added that in terms of the political struggle within Britain (as opposed to struggles against absolute tyrants like Hitler and Saddam, where violent resistance can be the lesser of two evils): "I remain committed to the Gandhian principle of non-violence". After the war he signed the 'Unite Against Terror' declaration, arguing that "the pseudo-left reveals its shameless hypocrisy and its wholesale abandonment of humanitarian values" by supporting resistance and insurgent groups in Iraq that resort to indiscriminate terrorism, killing innocent civilians.
In 2003 Tatchell said he supported giving "massive material aid" to Iraqi opposition groups, including the "Shi'ite Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq" (SCIRI), to bring down Saddam. But in 2006 Tatchell noted that SCIRI had become markedly more fundamentalist and was endorsing violent attacks on anyone who did not conform to its increasingly harsh interpretation of Islam. He claimed that SCIRI, the leading force in Baghdad's ruling coalition, wanted to establish an Iranian-style religious dictatorship, with a goal of clerical fascism, and had engaged in "terrorisation of gay Iraqis", as well as terrorising Sunni Muslims, left-wingers, unveiled women and people who listen to western pop music or wear jeans or shorts.
In 2006, he expressed concern for the Baloch people facing military operations in their homeland, Balochistan in Pakistan. From 2007 to 2009, he campaigned in defence of two UK-based Baloch Muslim human rights activists, Hyrbyair Marri and Faiz Baluch, accused of terrorism charges and tried in London. Both men were acquitted in 2009. He alleged British and U.S. collusion with the suppression of the Balochs, including arms sales to Pakistan, which he says were used to bomb and attack Baloch towns and villages.
Activities in Moscow
In May 2007 Tatchell returned to Moscow to support Moscow Pride and to voice his opposition to a ban on the march. On 27 May 2007, Tatchell and other gay rights activists were attacked. He was punched in the face and nearly knocked unconscious, while other demonstrators were beaten, kicked and assaulted. A German MP, Volker Beck, and a European Parliament deputy from Italy, Marco Cappato, were also punched before being arrested and questioned by police. Tatchell later said "I'm not deterred one iota from coming back to protest in Moscow."
On 16 May 2009, the day of the final of the Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow, Russian gay rights activists staged a protest in Moscow in defiance of the city's mayor, Yuri Luzkhov, who had long banned gay demonstrations and denounced them as "satanic". Tatchell was among 32 campaigners arrested when they shouted slogans and unfurled banners.
Tatchell took part in many gay rights campaigns over issues such as Section 28. Following the murder of actor Michael Boothe on 10 May 1990, Tatchell was one of thirty people to attend the inaugural meeting of the radical gay rights non-violent direct action group OutRage! – although he was not a co-founder – and has remained a leading member. The group fuses theatrical performance styles with queer protest. As the most prominent OutRage! member, Tatchell is sometimes assumed to be the leader of the group, though he has never claimed this, saying he is one among equals.
In 1991, a small group of OutRage! members covertly formed a separate group to engage in a campaign of outing public figures who were homophobic in public but gay in private. The group took the name FROCS (Faggots Rooting Out Closeted Sexuality). Tatchell was the group's go-between with the press, forwarding their news statements to his media contacts. Considerable publicity and public debate followed FROCS's threat to out 200 leading public personalities from the world of politics, religion, business and sport. With Tatchell's assistance, members of FROCS eventually called a press conference to tell the world that their campaign was a hoax intended to demonstrate the hypocrisy of those newspapers that had condemned the campaign despite having themselves outed celebrities and politicians.
Some OutRage! activities were highly controversial. In 1994, it unveiled placards inviting ten Church of England bishops to "tell the truth" about what Outrage! alleged was their homosexuality and accusing them of condemning homosexuality in public while leading secret gay lives. Shortly afterwards the group wrote to twenty UK MPs, condemning their alleged support for anti-gay laws and claiming they would out them if the MPs did not stop what they described as attacks on the gay community. The MP Sir James Kilfedder, one such opponent of gay equality, who had received one of the letters, died two months later of a sudden heart attack on the day one of the Belfast newspapers planned to out him. In a comment in The Independent in October 2003, Tatchell claimed the OutRage! action against the bishops was his greatest mistake because he failed to anticipate that the media and the church would treat it as an invasion of privacy.
