Archives Articles Peter Tatchell GLBT & Human Rights
|DIRECT ACTION FOR DEMOCRACY||GOODBYE TO GAY?|
|Survivors of a forgotten holocaust.||NO PROTEST AGAINST MUGABE'S THUGGERY BRITAIN'S UNETHICAL FOREIGN POLICY|
|UNVEILING OF THE GAY LIBERATION FRONT MEMORIAL PLAQUE COMMEMORATING THE FIRST-EVER GAY RIGHTS PROTEST IN BRITAIN|
|Peter Tatchell: End the Church's war on gay and lesbian people||FERTILITY EXPERTS VOTE FOR SAME-SEX PARENTING|
|PETER TATCHELL WINS MIKE RHODES AWARD 2001||Peter Tatchell Refused Funeral Visa To Australia|
|VISA GRANTED TO TATCHELL||Read more of and about Peter Tatchell here.|
Vol. III Issue 4 February 2002
VISA GRANTED TO TATCHELL
After six months delay and obstruction
Facing the threat of legal action by barrister Geoffrey Robertson QC, the Australian government has relented and finally agreed to grant a visa to human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell.
He received his visa at the Australian High Commission in London on Tuesday 19 February 2002.
"This ends nearly six months of delay and obstruction", said Mr Tatchell, who was born in Australia but lost his citizenship when he took out British nationality in 1989.
"My visa was granted just over a week after I let it be known that Geoffrey Robertson had agreed to bring a legal action on my behalf against the Australian government".
"The mere suggestion that Geoffrey was going to fight my case seems to have persuaded the Immigration Department in Canberra. They apparently wanted to avoid a legal challenge from an internationally-renowned human rights lawyer, and feared that his adoption of my case would generate damaging publicity".
"Being a peaceful human rights campaigner, there was never any lawful basis for excluding me under legislation that was intended to bar war criminals, terrorists, drug traffickers and murderers".
"Preventing me from attending my stepfather's funeral was particularly cruel. It was a clear violation of Australia's immigration laws, which are supposed to allow entry on compassionate grounds".
"If the Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock had not granted me a visa he would have been open to legal challenge and a claim for punitive damages".
"The visa has come too late for me to visit Australia for the Commonwealth summit in Brisbane. Perhaps that was the government's intention".
"It now looks unlikely that President Mugabe will attend, given that the Zimbabwe Presidential elections are only a few days later".
"Although I won't be going to Brisbane, I will be joining a hunger-strike outside the Zimbabwe High Commission in London to demand comprehensive Commonwealth sanctions against the Mugabe regime".
"This hunger-strike will coincide with the Commonwealth summit, from 2 to 5 March", said Tatchell
Photos of Peter Tatchell receiving his visa at the Australian High Commission are available from Piers Allerdyce 07976 724 390
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Vol. III Issue 3 January 2002
Refused Funeral Visa To Australia
STEPFATHER DIES - VISA STILL REFUSED
Tatchell denied right to attend funeral
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has been prevented from entering Australia to attend his stepfather's funeral.
For the last four weeks the Australian government has refused Mr Tatchell's repeated requests for a visa on compassionate grounds, so that he could at the bedside of his dying stepfather, Mr Edwin Nitscke.
Following his stepfather's death, the decision of the Immigration Minister Philip Ruddock to refuse Mr Tatchell a visa has prevented him from attending his stepfather's funeral.
"Our family tragedy has been compounded by Philip Ruddock's cruel and heartless decision to prevent me from visiting my dying stepfather and attending his funeral", said Mr Tatchell.
"My mother, brother and sisters are deeply distressed that I am not allowed to be with them at this time of loss and grieving. To keep a family apart when a loved one is dying is callous enough, but to prevent a son from attending his stepfather's funeral is vindictive beyond comprehension".
"The Immigration Minister ignored my request for a visa on compassionate grounds for four weeks. Having waited until my stepfather is conveniently dead and cremated, Philip Ruddock is now off the hook. He is no longer under any legal obligation to grant me compassionate admission to Australia".
