Updated: Saturday, 25th October 2014 @ 11:41am

The fight for equality continues: Trailblazing LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell set for Salford talk

The fight for equality continues: Trailblazing LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell set for Salford talk

By Richard O'Meara

One of Britain’s leading LGBT rights campaigners is set to bring his message of equality to Salford this afternoon.

Peter Tatchell has fought for equality since 1967, and will kick-start LGBT History Month by giving a talk at the Working Class Movement Library.

Tatchell will play host to his talk on the topic of 'Queer Britain - the struggle for LGBT rights 1958-2014'.

Born in Australia and relocating to London in 1971, the sometimes controversial, always staunchly pro-equality Tatchell is seen as a human rights trailblazer.

From confronting incensed Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to blocking the torch procession before the Olympic Games in China, he has been called an ‘intrepid figure-head’ of LGBT struggle.

An instrumental part of LGBT rights group Outrage and contributor to innumerable campaigns around the world, Tatchell, 62,  says Manchester has played a vital role in the causes he champions.

He told MM: “Manchester was a pioneering city for LGBT equality.

“The UK's first grassroots LGBT campaign group, the North West Homosexual Law Reform Committee, was founded in the city.

“I was privileged to know the NWHLRC's key founder, the late Allan Horsfall, who lived until his recent death in Bolton.”

The NWHLRC, which later became the Campaign for Homosexual Equality; this year celebrates its 50th anniversary.

Tatchell believes the work of Manchester campaigners played a large part in paving the way for many of the ground-breaking reforms of the past 15 years.

“Since 1999, there have been astonishing legal gains for LGBT equality,” he said.

 “We've seen the repeal of Section 28, a ban on homophobic discrimination, the right of same-sex couples to adopt children and the legalisation of same-sex marriage.”

Other achievements Pater lauds include equalising the age of consent, introducing civil partnerships and allowing transsexuals to officially change their gender status.

“Bravo! These stunning reforms have been won in an amazingly short period of time. Until 1999 the UK had the largest number of anti-gay laws of any country on Earth,” he told MM.

“The legislation that sent Oscar Wilde to jail in 1895 remained on the statute book until 2003.”

Tatchell has been a delighted witness to the flood gates opening for legislation which promotes equality. He said. “Bravo! It has been the fastest, most successful law reform campaign in British history and its transformed my life and the life of millions of LGBT people.”

TURNING BACK THE CLOCK: Tatchell at London Pride in 2001

Internationally, Tatchell has been at the forefront of backlash against the beguiled Sochi Winter Olympics host nation Russia’s attitude towards its LGBT community and the IOC response.

 “The hysterical homophobic atmosphere in Russia means it would be impossible for an openly gay athlete to be selected for the Russian Olympic squad,” he said.

Peter himself knows first-hand about the flavour of the official and public attitude towards homosexuality in the former Soviet state.

Tatchell was assaulted and nearly knocked unconscious in 2007 while campaigning in Moscow against the ban of the city’s Pride activities.

Two years later he and other activists were arrested whilst protesting in the wake of the city’s mayor labeling gay people ‘satanic’.

Peter however says it’s not just the hosts themselves that sully the Games. He told MM: “Dozens of countries sending competitors to Sochi criminalise same-sex relationships or actively discriminate against gay people.

“None of them would be likely to allow the selection of a gay athlete for their Sochi team.”

He also took aim at the inaction of the IOC; a body he says does anything but uphold the supposed inclusive spirit of the Games.

“The IOC has said and done nothing. It is allowing the Russian government to ban the Pride House and discriminate against LGBT athletes and spectators. “

The Kremlin vetoed the return of a ‘Pride House’ at this year’s games – a meeting place for gay athletes and spectators which featured at the Vancouver games in 2010 and the summer Olympics two years ago in London.

“They have also threatened that any athlete who expresses support for LGBT equality during the games will face disciplinary action,” he said.

The IOC’s answers to the frustrated LGBT community insist the Olympic Games are not a place for proactive political or religious demonstration.

Peter however believes their unwillingness to tackle the hosts boils down to cold, hard cash rather than Olympic values themselves.

“The host nation and corporate sponsors are king,” he said.

“Nothing must be allowed to detract from financial success and ‘good news’ PR - certainly not the plight of Russia’s persecuted LGBTs or other victims of Putin's repression.”

A defender of gender, racial and religious freedomsm, Tatchell is also no stranger to the economic and class struggle documented at the Salford venue of his seminar.

“We live in an economic dictatorship, where a tiny elite of major shareholders and directors call all the shots,” he said.

“Companies should be made answerable to their employees and to the wider public.”

Born in the 1950s, The Working Class Movement Library chronicles the plight of the working classes, from the days of the Industrial Revolution to today.

From Chartism to the campaign for woman’s suffrage the Library will make a fitting venue for one of the men at the forefront of radical social activism today.

“Corporate negligence and recklessness ought to be an explicit criminal offence,” he said.

“I would give trade unions a 51% stake in the management of their members’ pension funds, to decentralise, socialise and democratise investment decision-making.”

GAY PRIDE: Tatchell giving a speech at Nottingham Pride in 2010

Looking forward, past the past annals of progress he will discuss in Salford, Peter says the key to further progress is education. He said: “No child is born bigoted. Some become bigoted because of the bad influence of adults and peers.

“To combat intolerance and bullying, education against all prejudice - including racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia - should be a compulsory subject in every school.”

Peter believes the lessons should be mandatory, and crucially be taken seriously with exam results going on pupils’s records. He said: “These lessons would help create a society that is more accepting and understanding of difference.”

Peter Tatchell comes to Salford on February 1 2014 to talk on the topic 'Queer Britain - the struggle for LGBT rights 1958-2014'.

The event at the Working Class Movement Library begins at 2pm, admission is free.

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