On 12 April 1998, Tatchell led an OutRage! protest, which disrupted the Easter sermon by George Carey, the Archbishop of Canterbury, with Tatchell mounting the pulpit to denounce what he claimed was Carey's opposition to legal equality for lesbian and gay people. The protest garnered media coverage and led to Tatchell's prosecution under the little-used Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860 (formerly part of the Brawling Act 1551), which prohibits any form of disruption or protest in a church. Tatchell failed in his attempt to summon Carey as a witness and was convicted. The judge fined him the trivial sum of £18.60, which commentators theorised was a wry allusion to the year of the statute used to convict him.
The LGBT press dubbed him "Saint Peter Tatchell" following further OutRage! campaigns involving religion.
A number of African LGBTI leaders signed a statement condemning the interference of Tatchell and OutRage! in African issues, which led Tatchell to respond that he favoured working with the radical LGBTI groups in Africa rather than the more conservative (according to him) leaders who had signed the statement. Tatchell and OutRage! published a refutation of the allegations.
Age of consent laws
In 1996 Tatchell led an OutRage! campaign to reduce the age of consent to 14 to adjust for studies that showed nearly half of all young people—gay and straight—had their first sexual experiences prior to 16 years old and to exempt them from being "treated as criminals by the law". The campaign claimed there should be no prosecution if the difference in ages of the sexual partners was no more than three years—and providing it accompanies earlier, more effective sex education. He was quoted in the OutRage! press release as saying "Young people have a right to accept or reject sex, according to what they feel is appropriate for them". Leo McKinstry, in The Sun called it "a perverts' charter".
In a 1997 letter to The Guardian, Tatchell defended an academic book about 'boy-love', calling the work "courageous" before writing:
- The positive nature of some child-adult sexual relationships is not confined to non-Western cultures. Several of my friends – gay and straight, male and female – had sex with adults from the ages of nine to 13. None feel they were abused. All say it was their conscious choice and gave them great joy. While it may be impossible to condone paedophilia, it is time society acknowledged the truth that not all sex involving children is unwanted, abusive and harmful.
Tatchell has since reiterated that he does not condone adults having sex with children. On his own website, under Age of Consent, he writes: "My articles arguing for an 'age of consent' of 14 are motivated solely by a desire to reduce the criminalisation of under-16s who have consenting relationships with other young people of similar ages. I do not advocate teenagers having sex before the age of 16. But if they do have sex before their 16th birthday, they should not be arrested, given a criminal record and put on the sex offenders register." 
On Tatchell's own website he states " My Guardian letter cited examples of youths in Papuan tribes and some of my friends who, when they were under 16, had sex with adults (over 18s), but who do not feel they were harmed."
In the Irish Independent on 10 March 2008 he repeated his call for a lower age of consent to end the criminalisation of young people engaged in consenting sex and to remove the legal obstacles to upfront sex education, condom provision and safer sex advice. In the early 1990s, he supported relaxation of the then strict laws against pornography, arguing that porn can have some social benefits, and he has criticised what he calls the body-shame phobia against nudism, suggesting that nudity may be natural and healthy for society.
OutRage!'s protest against Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits, who supported the idea of genetic engineering to eliminate homosexuality, led to accusations that Tatchell was an anti-semite. OutRage! leaflets citing the similarity of Jakobovits ideas for the eradication of homosexuality to those of Heinrich Himmler were distributed outside the Western and Marble Arch Synagogue on the Jewish New Year in September 1993. Rabbi Julia Neuberger, who had campaigned for gay rights, said "Drawing a comparison between Lord Jakobovits and Himmler is offensive, racist and ... makes OutRage appear antisemitic". She stated that the action and leaflet would "alienate Jews who are sympathetic to gay rights".
