Speaking to Peter Tatchell it began to dawn on me quite how influential he really is.
A staunch figure within the LGBT community, Peter Tatchell has been campaigning for LGBT equality since 1969. A lot has changed in the 44 years that Tatchell has truly, tirelessly fought for gay rights. I ask if he expected such progress back when he started out.
“I knew it would be a challenge and expected it would take at least 50 years to get LGBT equality,” he claims, nonchalantly.
“It seems to have been achieved in just under 50 years. So I was a bit of a pessimist.” He laughs.
“Obviously the next big thing for us is the battle for equal marriage. After that, some serious tidying up of other legislation is needed. Especially regarding the equality laws. For example the government still gives exemptions to religious organisations, allowing them to discriminate.”
He pauses for a moment, then somewhat dramatically states,
“That’s. Not. Right.”
Over recent months, it has become quite clear that the gay community are somewhat divided on the issue. The exemption of religious institutions has caused outrage for some, yet others don’t seem to care about the issue. I ask why he thinks this is the case.
“As much as admire Stonewall, I find their stance on equal marriage to be deeply problematic. For many years they opposed equal marriage, arguing that civil partnerships were enough. “
I ask if he thinks Stonewall’s views have “rubbed off” on the community.
“They only changed their minds, because of a mass rebellion by their members. Even now, Stonewall does not support equal civil partnerships for heterosexual couples.”
I ask if this particularly bothers him.
“Absolutely, they (Stonewall) claim that it’s up to straight people to fight that issue. Which I find very strange because in all the campaigns for LGBT equality, Stonewall appealed for straight support!”
I can’t help but snigger at the obvious irony that he has pointed out.
“Yet now, when many straight people want support from the LGBT community regarding equality in heterosexual civil partnerships, Stonewall are refusing to give it. The whole thing reeks of self-obsession and selfishness and frankly it’s doing the LGBT community a lot of harm, especially in the eyes of the public.”
Whilst on the subject of inequality, I can’t resist hearing his views on the cartoonish Nigel Farage and UKIP.
He seems to have been expecting it and his answer was quintessentially Tatchell-esque.
Concise, adroit and beautifully acerbic
“UKIP is the new nasty party. They’re staunchly opposed to equal marriage, claiming that same-sex couples only deserves Civil Partnerships, and what makes it somewhat worse, is that they exploiting this issue to win over disaffected Tories. Nigel Farage, whatever his intentions, is manipulating homophobia, for political advantage.”
Tatchell can’t hide the disgust in his voice.
“UKIP are in an alliance with several extremist right wing organisations, within the European parliament which all stand accused of racism and homophobia. There may be some members of UKIP who are not racist or homophobic, although the party as a whole attracts a whole host of deeply prejudiced supporters.
I mention their rather shocking result in the recent by-election, to which he immedietly replies:
“The LGBT community and liberal heterosexuals should most definitely give UKIP a wide birth and we cannot afford to become complacent.”
Tatchell is perhaps best known for his various campaigns. I ask if he has anything planned and it would seem Tatchell is showing no signs of stopping.
“I shall be continuing a longstanding liaison with the commonwealth to overturn the criminalization of homosexuality by more than 40 of the 54 member states. I don’t feel they are doing enough to challenge the homophobic witch-hunt in countries such as Nigeria and Uganda.”
Judging by the shocking Ugandan campaigns such as ‘Kill the Gays’; it doesn’t seem that they are making much progress.
“I am also working toward producing an MTV style video against homophobia in Football. We’re aiming to have it shown in schools and Football clubs. We are also looking to feature it on various sports channels. It has been a long time project of mine. However we are in need of some major corporate backing.”
Tensions have also been rising between the LGBT and Muslim communities respectively. This is an issue Peter aims to solve with his newest campaign “Gays and Muslims UNITE – Fight OR Hate”
Its primary focus is to build bridges to support LGBT Muslims and also to fight far right organisations such as EDL or The BNP.
Tatchell is also working to ensure that straight civil partnerships become a viable option for heterosexuals. He claims that:
“I am strongly behind the Amendment to allow heterosexual civil partnerships. This bill is about equality, which must include straight equality.”
Peter reminds me that despite the somewhat landslide victory in favour of marriage equality, we’re not in the clear yet and should definitely not become complacent. He strongly encourages the community to lobby the House of Lords in order to show support. Tatchell adds that he is:
“Unsure about the Lords vote, however I’m optimistic.”
Finally, I ask him
“Have you anything to add?”
“Same Sex marriage is an unstoppable global trend. Across the world it is becoming an issue. We are winning although there is still a long way to go. I cannot help but find the global progress we are making utterly inspiring.”
“It’s fantastic to think that countries as diverse as South Africa, Argentina and Uruguay now have same-sex marriage ahead of Britain”
To find out more about Peter’s work and his upcoming projects, go and check out his websitewww.petertatchellfoundation.org and be sure to subscribe for regular updates.