25th of January marks what we’re calling Peter Tatchell Day, his 60th birthday. I’m delighted to explain how and why PinkNews.co.uk will be celebrating the birthday of a man who has through direct action changed Britain and the world for the better.
All of the advertising spots around the site will be donated to his Peter Tatchell Foundation on his birthday to raise awareness and fundraise. PinkNews.co.uk will lose a not inconsiderable amount of money but we want to do it to mark an important day in the history of our community. Over the course of his 60th birthday year, we will donate a further 41 million advertising spots around this website and iPhone app to his foundation to celebrate the 41 years since he joined the London Gay Liberation Front.
Way back in 1973, aged just 21, Peter staged the first ever gay rights protest in a communist country – in East Germany – which resulted in him being detained and interrogated by the secret police, the Stasi. Many years later, in 1998, he helped expose the Nazi war criminal, SS Dr Carl Vaernet, who conducted gruesome medical experiments on gay prisoners in Buchenwald concentration camp.
More than any other person or organisation, Peter has, often single handed, campaigned for the rights we now enjoy in the UK. He’s also been a huge campaigner all around the world for LGBTQI rights. I believe that the 25th January should be celebrated not just throughout the LGBTQI communities around the world but actually beyond because he’s not just fought for our rights, he’s campaigned on a variety of human rights issues and put his own life on the line when he did, such as his two attempted citizens arrests of the Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe. After the second, he was severely injured by Mr Mugabe’s body guards.
Over the next few weeks, PinkNews is inviting you to send in your memories of him, how you met him how, how he inspired you and how you believe he’s changed your life for the better. As well as how you think he should continue his work.
Peter probably won’t remember, but I actually first met him on the former Channel 4 programme, The Big Breakfast. He was fresh from attending hospital after his attempted arrest of Robert Mugabe and I wasn’t at that stage publicly out. I was promoting a BBC programme I was appearing on. He probably won’t have realised how influential on me that meeting was and how I looked back on that when I decided to launch PinkNews.
Peter has been an amazing ally of mine since we started PinkNews.co.uk. He’s always supportive, eager to help and constantly writing columns for us. Even in my other life at Channel 4 News, Peter’s been a help. I remember phoning him as he sat, badly beaten in a Moscow police station, after being attacked by neo-Nazis at the banned Moscow Pride in 2007. Immediately after he was released, with a huge bloodied black eye, he recorded an interview via satellite telling a large audience in the UK how badly the Russian authorities were treating gay people in the city. Through his highlighting of the Moscow Pride ban, and the legal case brought by LGBTIQ campaigners in Russia, the country was subsequently found in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights by the European Court of Human Rights.
The work that Peter does is inspiring, it has changed lives and it’s not just been by leading huge campaigns. He has helped many individuals too, including many LGBTIQ refugees in the UK escaping persecution in their home countries. With Peter’s help, for which he receives no salary, a large number have successfully been recognised by the British authorities and have been able to build new lives for themselves, free from the terror of state persecution.
His leadership of the Equal Love campaign, arguing that gay couples should have the right to marry and that straight couples should have the right to hold civil partnerships has so far been a partial success. The prime minister David Cameron has pledged to introduce gay civil marriage, although Peter is continuing the fight to ensure that gay couples should be allowed to hold religious marriages and straight couples to hold civil partnerships. In other words, true marriage equality. But it’s unlikely that without his campaign that the government would have even started moving in the current direction.
I’m really hoping that our many readers from all around the world dig deep from now until Peter Tatchell Day and throughout his birthday year to help support his and his team’s work through the Peter Tatchell Foundation. Click here for more details.
Benjamin Cohen is the founder and publisher of PinkNews.co.uk. He is also a correspondent for Channel 4 News