Peter Tatchell

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Peter Tatchell is a human rights campaigner.[1]


Tatchell was born in Melbourne, Australia in 1952. Inspired by gay liberation protests in New York, he came out as gay in 1969. He moved to London in 1971, after refusing to be drafted into the Australian Army, which was then involved in the Vietnam War.[2]

Gay Liberation Front

In London, Tatchell joined the Gay Liberation Front (GLF). In 1973, he was the GLF delegate to the World Youth Festival, becoming the first person to publicly advocate gay liberation in a communist country.[3]

Bermondsey by-election

Tatchell stood for Labour in the 1983 Bermondsey by-election, in which he was the target of a notorious smear campaign. He recalled the episode in an interview with the Independent in 2006, after it was revealed his Liberal opponent, Simon Hughes had had gay affairs:

Mr Tatchell said one Liberal member admitted to him that the party was behind the anonymous and illegal campaign leaflet "Which Queen Will You Vote For?", which ridiculed his sexuality and "invited local voters to have a go at me by listing my home address and phone number".
Mr Tatchell, now a member of the Green Party, said it was "ironic" that Mr Hughes had admitted he was gay. He received "information" to that effect at the time of the by-election but Labour took a decision not to retaliate.[4]

Tatchell said that he had forgiven Hughes for his part in the campaign.[5]


Tatchell was one of 30 people who collectively founded the gay rights group Outrage!, on 10 May 1990.[6]

One of the group's most controversial tactics was 'outing' - revealing the alleged private gay lifestyles of prominent public figures, as the Independent noted in 2006:

[Tatchell] came in for the strongest criticism when in 1994 he declared his intention to "out" 10 bishops within the Church of England - individuals he claimed were secretly gay or bisexual yet who supported the church's official anti-gay priests policy. Tatchell maintained the 10 were guilty of hypocrisy but his tactics alienated many who were otherwise sympathetic to his cause.[7]

In Easter 1998, Tatchell interrupted a sermon by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey in protest at his attitude to gays and lesbians. He was later fined for "indecent behaviour in a church" under a little-used 1860 statute.[8]

Tatchell attempted a citizen's arrest of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in London in 1999, and in Brussels in 2001. On the latter occasion, he was badly beaten by Mugabe's bodyguards.[9]

Out of Place Controversy

Tatchell's views on Islam were strongly criticised by academics Jin Haritaworn, Tamsila Tauqir and Esra Erdem in Gay Imperialism: Gender and Sexuality Discourse in the ‘War on Terror’ which appeared as a chapter in the 2008 book Out of Place, Interrogating Silences in Queerness/Raciality.[10]

The book was later withdrawn by its publishers, Raw Nerve Books, which issued an apology and correction that read in part:

We regret that this chapter contains serious, defamatory untruths concerning Peter Tatchell and OutRage! It casts unjustified doubt on their character, motives and integrity, and involves a fundamental misrepresentation of their campaigns.
We accept that the human rights work of Mr Tatchell and OutRage! is motivated by a sincere support for people struggle against tyranny and injustice, and has involved valuable assistance to many LGBT campaigners in the UK and worldwide.[11]

The article was later reproduced by Bob Pitt of Islamophobia Watch, who wrote:

Presumably Tatchell threatened to take legal action against Raw Nerve Books, the publishers of Out of Place, and they lacked the resources to contest a libel case. (You might wonder how Tatchell himself, who is always at pains to emphasise that he is living in poverty, particularly when sending out begging letters asking for financial support, could have afforded to launch a lawsuit.) In reality, Raw Nerve Books would have little difficulty defending the criticisms of Tatchell made in the book, which are very much in line with those to be found on our website.[12]


On the Left

Tatchell has accused the left of falling victim to moral and cultural relativism:

When human rights violations are perpetrated by people who happen to be non-white, much of the left runs a mile. They are fearful of being accused of racism and neo-colonialism. Does that help oppressed people? Of course not! Their oppressors rejoice. Mugabe must be thrilled that the international left has not campaigned to isolate him. He can point the finger and say, it is only the western colonialists who oppose them.[13]

On Iran

Tatchell has been critical of the left's approach to Iran:

Iran is a brutal theocratic regime. Only last year a 16 year old girl was executed for so-called crimes against chastity. Where is the left solidarity campaign with Iranian democrats and socialists who are struggling to overthrow this clerical fascist regime? Iranian exiles living in Britain are trying to build solidarity with the underground opposition inside Iran. They get precious little support from the left.[14]

