Retirement? No thanks. I plan to carry on for another 30 years
London, UK – 24 January 2017
“I turn 65 on 25 January. This I year celebrate 50 years of human rights activism. Retirement hasn’t entered my head. There is still so much to do. The brain and eye damage from bashings by Mugabe’s thugs and Moscow neo-Nazis is minor and doesn’t stop me. I carry on. My plan is to keep going for another 30 years,” said LGBT and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
“My paternal grandfather, who I take after, was active until his early 90s and died aged 97. I’ve got his fighting spirit and hopefully his genes. So, with a bit of luck, I’ll match or surpass his longevity.
“Over the last half a century of campaigning I’ve been violently assaulted 300 times – mostly by homophobes and far right extremists – including three arson attacks on my flat, a bullet though the letter box and more than 50 bottles and bricks through the windows. At times, it was like living through a low-level civil war. I feared for my life and had post-traumatic stress disorder, with symptoms including night terrors.
“Despite engaging in over 3,000 direct action and civil disobedience protests, and being arrested 200 times, I have only one standing conviction: for the Canterbury Cathedral protest in 1998, which was against the then Archbishop of Canterbury’s support for homophobic discrimination in law. I was convicted under the Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act 1860, formerly part of the Brawling Act 1551.
“I grew up in an era when gay men were branded criminals, homosexuality was punishable by imprisonment and blackmail was a constant fear. There was no protection against discrimination. We could be refused housing, jobs and service in pubs and shops. We had no legal protection or redress. Same-sex relations were regarded as a sickness and electric shock aversion therapy was used as a supposed cure. There were no openly LGBT public figures. The only time gay people appeared in the media was when they were exposed as spies, murderers or sex offenders. Many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people internalised this homophobia; hence the high rates of depression, alcoholism and suicide. I was determined to help change that.
“Whatever contribution I have made, has never been by me alone. It has always been working with others and thanks to their help. I pay tribute, and express my sincere appreciation, to everyone who has campaigned with me since 1967, when I first began.
“I remember with great admiration and affection the trail-blazing activism for peace, freedom and equality by Pat Arrowsmith, Bruce Kent, Pragna Patel, Allan Horsfall, April Ashley, Simon Nkoli, Anthony Grey, Jackie Forster, Griff Vaughan Williams and Carmel Budiardjo, to name just a few.
“Over the years, together with others, I’ve protested against Henry Kissinger, Pope Benedict, Nick Griffin, Augusto Pinochet, PW Botha, Mike Tyson, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Benjamin Netanyahu, Tony Blair and Presidents Brezhnev, Mugabe, Ahmadinejad, Bush, Suharto and Musharraf – and many more.
“In my activist life-time, I’ve had the great privilege and honour of supporting the successful campaigns to end apartheid, the poll tax, anti-gay laws, Soviet tyranny, the ban on protests outside parliament, ID cards, the Vietnam War and the prohibition of same-sex marriage.
“I am looking forward to help win more victories in the years to come, including democratisation of the economy, marriage equality in Northern Ireland, a fair and representative voting system, the closing down of tax havens, mandatory LGBT-inclusive sex and relationship education in schools and independence for Western Sahara, Kurdistan, West Papua and Balochistan,” said Mr Tatchell.