Part of Tatchell's political activism and journalism in the 1970s involved the Bush War (or Second Chimurenga) in Rhodesia, in which he supported the black nationalist movement, including the Zimbabwe African National Union and its military wing. Mugabe's denunciation of male homosexuality in 1995 led Tatchell to help organise a protest for LGBT rights in Zimbabwe outside the Zimbabwe High Commission in London. Two years later, he passed through police security disguised as a TV cameraman to quiz Mugabe during the "Africa at 40" conference at Central Hall, Westminster. Mugabe told him that allegations of human rights abuses were grossly exaggerated; he became agitated when Tatchell told him that he was gay. Mugabe's minders summoned Special Branch guards, who ejected Tatchell. On 26 October 1997 a letter from Tatchell to The Observer argued that the United Kingdom should suspend aid to Zimbabwe because of its violence against homosexuals.
Tatchell researched the Gukurahundi attacks in Matabeleland in the 1980s, when the Zimbabwean Fifth Brigade attacked supporters of the Zimbabwe African Peoples Union. He became convinced that Mugabe had broken international human rights law during the attack, which is estimated to have involved the massacre of around 20,000 civilians. Then in 1999, journalists Mark Chavunduka and Ray Choto were tortured by the Zimbabwe Army. The arrest in London of Augusto Pinochet seemed to him a precedent that human rights violations could be pursued against a head of state, thanks to the principle of universal jurisdiction. On 30 October 1999 Tatchell and three other OutRage! activists approached Mugabe's car in a London street and attempted to perform a citizen's arrest. Tatchell opened the car door and grabbed Mugabe. He then called the police. The four OutRage! activists were arrested, on charges including criminal damage, assault and breach of the peace; charges were dropped on the opening day of their trial. Mugabe responded by describing Tatchell and his OutRage! colleagues as "gay gangsters", a slogan frequently repeated by his supporters, and claimed they had been sent by the United Kingdom government.
On 5 March 2001 Tatchell believed Mugabe was about to visit Brussels. He went there and attempted a second citizen's arrest. Mugabe's bodyguards were seen knocking him to the floor. Later that day, Tatchell was briefly knocked unconscious by Mugabe's bodyguards and was left with permanent damage to his right eye. The protest drew worldwide headlines, as Mugabe was highly unpopular in the Western world for his land redistribution policy. Tatchell's actions were praised by Zimbabwean activists and many of the newspapers that had previously denounced him.
Tatchell ultimately failed in his attempt to secure an international arrest warrant against Mugabe on torture charges. The magistrate argued that Mugabe had immunity from prosecution as a serving head of state.
In late 2003 Tatchell acted as a press spokesman for the launch of the Zimbabwe Freedom Movement, which claimed to be a clandestine group within Zimbabwe committed to overthrowing the Mugabe government by force. The civic action support group Sokwanele urged Tatchell to check his sources, speculating that it might have been by the Zimbabwe government to justify violent action. This speculation proved to be unfounded. The Mugabe regime dismissed the ZFM as a "hoax." However, two Central Intelligence Organization members were spotted and turned away from the ZFM launch, as shown in the film "Peter Tatchell: Just who does he think he is?" by Max Barber.
Stop Murder Music campaign
Tatchell has claimed that the laws against incitement to violence and murder are not being enforced. He has also organised protests outside the concerts of singers whose lyrics he claims urge the killing of 'queers'. Long-running targets of his criticism include reggae artists whose lyrics he and his colleagues claim encourage and glorify violence, including murder, of lesbians and gay men. Tatchell's campaign began in the early 1990s when Buju Banton's song "Boom bye-bye" was released. He has picketed the MOBO Awards ceremony to protest at their inviting performers of what he terms "murder music". In response Tatchell received death threats and was labelled a racist. Tatchell defended himself by noting that the campaign was at the behest of the Jamaican gay rights group J-Flag, and the UK-based Black Gay Men's Advisory Group, with which he works closely. He also pointed to what he described as his life's work campaigning against racism and apartheid and stated that his campaigns against "murder music" and state-sanctioned homophobic violence in Jamaica were endorsed by black Jamaican gay rights activists such as Jamaican Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals and Gays (J-FLAG), and by many straight human rights activists in Jamaica (homosexuality remains illegal in Jamaica). The campaign has had positive effects with seven of eight original murder music singers signing the Reggae Compassion Act, which says that signatories will not "make statements or perform songs" that incite hatred or violence.