"On 21 December 2001 I emailed a request for a visa on compassionate grounds to Helen Wilson, Head of the Visa Section of the Australian High Commission in London (a copy follows below). She emailed my request to Canberra the next day. My visa request contained details of my stepfather's hospital ward and advised that his condition was life-threatening, which could have been easily confirmed by a simple phone call to the hospital. Philip Ruddock had all the information required to grant me a visa before Christmas".
"I have this message for Philip Ruddock: How would you like it if you were refused the right to visit your dying father and to attend his funeral? You are a man without conscience or compassion".
Since mid-December, 88-year old Edwin Nitscke, had been critically ill in Monash Medical Centre, Melbourne, following a stroke. It was always feared that he would not survive, and this fear was communicated to the Immigration Minister.
But for four weeks Philip Ruddock refused to relent on compassionate grounds.
The visa denial follows Tatchell's bid to use Australian law to have President Mugabe of Zimbabwe arrested by the police for the crime of torture when he attends the Commonwealth conference in Brisbane in March.
Eleven weeks after filing his appeal against visa refusal (on 31 October 2001), Mr Tatchell has had no reply from the Australian Immigration Minister (appeal rulings usually take less than two weeks).
"It is outrageous that a decision which normally takes no more than two weeks has been strung out for nearly three months. There is no legitimate, lawful justification for this excessive delay", said Mr Tatchell.
"The Immigration Minister is obviously sitting on my appeal. My 26-page appeal dossier contains all the information that is needed to make a ruling in a couple of hours. There are no excuses for these outrageous delays".
"This hold up is tantamount to a de facto visa refusal. I am being denied the right to visit my family, and to do my journalistic assignments".
"The unreasonable delay in considering my appeal is an abuse of the legal process. There are no lawful grounds for denying me a visa".
"It is monstrous that President Mugabe - a leader accused of gross human rights abuses - is being allowed into Australia to attend the Commonwealth summit, while someone like myself - a human rights defender - is being denied the right to return to the country of my birth to visit my family", said Mr Tatchell.
Mardi Nitscke (Edwin's wife and Peter's mother)
COPY OF THE APPEAL ON COMPASSIONATE GROUNDS
Principal Migration Officer
Australian High Commission
Dear Helen Wilson,
APPEAL AGAINST VISA DENIAL
Peter Gary Tatchell
REQUEST FOR A VISA ON COMPASSIONATE GROUNDS
Under Part 2 of Direction 21 sub-section 2.17 (a) and (c) Migration act 1958
My step-father's name is Edwin Harold Nitscke. He is 88 years old.
He is currently (21 December 2001) in a critical condition in Ward 44 South at Monash Medical Centre, Melbourne, following a stroke that has left him partially paralysed. It is uncertain whether he will survive.
My step-father is at serious risk of death. To deny me the right to visit him is unbelievably cruel and inhuman.
His in-patient status and medical condition can be verified by phoning the Monash Medical Centre.
I trust this is adequate evidence for the exercising discretionary powers to grant me a visa on compassionate grounds at the earliest opportunity.
Peter Tatchell, 21 December 2001
"I notified the Australian authorities of my visa request in August, and submitted my formal visa application on 12 September", said Mr. Tatchell.
"I was due to fly out to Brisbane on 26 September. The following day I was notified by the Australian government that my visa was being withheld, pending a formal decision to exclude me from Australia under Section 501 of the Migration Act 1958".
"I submitted my appeal against visa refusal to the Australian High Commission in London on 31 October. It was sent to Canberra the next day. Despite several reminders, eleven weeks later I have heard nothing".
"Even before my stepfather's illness, I was due to come to Australia to visit my family in January, attend and speak at Melbourne's Midsumma Festival in early February, and during the same two months tour the eastern states to write feature articles for the travel sections of the Guardian and Observer newspapers in the UK - on Hobart, Melbourne and Sydney.
"In March, I planned to come to Brisbane to report on CHOGM for the BBC, and to lobby the Australian authorities to arrest President Mugabe on charges of torture under the Crimes (Torture) Act 1988".
