Elton John & David Furnish interview Peter Tatchell in celebration of his 60th birthday, 45 years of human rights campaigning and 10 years of his Peter Tatchell Foundation.
The interview is published in the March 2012 issue of Attitude magazine (UK) – out now.
Here are key excerpts:
David Furnish on Peter Tatchell:
“During the 80s I was full of self-loathing and I wasn’t out and I couldn’t tell my family and I had no role models… People like Peter made me uncomfortable, because you were so in people’s faces with OutRage! and there was a part of me that, because I wasn’t confronting it in myself, the fact that someone else was confronting it so much, was slightly frightening. But, as the years have gone by and you learn to accept yourself you learn to appreciate the benefits that we have. I’ve always followed what you’ve (Peter) done in the press and continually said that Peter is a good man and that we need people like Peter Tatchell in the world.
Elton John on Peter Tatchell:
“You’ve never said anything hateful about anybody, you’ve just told the truth. And you never condemned anybody – well you have – but you haven’t done it with hate. You’ve just said: Listen, this is unfair, this is not right, with the Pope, and the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the thing in Moscow (Peter and Richard Fairbrass of Right Said Fred were beaten up by anti-gay Russians), and you’ve never reacted violently and reacted with hate. You’ve just been like Jesus Christ would’ve been when he forgave all the people that sinned.”
Peter Tatchell on his inspirations:
“Mahatma Gandhi, Sylvia Pankhurst, Martin Luther King and, to some extent, Malcolm X and Rosa Luxemburg.”
Elton on the US:
“It’s so fucking homophobic, it’s ludicrous.”
Peter on what is needed to stamp out homophobic bullying and prejudice:
“Education against homophobia and all prejudice should be a compulsory subject in every school, from primary level upwards, with no opt-outs for independent and free schools and no right of parents to withdraw their kids. There should be exams in tolerance. The results should go on pupil’s records and should have to be declared when applying for higher education and jobs.”
David on Peter’s flat:
“It’s a garrison.”
Peter on the current big campaign:
“We’ve got the Equal Love campaign, where four gay couples and four straight couples have filed an application at the European Court of Human Rights. The aim is to end the (UK’s) twin bans on same-sex civil marriages and opposite-sex civil partnerships. We’re guardedly optimistic that when it comes to a judgement, maybe in three or four years time, we might win.
David on their son Zachary:
“He’s going to be potentially doubly stigmatised, because one of his parents is extremely famous, and secondly because he comes from two dads.”
Elton on being willing to perform in homophobic countries to challenge intolerance:
“Like you (Peter) I am not afraid of going anywhere. I’m not afraid of going to Iran. I’m not afraid of going to Syria….If they shoot me, they shoot me”
Peter on retirement:
“I plan to carry on campaigning for another 30 years.”
Elton on Zachary:
“I can’t tell you how brilliant this year has been and how much love he’s bought us….having a child has been magnificent and I never thought I’d have a kid.”
Peter on the past hate campaigns against him:
“During the 80s and 90s, when I was very outspoken and very much in the news, it was like living through a mini civil war. I had attacks on my home: three arson attacks, a bullet thought the door and bricks through the windows. I was bashed about 300 times, mostly by homophobes and neo-Nazis.”
Peter on his proudest campaign:
“The campaign in the early 1990s against police harassment of the LGBT community. The police refused to end their homophobia and wouldn’t negotiate. So the queer rights group OutRage!, which I was involved with, began a high-profile campaign of direct action. We invaded police stations, interrupted police press conferences and exposed ‘pretty police’ undercover agents who were luring gay men into committing criminal acts and then arresting them. Within three months, the police were pleading with us to negotiate. Within a year, they agreed to most of our demands for a non-homophobic policing policy. Within three years, the number of gay and bisexual men convicted for consenting behaviour fell by two-thirds – the biggest, fastest fall ever. We saved thousands of men from arrest and criminal conviction. I’m really proud of that campaign.”
Peter on not holding grudges:
“I never hold grudges. If someone has been a homophobe and they change, I am first in line to welcome and embrace them. When Michael Portillo was defence minister, gays and lesbians were witch-hunted out of the armed forces. He voted against LGBT equality in the House of Commons. So when he stood for Parliament in Kensington and Chelsea, I harried him wherever he went. Some years later he confided that it was a horrible experience but he sort of understood why I did it. He regretted voting against equality. To which my response was: thank you.”
Colin Crummy, Attitude – +44 (0) 207 608 6502