Members of the Rastafari movement accused Tatchell of racism and extremism, saying, "He has gone over way over the top. It's simply racist to put Hitler and Sizzla in the same bracket and just shows how far he is prepared to go." Tatchell denies equating Sizzla with Hitler.
While still at school, Tatchell campaigned in favour of better treatment of, and full human rights for, the Aboriginal people of Australia. He believes that Australian cities should be renamed with their original Aboriginal place names, to sever ties with the colonial era. For example, he wants the Tasmanian capital Hobart to be renamed Nibberluna, arguing that this would be a fitting tribute to Australia's Aboriginal heritage, which he says has been discarded and disrespected for too long.
His anti-imperialist activism began in 1968 and involved campaigns against the war in Vietnam. He participated in the mass Vietnam Moratorium protests in his Melbourne in 1970. The same year he founded and was elected secretary of the inter-denominational anti-war movement, Christians for Peace. Later, on moving to London in 1971, he was active in solidarity work with the independence movements in Mozambique, Angola, Guinea Bissau, Namibia, Eritrea, Oman, New Hebrides, Western Sahara, Palestine, East Timor and West Papua.
In 2002, he brought an unsuccessful legal action in Bow Street Magistrate's Court for the arrest of the former U.S. Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, on charges of war crimes in Vietnam and Cambodia.
A long-time anti-apartheid activist (from 1969), his lobbying of the ANC in 1987 contributed to it renouncing homophobia and making its first public commitment to lesbian and gay human rights. Later, in 1989 and 1990, he helped persuade the ANC to include a ban on anti-gay discrimination in the post-apartheid constitution (he assisted in drafting model clauses for the ANC). See: Sex and Politics in South Africa (Double Storey Books, Cape Town, 2005, pp. 140–149).
He was involved in the anti-apartheid movement from 1969 until the end of the white minority regime in 1990; being a regular protester and speaker at the 24/7 non-stop, four-year-long picket outside South Africa House.
National Front and British National Party
Gaza and the West Bank
For nearly four decades, Tatchell has campaigned for Gaza and the West Bank to be the basis of an independent Palestinian state. In May 2004, he and a dozen other OutRage! members, including gay Arabs, joined a London demonstration organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Their placards read "Israel: stop persecuting Palestine! Palestine: stop persecuting queers!" (the latter a reference to the arrest, jailing and torture of homosexuals by the Palestinian authorities). The OutRage! presence was greeted with hostility by some other demonstrators, and Tatchell claims they accused him of being a Mossad agent sent to disrupt the march, of being a racist or a Zionist, a supporter of Ariel Sharon or an agent of the Central Intelligence Agency or MI5.
In April 2008, Tatchell attempted to disrupt the procession of the Olympic torch though London. As a protest against China's human rights record he stood in front of the bus carrying the torch along Oxford Street while carrying a placard calling on Beijing to "Free Tibet, Free Hu Jia" (the name of a recently jailed human rights activist). Tatchell was taken away by police but was not charged. In an interview Tatchell called on the world to boycott the opening ceremony of the Olympics, or to take other visible action.
Anglican and Catholic churches
Tatchell criticised the Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XVI, whom he described as "the ideological inheritor of Nazi homophobia". "He'd like to eradicate homosexuality, but since he can't put LGBT people in physical concentration camps, is doing his best to put them in psychological concentration camps."
Channel 4 indicated in June 2010 that Tatchell would be the presenter of a documentary film examining "the current Pope's teachings throughout the world". The announcement sparked criticism from some prominent British Catholics including Conservative politician Ann Widdecombe, who said that Channel 4 appeared to be trying to "stir up controversy". Tatchell stated as part of the announcement that the documentary "will not be an anti-Catholic programme".
With respect to Anglicanism, he stated that "it's very sad to see a good man like the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, going to such extraordinary lengths to appease homophobes within the Anglican Communion".