"I cannot now do any of these things because my appeal against visa refusal is being blocked by the Immigration Department", said Mr Tatchell.
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Vol. III Issue 3 January 2002
TATCHELL WINS MIKE RHODES AWARD 2001
Peter Tatchell has won the Mike Rhodes Award 2001 for his success in lobbying the British Fertility Society to support same-sex parenting rights, and for his attempted citizen's arrest of President Mugabe of Zimbabwe in Brussels.
He was presented with the award at a ceremony at the October Gallery in London on Tuesday 20 November 2001.
"This Award is very special to me. It is my first ever award from the lesbian and gay community, and it is an award that commemorates my dear friend Mike Rhodes. We campaigned together in the Gay Liberation Front during the early 1970s."
"I want to express my sincere thanks to everyone who has helped my campaigns. None of my achievements would have been possible without their kindness and support".
"Mugabe's thugs have threatened to kill me, and the Australian government has banned me from returning to the country of my birth. But I am still defiant, and this award will help finance my continuing work for universal human rights".
"When I spoke at the British Fertility Society's annual conference in Belfast in April, I was the first openly gay person to address this meeting of embryologists, gynaecologists, fertility experts and reproductive scientists. It was the first time they had discussed lesbian and gay parenting rights. As a result of my lobbying, the conference voted by more than two to one in favour of providing donor insemination and surrogacy services to same-sex couples".
"My attempted citizen's arrest of President Mugabe has helped integrate queer rights into the struggle for universal human rights. By linking Mugabe 's homophobia with his many other abuses such as torture, detention without trial and the massacre of political opponents, my protest in Brussels helped put gay rights into the mainstream of the international human rights movement. It has given lesbian and gay people in Zimbabwe added legitimacy and kudos within the broader human rights struggle".
"If I can get my visa ban overturned, I intend to travel to Australia for the Commonwealth Summit in March 2002. My plan is to use international and Australian law to have President Mugabe arrested for the crime of torture".
"I've been battling for queer human rights for 32 years. I intend to keep battling for another 32 years - or longer - until there is social justice and human rights for lesbian and gay people everywhere", said Tatchell.
The Mike Rhodes Award is for the person who has done the most in the last 12 months "to promote an understanding lesbian and gay life".
The StoneWall Society extends a sincere congratulations to the hard working Peter Tatchell!
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Vol. III Issue 3 January 2002
DIRECT ACTION FOR DEMOCRACY
Geraldine Aves Memorial Lecture, Royal Society of Arts, London,16 January 2002.
I want to take this opportunity to challenge and expand traditional notions of what volunteering involves and of what it means to be a volunteer.
Let me start by posing a question. What do Mahatma Gandhi, Sylvia Pankhurst and Martin Luther King have in common?
The answer? They were all volunteers. They volunteered their time and commitment to struggles for social justice and human rights.
Their kind of volunteering is, however, a far cry from the public perception of volunteer endeavour.
The common view is that volunteering involves worthy, compassionate causes like caring for the sick and elderly, and doing good works in the community such as organising day nurseries, tree-planting schemes and junior football clubs.
Volunteering has a cuddly, kindly image. It is not normally associated with the controversies and confrontations that often characterise political campaigns against oppression and injustice.
The cosy, Florence Nightingale image is only part of the picture. We should also recognise and appreciate the hugely important role volunteering has played in advancing civil and social rights. Without the voluntary efforts of millions of people in this country, and around the world, the evils of slavery, colonialism and many other barbarisms would still persist today.
Volunteer effort has been the motor of every movement for human liberation. None of the social gains that we now take for granted would have been possible without volunteer political activism. Freedom of speech and freedom of the press, for example, were only won thanks to tireless voluntary initiatives and campaigns, frequently pursued at great personal cost.
Reliance on volunteers is not confined to past struggles for social justice. Immensely effective contemporary human rights groups like Amnesty International are almost entirely volunteer based. Hundreds of thousands of individuals world-wide give up their leisure time to participate in Amnesty's letter-writing campaigns. Through their dedicated persistence, many political prisoners have been spared torture and execution, and many others have been released from detention.
