Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Tatchell was born in Footscray, Melbourne, Australia and brought up in a religious household by his mother and stepfather. Money was tight because of the chronic asthma, and consequent medical bills, of his mother. This prevented him from continuing his education beyond basic level and he worked as a shop-front decorator in Melbourne's principal department store from the age of 15.
His political activity began with opposition to Australia's involvement in the Vietnam War. He discovered his homosexuality in 1969. Impending conscription led him to move to London in 1971. Four days after arriving he spotted a sticker on a lamp-post in Oxford Street advertising a meeting of the Gay Liberation Front, and was a leading member until the group disintegrated in about 1974.
He continued his education at the Polytechnic of North London, and later became a freelance journalist specialising in foreign stories. He joined the Labour Party in 1978, shortly before moving to a hard-to-let flat on the Rockingham Estate in Bermondsey. In 1980, he was part of a group of left-wing members who won control of Bermondsey Labour Party. When the sitting Labour MP, Bob Mellish , announced his retirement, Tatchell was selected as his successor in November 1981.
As a result of Tatchell's views in support of direct action political campaigning, the Labour Party leader Michael Foot denounced him in the House of Commons in December 1981 and his candidature was refused endorsement. However, the Bermondsey Labour Party was strongly in support of him and when Mellish resigned from Parliament (triggering a by-election) Tatchell was endorsed as the Labour Party candidate.
Tatchell's far left views and homosexuality were used as a campaign tool by many opponents in an election campaign widely regarded as one of the dirtiest in history. Despite the seat having been a Labour stronghold, it was won by Liberal candidate Simon Hughes. See Bermondsey by-election, 1983.
In the 1980s Tatchell wrote a series of books including The Battle for Bermondsey (the story of the byelection), Democratic Defence, and an early guide to surviving with HIV and AIDS. Increasingly he took part in gay rights campaigning over issues such as Section 28. After the murder of actor Michael Boothe, on May 10, 1990, he was one of 30 founding members of OutRage!, a gay rights group, and has remained as a leading member of the group.
Some activities of OutRage! have been highly controversial. It unveiled placards naming 10 Church of England Bishops as gay in 1994. Shortly after it wrote to 25 Members of Parliament urging them to publicly reveal their homosexuality in 1995, one of those in receipt of the letter died of a sudden heart attack. Tatchell was denounced as a "homosexual terrorist" by the Daily Mail.
Tatchell has also taken up human rights more generally. He has twice attempted to place Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe under citizen's arrest on charges of torture, a campaign praised by many of the newspapers which had previously denounced him. In 2000 he resigned his membership of the Labour Party citing its treatment of Ken Livingstone, and fought unsuccessfully for a seat on the London Assembly as an Independent in support of him. He makes a living from freelance journalism, media appearances, and guest lecturing.
On April 7, 2004 Tatchell announced that he had joined the Green Party, although he did not envisage standing as a candidate in any future election. During the 2004 campaign by OutRage! to stop the incitement of violence against gay people by Jamaican reggae artists , inluding Beenie Man, Peter Tatchell was issued with death threats and labelled 'racist' - a claim he strongly denies as he works together with black gay groups.
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