Tatchell is critical of Muslim fundamentalism, and first wrote its rise in Britain in 1995. However, Tatchell condemned Islamophobia, saying "Any form of prejudice, hatred, discrimination or violence against Muslims is wrong. Full stop". He described the Qur'an as "rather mild in its condemnation of homosexuality". Tatchell also points out that much of his prison and asylum casework involves supporting Muslim prisoners and asylum seekers—heterosexual, as well as LGBT. In 2006, he helped stop the abuse of Muslim prisoners at Norwich jail and helped secure parole for other Muslim detainees. Half his asylum cases are, he reports, male and female Muslim refugees. Two of his highest-profile campaigns involved Muslim victims—Mohamed S, who was framed by men who first tried to kill him and then jailed him for eight years, and Sid Saeed, who brought a racist and homophobic harassment case against Deutsche Bank.
Tatchell has described Sharia law as "a clerical form of fascism" on the grounds that it opposes democracy and human rights, especially for women and gay people. He was the keynote speaker at a 2005 protest at the Canadian High Commission demanding that Ontario's arbitration law, which permitted religious arbitration in civil cases for Jews and Christians, be extended to Muslims. Tatchell argued there should be no separate arbitration systems for any specific religion. In 1995 he wrote that "although not all Muslims are anti-gay, significant numbers are violently homophobic ... homophobic Muslim voters may be able to influence the outcome of elections in 20 or more marginal constituencies."
Tatchell describes the umbrella group Muslim Council of Britain as "anti-gay", asking how "they expect to win respect for their community, if at the same time as demanding action against Islamophobia, they themselves demand the legal enforcement of homophobia?". He noted that the MCB had joined forces with right-wing Christian fundamentalists to oppose every gay law reform from 1997 to 2006. The opposition of MCB Chairman Sir Iqbal Sacranie to homosexuality and registration of civil partnerships led Tatchell to observe "Both the Muslim and gay communities suffer prejudice and discrimination. We should stand together to fight Islamophobia and homophobia". Tatchell subsequently criticised Unite Against Fascism for inviting Sacranie to share its platforms, describing him as a bigot and a "homophobic hate-mongerer." This was in response to Sacranie's denunciation of gay people as immoral, harmful and diseased on BBC Radio 4. When the MCB boycotted Holocaust Memorial Day, partly because it included a commemoration of the gay victims of Nazism, Tatchell wrote that "the only thing that is consistent about the MCB is its opposition to the human rights of lesbians and gay men".
A colleague of Tatchell's, Islamic theologian Muhammad Yusuf, a research fellow with Interfaith Alliance UK, withdrew from a planned lecture on "an Islamic reformation that reconciles Islam with democracy and human rights, including human rights for women and gay people" after receiving threats from Islamist fundamentalists. Yusuf said that "senior Islamic clerics" told him they could not guarantee his safety if he went ahead. The lecture was to raise funds for the Peter Tatchell Human Rights Fund.
Tatchell chose Malcolm X as his specialist subject when appearing on Celebrity Mastermind, explaining that he considered him an inspiration and hero (his other inspirations are Mahatma Gandhi, Sylvia Pankhurst and Martin Luther King). However, his endorsement of Bruce Perry's biography in an article calling for black gay role models led to criticism due to Perry's claim that Malcolm X had male lovers in his youth.
Following the hanging of two teenage boys, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni by Iranian authorities, Tatchell reiterated his long-standing view that the Islamic Republic of Iran is an "Islamo-fascist state". Tatchell claimed the two youths were hanged merely for being gay. He bases this opinion on information from activists inside Iran and from friends of the hanged youths who were with them at a secret gay party before they were arrested. The Iranian government and state-licensed media claim the youths were guilty of rape of a 13-year old boy at knifepoint. Tatchell observes that trumped up charges are routine in Iran. Left-wing political activists are, for example, often arrested on false charges such as spying, adultery, drug taking, sodomy and alcoholism. No claims by the Iranian government or judiciary should ever be taken at face value, he says. International human rights groups Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch preferred campaigners to focus on the propriety of hanging two teenagers rather than the alleged connection to gay sex. Faisal Alam, founder of American Gay Muslim group Al-Fatiha, argued in the magazine Queer that Iran was condemned before the facts were certain, and in 2003 the United Nations Committee Against Torture noted that "from different and reliable sources that there currently is no active policy of prosecution of charges of homosexuality in Iran". This is disputed by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission. They confirm that the death penalty exists for homosexuality in Iran and that gay and lesbian people suffer persecution, including arrest, torture, imprisonment and execution by slow strangulation. This is corroborated by the Iranian Railroad for Queer Refugees (formerly the Persian Gay and Lesbian Organisation), most of whose members are based inside Iran and regularly provide reports of homophobic beatings, torture and imprisonment by state agents.