In the long battle for queer human rights, with which I have been associated for the last 33 years, the rolling back of prejudice, discrimination and violence has been secured primarily by the self-help initiatives of voluntary associations of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. We have come together around a shared commitment to fight homophobia; creating supportive community organisations - such as helplines and counselling services - and political campaign groups that press the case for equality.
My experiences in the queer human rights group, OutRage!, are typical. We are an all-volunteer organisation, with no staff, no office and no formal funding; sustained solely by the voluntary efforts of an idealistic, dedicated core of activists who are passionate in their quest for queer emancipation.
Most of us have full-time jobs. We sacrifice our spare time to campaign for queer upliftment, sometimes placing ourselves at risk of arrest and assault when confronting the perpetrators of homophobia - who are often very powerful and influential people, with friends in high places.
Our campaign against church homophobia is a good example of volunteer political activism. For eight years, the Archbishop of Canterbury refused to meet queer rights groups. He even rejected dialogue with the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, which counts many Anglicans among its members. We had no option. The Archbishop had to be confronted over his support for discrimination against queers. Where could be more appropriate than confronting him than in his Cathedral on Easter Sunday?
Seven people volunteered to join the protest. I was one of them. We understood the potentially serious personal consequences, such as arrest and imprisonment. But as volunteers in a non-violent war for the liberation of the queer nation these were sacrifices we were prepared to make.
It is quite true that I interrupted the Archbishop's sermon and criticised his rejection of queer human rights. I make no apology for that. It was right and necessary to publicly challenge Dr Carey over his opposition to an equal age of consent and legal recognition for same-sex partners. His support for discrimination against homosexuals in the workplace and for a ban on the fostering and adoption of children by lesbian and gay couples had to be exposed.
If the Archbishop had been advocating similar discrimination against the black community there would have been a public outcry and he would have been forced to resign.
Dr Carey's endorsement of straight supremacism and legal discrimination against queers - one law for heterosexuals and another homosexuals - echoes the way the leaders of the Dutch Reformed Church in South Africa used theology to justify apartheid. Like the Archbishop, they argued that one section of the community is inferior and not entitled to human rights.
When black people in South Africa disrupted church services to protest against bigotry disguised as religion they were applauded by most people of conscience and compassion.
In contrast, I was not only widely condemned, but also assaulted and bloodied by church officials, arrested and detained by the police for over six hours, and eventually convicted under the 1860 Ecclesiastical Courts Jurisdiction Act.
Formerly part of the Brawling Act of 1551, this legislation makes any form of protest in a church illegal - no matter how brief and peaceful. These sweeping restrictions on the right to protest are unique. No other institution - not even parliament - enjoys such privileged protection against dissent.
The benefits of that protest were swift and tangible. Millions of people became aware that the leader of the Anglican Communion was a supporter of human rights abuses. Named and shamed, the Archbishop suddenly curtailed his public advocacy of anti-queer discrimination, and hastily met with the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement for the first time. A while later, he abandoned his opposition to queer fostering and adoption. Voluntary action political protest works!
What motivates us - and other human rights campaigners - to volunteer sizeable chunks of our lives to challenging the suppression of human dignity, welfare and freedom?
Put simply: it is a love of other people and a loathing of injustice. What I would not want done to me, I do not want done to others. If I was suffering, I would hope that other people would come to my aid. When I see others suffering, I feel impelled to respond to their hope for support and solidarity.
Although have chosen for the last two decades to put most of my energies into campaigns for queer human rights, I feel equally passionate about all human rights abuses. Human rights are universal and indivisible. They are also linked inextricably to the ethos of voluntary action.
Human rights activism embodies the same principles and values as more traditional, caring forms of volunteering: compassion, solidarity, altruism and community.
The public benefits can be just as great, or even greater. Some of the gains of volunteer political activism - such as old-age pensions, equal pay and socialised medicine - have an even more substantial collective benefit than orthodox charity-based volunteering, such as hospice care and after-school clubs. They don't bring improvements to the lives of mere dozens or even
hundreds of people; they bring improvements to the lives of millions.
