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Elton John heralds “Jesus-like” Australian activist

Australian human rights activist Peter Tatchell has been described as “Jesus-like” in an interview by Elton John and partner David Furnish.


Peter Tatchell
ELTON JOHN has described Australian human rights activist Peter Tatchell as “Jesus-like”, in an interview for the March edition of Attitude Magazine. The interview, conducted by the British music legend and his civil partner David Furnish, comes after Peter’s 60th birthday and the anniversary of his 45th year campaigning for human rights. London-based Tatchell is a political campaigner; leading advocate for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendersocial movements; as well as a contributing writer for the Australian Times.

Elton John praised Tatchell for his exemplary behaviour in the face of homophobic violence and anti-gay attacks: “You’ve never said anything hateful about anybody, you’ve just told the truth.”

“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.”

In reply, Tatchell asserts that he never holds 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.”

Tatchell goes on to talk about 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 Tatchell

Tatchell describes his proudest moment as his 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.”

He goes on to describe his current plans.

“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.”

And Tatchell settles concerns about his retirement once and for all.

“I plan to carry on campaigning for another 30 years.”

Elton John has drawn inspiration from Tatchell’s perseverance and says that he is willing to perform in homophobic countries despite their 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.”

And the openly gay music legend comments that in the United States “it’s so f*cking homophobic, it’s ludicrous”.

Meanwhile, Tatchell describes what he believes is needed to eradicate homophobia, prejudice and bullying.

“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.”

Elton John & Peter Tatchell

The picture of Elton John, David Furnish & Peter Tatchell in the March edition of Attitude Magazine. Image by Joseph Sinclair.

Elton John’s partner David Furnish has been inspired by the Australian human rights activist and while he describes Tatchell’s influence on his own life as “frightening” he has also learnt to “appreciate” Tatchell’s attitude and tolerance.

“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.”

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