In 2004, then-Mayor of London Ken Livingstone criticised Tatchell for Islamophobia over comments he made concerning the pending visit of the Muslim scholar Yusuf al-Qaradawi. Two years later, Livingstone stated that he "probably shouldn't" have called Tatchell an "Islamophobe", but defended his actions at the time by saying "in politics you engage with people which you have profound disagreements with...", giving as an example then-Mayor of Moscow Yury Luzhkov's support of London for the 2012 Olympics as vital to the bid's success in spite of Luzhkov's regular bans of Moscow Pride.
Concerning the Jyllands-Posten Muhammad cartoons controversy, Tatchell spoke at an event whose organisers termed a "Rally for free expression" defending the publication of cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad and in support for free speech in general. Tatchell had expected "thousands" to attend the event, which was held on 25 March 2006, but police estimated only 250 people attended.
Tatchell's speech at the rally claimed, "As well as challenging religious-inspired tyranny, let us also say loud and clear that we defend Muslim communities against prejudice and discrimination. Let us declare that we deplore the homophobia, race hate, Islamophobia and antisemitism of the British National Party."
Speaking to the Guardian following the release of the Borat film in the UK, Tatchell criticised Sacha Baron Cohen for his double standards and ‘self-censorship', saying "he regards Christians and Jews as fair game, he never gives Muslims the same doing over".
In February 2010, Women Against Fundamentalism defended Tatchell against allegations of Islamophobia and endorsed his right to challenge all religious fundamentalism: "WAF supports the right of Peter Tatchell and numerous other gay activists to oppose the legitimisation of fundamentalists and other right wing forces on university campuses, by the Left and by the government in its Preventing Violent Extremism strategy and numerous other programmes and platforms".
Livingstone's invitation of Yusuf al-Qaradawi to address a conference on the wearing of the hijab led to a four-year rift between Livingstone and Tatchell, who described Qaradawi as "rightwing, misogynist, anti-semitic and homophobic" and as someone who claimed to have liberal positions in order to deceive Western politicians. Tatchell cites Qaradawi's books and online fatwas where he advocates the execution of apostates (Muslims who turn away from their faith), women who have sex outside marriage and lesbian and gay people. He notes that Qaradawi also supports female genital mutilation and blames rape victims who dress immodestly. Tatchell highlighted the fact that 2,500 Muslims intellectuals signed an open letter in 2004 that condemned Qaradawi as an apologist for terrorism and human rights abuses. Livingstone issued a dossier in defence of Qaradawi as a moderate, and accused Tatchell of writing about the conference without attending it. The dispute became bitter, with Tatchell leading a demonstration against Qaradawi and with Livingstone claiming that Tatchell has "a long history of Islamophobia", and had "constructed a fantasy world in which the main threat we face, worse than the far right, is Islamic fundamentalist hordes... [taking] him into a de facto alliance with the American neo-cons and Israeli intelligence services who want to present themselves as defending western 'civilisation' against more 'backward' civilisations in the Middle East and elsewhere." Tatchell strenuously denied the accusations, pointing out that he has never said any of the things that Livingstone accused him of saying. Imaan, a gay Muslim organisation, initially supported the campaign against Qaradawi, signing a joint letter to the Mayor of London with OutRage! and over a dozen other community groups, including the National Union of Students and Hindu, Sikh and Jewish organisations. The letter condemned Livingstone for hosting the cleric. However, Imaan then reversed its position and withdrew its signature to the letter, along with other organisations. Imaan members were very highly critical of Tatchell's campaign against Qaradawi, some accusing him of anti-Muslim racism.