There are many different forms of political volunteering, ranging from mainstream lobbying to radical direct action.
In addition to their commitment to the volunteer principle, Mahatma Gandhi, Sylvia Pankhurst and Martin Luther King shared a common commitment to direct action protest as a way of winning social justice. Pleading with politicians was not their style. They found that writing letters to MPs and lobbying governments did not work.
Instead, mobilising thousands of volunteer political activists, they led mass demonstrations and work stoppages, hunger strikes and sit-ins, rent and tax refusals, boycotts and pickets, and civil disobedience campaigns to defy unjust laws. That is how India won its independence, women got the vote, and racial segregation was ended in the USA: by volunteer direct action.
Only a decade ago, volunteer direct action in Britain secured one the biggest political climb-downs of the last century. Margaret Thatcher's much-hated Poll Tax was defeated when millions refused to pay and hundreds of thousands protested in the streets. Opposition MPs had proved powerless to stop the Poll Tax, so people took power into their own hands - and
Thatcher's flagship policy collapsed.
This was "people power" at its finest: volunteer direct action in defence of democracy, against a tyrannical, arrogant government that was defying the will of the people.
The Poll Tax was an illegitimate policy for which the government had no electoral mandate. Every survey confirmed its overwhelming public rejection. Moreover, the government that imposed the Poll Tax lacked democratic legitimacy; securing absolute parliamentary power with little more than 40 per cent of the popular vote.
The attempt to impose the Poll Tax against the wishes of the majority illustrates a very important principle: democracy is about more than voting once every five years. Having a vote is fine, but not enough. Genuine democracy involves an on-going process of consultation and negotiation between the governers and the governed. It requires those in power to listen to the people and, when they fail to listen, for the people to make their feelings known - by any peaceful means necessary.
Something as important as running the country should never be left to politicians. Look at their bungled policies: pesticide-contaminated food, unsafe and unreliable railways, BSE and foot and mouth disease, the rationing of medical care on the NHS, cities choking with asthma-inducing car fumes, and a minimum wage that excludes young school leavers.
Politicians always manage to find money to buy armaments and fight wars. Yet they invariably plead a lack of funds when it comes to solving the crises in our schools and hospitals.
No wonder many people are disillusioned with traditional politics. Hundreds of thousands are deserting the ballot box and turning to direct action protest instead. They are volunteering to be active citizens within the democratic process, and to change things for themselves.
People are also abandoning the parliamentary system because it is politically corrupt and unrepresentative. The electoral system reeks with the stench of the rotten boroughs of the nineteenth century.
Like its Conservative predecessor, the current Labour government fell well short of winning even half the votes cast in the last general election. Indeed, a mere 25 per cent of eligible voters backed Labour last year. Yet Tony Blair's government enjoys a massive majority of nearly 170 seats in the House of Commons.
The two big parties have connived together to maintain their own parliamentary hegemony and exclude smaller rivals. They achieve their artificial dominance through a first-past-the-post electoral system that deliberately disenfranchises millions of people. Both Conservative and Labour are content with the winner-takes-all, buggins-turn system that allows them to alternate power.
But the electorate is not content. When given an opportunity to vote under a fairer proportional system, the result is very different. The Greens won over 11 per cent of the vote in the proportional list section the Greater London Authority election in 2000, indicating clear public support for their policies. But under the first-past-the-post ballot for the House of Commons,
the Greens have no MPs. The outcome of the GLA election suggests that more people would vote Green - and for other minor parties - if we had a fair electoral system where everyone's vote counted and where minority opinions were fully represented in parliament.
This corruption of politics continues apace, with Labour's proposals that most members of the reformed House of Lords should be appointed - not elected. While nominally independent, the appointments panel is likely to dominated by the great and good from the two main parties, and they will no doubt appoint to the Lords their friends and colleagues from the great and the good - as happened with the farce over the so-called "people's peers".
Faced with such monstrous rigging of the political process, it is not surprising that interest in parliamentary politics and support for politicians is fading fast - as evidenced by the appalling low turn out at the last general election, which was the lowest for nearly 100 years.
