In an interview for next month’s Attitude magazine, Elton John says human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has behaved “like Jesus Christ” in the face of anti-gay attacks and entrenched homophobia.
John and civil partner David Furnish interview Peter Tatchell for the March issue and John praises the fact that he has “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.”
Mr Tatchell says during the 1980s and 90s when he became an outspoken public figure for gay activism it was “like living through a mini civil war”.
He says: “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.”
But, Elton John tells him: “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.”
On not holding anti-gay views against people when they drop them, Mr Tatchell says: “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.”
Furnish says witnessing Tatchell’s activism through a period when he was struggling to come to terms with his own sexuality was “slightly frightening”.
He says: “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 adds that on performing concerts in homophobic countries: “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”
The interview marks Peter Tatchell’s 60th birthday and 45th anniversary of his entry into rights campaigning. PinkNews.co.uk celebrated Peter Tatchell Day on 25 January with a selection of birthday wishes and articles on the man and his career, redirecting all adverts to the Peter Tatchell Foundation for the day.
On how to promote tolerance and tackle prejudice in younger generations, he says: “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.”
The March issue of Attitude magazine is on sale now.