Muslims and gay rights
Tatchell wrote in the Guardian that certain Muslim leaders, whom Tatchell describes as appearing "to be representative of the majority of British Muslim opinion", of "intolerance" to gay people. He said people such as Hizb ut-Tahrir were extreme fundamentalists who had an "agenda for clerical fascism," He noted that its constitution explicitly rejects democracy (non-Islamic parties would be banned) and human rights (non-Muslims would have fewer rights and freedoms). Tatchell further claimed that "The suppression of critics within the Muslim community is already excessive", adding "the MCB went out of its way to expose Irshad Manji as a lesbian in a seedy bid to discredit her ideas." Tatchell had himself previously outed religious figures he viewed as hypocritical and homophobic, but he felt that Manji was neither hypocritical nor homophobic, so the MCB's action in drawing attention to her sexuality was, he said, unjustified.
In February 2007 the Mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, visited Livingstone for an annual meeting that also involved the Mayors of Berlin and Paris, with the mayor of Beijing present as well. PlanetOut Inc.'s Gay.com website reported:
In February 2006, Grand Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin was quoted as saying about Moscow gay pride marchers, "If they come out on to the streets anyway they should be flogged. Any normal person would do that—Muslims and Orthodox Christians alike... For these reasons Outrage are co-ordinating a protest at London's City Hall this Wednesday 28 February from 11 am to 1.30 pm.
Livingstone issued a statement saying "I have already, and continue, to condemn all these and assert the basic human and civil right of gays and lesbians to peacefully demonstrate", but added "'It is clear that there is a concerted attack on gay and lesbian rights in a series of East European countries fed by diverse currents. In Moscow the Russian Orthodox church, the chief rabbi and the grand Mufti all supported the ban on the Gay Pride march with the main role, due to its great weight in society, being played by the Orthodox church. The attempt of Mr Tatchell to focus attention on the role of the grand Mufti in Moscow, in the face of numerous attacks on gay rights in Eastern Europe, which overwhelmingly come from right-wing Christian and secular currents, is a clear example of an Islamaphobic campaign." Tatchell retorted that Livingstone's remarks were "dishonest, despicable nonsense", adding "The Grand Mufti was not singled out". He further said the Mayor had brought his "office into disrepute" and "has revealed himself to be a person without principles, honesty or integrity."
Following the vote by the Knesset, the Israeli legislature, in 2007 in favour of bills to ban lesbian and gay pride parades in Jerusalem, the Lesbian and Gay Coalition Against Racism criticised Tatchell saying "Peter Tatchell and others who have distinguished themselves by the speed of their quite proper defence of lesbian and gay rights when these have been attacked by Black, Arab, Muslim forces or regimes have still refused to condemn with equal force the official attacks on lesbian and gay rights by the highest institutions of the State of Israel." Tatchell was in and out of hospital at the time, as a result of the injuries he received at the hands of far-right assailants in Moscow. On his partial recovery, he issued a strong statement condemning the religious Jewish fundamentalists who had promoted the pride-ban bill.
In December 2005, Muslim journalist and Respect party activist Adam Yosef came under criticism for an article in Desi Xpress opposing registered civil partnerships and then retracted it. His next column identified Peter Tatchell, British National Party leader Nick Griffin and Omar Bakri Mohammed of Al-Muhajiroun as the top three "hate filled bigots", saying that Tatchell needed "a good slap in the face" and his "queer campaign army" should "pack their bent bags and head back to Australia". Tatchell denounced a "naked appeal to homophobia and xenophobia" echoing "the racist, xenophobic language of the BNP", and Yosef apologised, claiming the "slap in the face" remark was a "figure of speech". Yosef denied any racism and said the Australian mention referred to "the Islamophobic riots which recently gripped Sydney" (the Cronulla riots). Desi Xpress staff expressed regret to Tatchell and gave him a right of reply.
In October 2009, Yosef pledged his formal support to Tatchell's general election parliamentary candidacy, calling for the left to "embrace a mutual personal and political commitment towards equality and human rights".