In an OutRage! action alert on the execution of two Iranian teenagers in 2005, Tatchell condemned the killings as "just the latest barbarity by the Islamo-fascists in Iran".[15]

This comment was later criticised by Iranian-American gay rights campaigner Mitra Roshan:

This language is more in harmony with the "clash of civilizations" rhetoric adopted by the Bush administration than with human rights advocacy. It paints the violence of the Iranian regime as in a class of its own, barbaric and distinct from the presumably civilized violence of the war on Iraq, Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo.[16]

The 2005 press release defended the Iranian opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran:

The NCRI has played a heroic role in resisting the clerical fascist regime in Iran and campaigning for democracy and human rights. It has been smeared as a “terrorist organization” by the US State Department. The NCRI is no more a terrorist organisation that the anti-Nazi resistance in occupied Europe during World War Two.[17]

On 'Luton Five' verdict

Tatchell criticised the conviction of five Muslim men for a March 2009 protest against the homecoming of the Royal Anglian Regiment.

"Some sections of the Public Order Act inhibit the right to free speech and the right to protest. They should be repealed," he said.

"Just as I defended the right to free speech of the Christian homophobe Harry Hammond, and opposed his conviction in 2002 for insulting the gay community, so I also defend the right of these objectionable Muslim extremists to make their views heard.[18]

On Christianity

In July 2009, Tatchell accused the Queen of a "serious error of judgement" after she sent a supportive message to the Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans, stating:

Her letter of support for the breakaway anti-gay faction of the Church of England is collusion with prejudice. She has insulted lesbian and gay people and breached royal protocol by embroiling herself in an issue of religious and political controversy.[19]

In the same month, Tatchell strongly criticised Anglican Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali for calling on homosexuals to 'repent':

"I call on the Bishop to repent his homophobia. His prejudice goes against Christ's gospel of love and compassion.
"This is merely the latest of many homophobic outbursts by the Bishop. He is a long-time vociferous opponent of gay equality and a strident supporter of legal discrimination against homosexuals.[20]

Tatchell has criticised the role of Christianity in the British constitution, stating:

Britain cannot claim the moral high ground: it is not a secular democracy. The Church of England is the established church, the official state religion. Some of its bishops are granted automatic places in the House of Lords, by virtue of their religious office, and they are able to speak and vote on legislation. No other faith in Britain has such privileged law-making status and power.[21]


External Resources


  1. Guardian, Peter Tatchell, accessed 31 March 2010.
  4. Andrew Grice, The 'homophobic' campaign that helped win Bermondsey, The Independent, 27 January 2006.
  5. Andrew Grice, The 'homophobic' campaign that helped win Bermondsey, The Independent, 27 January 2006.
  6. OutRage!,, accessed 31 March 2010.
  7. Paul Vallely, Peter Tatchell: Out and about, Independent, 28 January 2006.
  8. Clare Garney, Church protest costs Tatchell pounds 18.60, Independent, 2 December 1998.
  9. Peter Tatchell, I tried and failed. It's time someone else arrested Robert Mugabe, The Times, 12 December 2008.
  10. [Jin Haritaworn, with Tamsila Tauqir and Esra Erdem'War%20on%20Terror'.pdf Gay Imperialism: Gender and Sexuality Discourse in the ‘War on Terror’], archived at Islamophobia Watch, accessed 31 March 2010.
  11. Peter Tatchell: Apology and Correction, Raw Nerve Books, August 2009.
  12. Bob Pitt, From the life of St Peter, Islamophobia Watch, 7 October 2009.
  13. Peter Tatchell, WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE LEFT?, Solidarity / Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, 5 February 2005, archived at
  14. Peter Tatchell, WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE LEFT?, Solidarity / Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, 5 February 2005, archived at
  15. EXECUTION OF GAY TEENS IN IRAN,, 27 July 2005.
  16. Mitra Roshan, Gays in Iran, ZNet, 16 March 2006
  17. Mitra Roshan, Gays in Iran, ZNet, 16 March 2006
  18. Human rights activist says 'Luton five' verdict threatens free speech, Ekklesia, 12 January 2010.
  19. Campaigners criticise Queen for messages to hardline Anglican group, Ekklesia, 6 July 2009.
  20. Bishop asked to repent of homophobia, Ekklesia, 5 July 2009.
  21. Peter Tatchell, Just say no to sharia law, Comment Is Free,, 19 November 2009.
  22. National Secular Society Our Honorary Associates. Accessed 20 September 2015.