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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 1, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 40
British Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell honored by his hometown
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British Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell honored by his hometown

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

British Gay rights activist Peter Tatchell was honored with a 'Blue Plaque' at his home in south London on September 29.

The plaque reads 'Peter Tatchell. Born 1952. Campaigner for human rights, Gay freedom, and social justice. Lived Here. Voted by the people.'

Blue Plaques are usually affixed to buildings associated with British historical figures, leading Tatchell to joke, 'It is a great honor. I blushed. I want to express my extreme gratitude. I am gratified but a little embarrassed. You usually get a plaque when you're dead, but I'm very much alive.

His family is very long-lived, Tatchell added, and he hopes to be "at it for another 30 years."

The award was organized by the Southwark Council and confirmed by popular vote.

British actor Sir Ian McKellen spoke at the ceremony.

He called Mr. Tatchell "my hero" and added, "As an actor, I admire the chutzpah and showbiz nature of Peter's campaigning. It is absolutely sensational that there is a plaque here."

Following the murder of Gay actor Michael Boothe on April 30, 1990, Tatchell was one of 30 founding members of the direct action group OutRage! and has remained a leading member. The group is known for its theatrical protest style.

"We don't have the energy, far-sightedness, and bravery of this individual. If we did, the world would be a better place. I couldn't be a stronger supporter of him," McKellen said.

Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament Simon Hughes was also present at the ceremony. Hughes won his parliamentary seat in 1983 running against Tatchell, who was the Labor Party candidate.

Hughes paid tribute to Tatchell's 30 years of activism, citing his campaigns for human rights all over the world.

"We are very grateful that you settled in Southwark," Hughes told Tatchell.

"I have lived in Southwark most of my life and I am very proud to be part of its long, illustrious history of distinguished authors, playwrights, scientists, inventors, and social reformers," Tatchell replied.

The plaque was also given a secular blessing by an out Gay Catholic priest, Fr. Bernard Lynch.

In addition to his run for parliament in 1983, Tatchell ran as the Green Party candidate in the constituency of Oxford East in 2007.

In December of 2009, Tatchell announced he would step down from his Green Party responsibilities due to the lingering affects of head injuries he sustained when he was beaten by Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe's bodyguards. In 2001, Tatchell had attempted to perform a citizen's arrest on Mugabe while the Zimbabwean president was in Brussels.

Tatchell was also seriously injured in a scuffle with neo-Nazis at a Moscow Pride Parade in 2007.

Tatchell's in-your-face style has not met with universal approval, even within the human rights movement.

He has been denounced as anti-Catholic for leading the protest against Pope Benedict XVI's state visit to Britain; anti-Islamic because of his unceasing criticism of the Islamist regime in Iran; and as anti-Semitic because he challenged British Chief Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits' assertion that selective breeding might eventually eliminate homosexuality.

Tatchell was also embroiled in an ugly feud with Human Rights Watch over how to characterize a young man executed in Iran in 2007 on charges of same-sex rape. The feud was settled publicly in June this year, with a complete apology from Human Rights Watch and a gracious acknowledgement by Tatchell.

In addition to the Blue Plaque, Tatchell has received a number of other awards for his human rights work.

In 2006, New Statesman readers voted him sixth on their list of "Heroes of our time."

He was named Campaigner of the Year in The Observer Ethical Awards for 2009.

Also in 2009, Tatchell won the London Citizen of Sanctuary Award, the Shaheed Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti Award (for reporting on the Baluchistan national liberation struggle), and the Liberal Voice of the Year award.

He also made the Evening Standard's 1,000 Most Influential Londoners list for 2009.

Earlier this year he made the Total Politics list of Top 50 Political Influencers.

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