For over 20 years, Tatchell has written and campaigned about environmental problems including global warming and resource depletion, pointing out that they often have a disproportionately negative impact on developing countries. In the late 1980s, he was co-organiser of the Green and Socialist Conferences, which sought to ally reds and greens. He championed energy conservation and renewable energy; in particular tidal, wave and concentrated solar power. On 24 May 2009, he appeared on the BBC Daily Politics programme to oppose the Elephant and Castle regeneration scheme, which he said would bring few benefits to local working-class people. However, his main campaigns remain centred on human rights and "queer emancipation". In August 2008 Tatchell wrote about speculative theories concerning possible atmospheric oxygen depletion compared to prehistoric levels, and called for further investigation to test such claims and, if proven, their long-term consequences.
Tatchell is an active supporter of animal rights, saying "human rights and animal rights are two aspects of the same struggle against injustice". He is a patron of the Captive Animals Protection Society, a charity campaigning for an end to the use of animals in circuses, zoos and exotic pet trade. He is also a patron of Animal Aid and works with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
- " Like Wales and Scotland, Cornwall considers itself a separate Celtic nation – so why shouldn't it have independence?"
Tatchell concluded his article with the question:
- "Cornwall was once separate and self-governing. If the Cornish people want autonomy and it would improve their lives, why shouldn't they have self-rule once again? Malta, with only 400,000 people, is an independent state within the EU. Why not Cornwall?"
This article received the largest number of comments, over 1,500, to any Guardian article, according to This is Cornwall. While some comments were supportive, Tatchell found himself "shocked and disgusted" by the anti-Cornish sentiment shown by many commenters.
Columnist and other pursuits
Tatchell has written numerous articles in newspapers and magazines related to his various campaigns. He was highly critical of the media coverage of the Admiral Duncan pub bombing, claiming print and TV new outlets focused almost solely on the one straight victim, rather than the two other deaths and the dozens of maimed patrons.
Since 2009, he has been an Ambassador for the penal reform group, Make Justice Work.
In 2011, he became the unsalaried Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, a human rights organisation.
In 2009 he racked up multiple awards. He was named Campaigner of the Year in The Observer Ethical Awards, London Citizen of Sanctuary Award, Shaheed Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti Award (for reporting the Balochistan national liberation struggle), Evening Standard 1000 Most Influential Londoners (winning again in 2011), Liberal Voice of the Year and a Blue Plaque in recognition of his more than 40 years of human rights campaigning.
In 2010 he won Total Politics Top 50 Political Influencers. A diary journalist reported rumours that he had been recommended for British New Year's honours to become a member of the House of Lords. He was said to have turned it down.
In 2012, he won the Irwin Prize (which is awarded to the "Secularist of the Year" by the National Secular Society) in recognition of his lifelong commitment to the defence of human rights against religious fundamentalism. The Prize was presented by Nick Cohen.
On 21 September 2012, he was awarded a Lifetime Achievement award at the UK's first National Diversity Awards. Alongside Misha B, Jody Cundy, Peter Norfolk and others he is a patron for 2013 National Diversity Awards.
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|Wikiquote has quotations related to: Peter Tatchell|
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- Documentary Explores Gay and Lesbian Oppression in East Germany - SPIEGEL ONLINE
- Christian Concern: Same sex marriage
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- [dead link]
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- "Celebrity Patrons - National Diversity Awards". Retrieved 2013-09-02.
- Joseph Patrick McCormick (23 January 2014). "Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell awarded Honorary Doctorate by De Montfort University". PinkNews. Retrieved 27 January 2014.
- Power, Lisa (1995). No Bath But Plenty of Bubbles: An Oral History Of The Gay Liberation Front 1970-7. Cassell. ISBN 0-304-33205-4.
- Lucas, Ian (1998). OutRage!: an oral history. London: Cassell. ISBN 0-304-33358-1.
- Walter, Aubrey (1980). Come together: the years of gay liberation (1970–73). Gay Men's Press. ISBN 0-907040-04-7.
- Official website
- Archived collection of his Talking With Tatchell online TV interviews[dead link] on www.18doughtystreet.com.
- Interview with The Third Estate.
- Tatchell, Peter. "Comment is free: Peter Tatchell". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 1 February 2008.
- WAF statement on Tatchell
- Catalogue of the Tatchell papers held at LSE Archives