Many people conclude that as well as the political system being unrepresentative, it is also pointless looking to politicians for help because it is often politicians who are the cause of the problem. The vast majority of people are against genetically modified food, but the government insists that crop trials must continue, despite risking the uncontrolled release of GM organisms and the contamination of non-GM produce. Not long ago, Tony Blair promised swift action to ban fox hunting, which is backed by 80 per cent of the electorate. This pledge has been now quietly sidelined.
Direct action is justified - and the only democratic option left - when politicians ignore the wishes of the people, break their promises or violate human rights. In these circumstances, direct action is a vital mechanism for the defence of democracy and liberty.
Moreover, direct action can be incredibly effective. Who can blame Greenpeace for wrecking GM crops and hunt saboteurs for saving foxes from being torn to shreds by dogs? Their methods get results, whereas lobbying the government has failed.
The arguments for and against direct action revolve around two fundamentally different ways of doing politics. Representative democracy is the system where MPs are elected to represent their constituents and act on their behalf. When politics revolves around the representative principle to the exclusion of popular participation it tends to encourage elitism and arrogance in politicians, and disempowerment and passivity among the electorate.
Participatory democracy is, in contrast, about people being involved in the political process in an on-going way, rather than only at election time. They represent themselves and act to promote their own interests, instead of handing over responsibility and power to professional politicians. This interaction between popular participation and parliamentary representation ensures better checks and balances against the abuse of power and the neglect of public opinion.
Direct action protest is one of the most vibrant forms of participatory democracy. People act for themselves. They pressure politicians and influence political decision-making. Through their own volunteer self-help efforts they bring about social change. This empowers them as individuals, and it also collectively empowers their communities.
Having taken part in more than 1,000 direct action protests over the last 33 years, the beneficial effects are self-evident.
Take the issue of police victimisation of the queer community. By 1989, the number of convictions for the consensual gay offence of gross indecency - the same law that was used to arrest Oscar Wilde in 1895! - was as great as in 1954-55, during the height of the McCarthyite anti-gay witch-hunts when homosexuality was still totally illegal. Moderate, respectable homosexual rights organisations had lobbied the police for years in a bid to end this harassment, but they were ignored. Likewise, MPs dismissed our concerns. The political system failed us.
Faced with a homophobic parliament and police service, neither of which would listen to reason or show any compassion, we had no choice. In the summer of 1990, volunteers from the queer rights group OutRage! began a high-profile direct action campaign to challenge this persecution.
We invaded and occupied police stations, busted entrapment operations, photographed undercover officers, and hounded the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
These were controversial tactics, but six months later police chiefs began their first serious dialogue with the lesbian and gay community. A few months further on they had agreed to most of our demands for a non-homophobic policing policy. Within three years, the number of men convicted of consenting same-sex behaviour fell by two-thirds - the biggest, fastest fall ever recorded. Our campaign helped save thousands of queers from arrest. Volunteer direct action got results when traditional politics had failed to deliver.
It is the same story with my more recent attempted arrests of President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Nearly all the governments of the world - including the UK - have signed and ratified the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture. But none of them are enforcing it.
In October 1999 in London, and again in March 2001 in Brussels, I attempted a lawful citizen's arrest of President Mugabe on charges that he authorised or condoned acts of torture. I had documents attesting to the torture of two black Zimbabwean journalists, Ray Choto and Mark Chavunduka, of The Standard newspaper in Harare. These documents were corroborated by Amnesty International and the Zimbabwe High Court. The legal basis for President Mugabe's arrest was beyond doubt.
When presented with this evidence, the governments in Britain and Belgium wilfully ignored the UN Convention Against Torture. That is why I felt obliged to resort to the direct action tactic of a citizen's arrest. I had tried to get the British and Belgian governments to honour their international human rights commitments. They refused.
Although I did not succeed in having President Mugabe arrested, my two attempts did ensure that media coverage of his trips to Europe was dominated by questions about human rights abuses.
The television images of me being beaten unconscious by President Mugabe's bodyguards in Brussels last year helped highlight the brutal nature of his regime. Many people rightly concluded that if he was prepared to have his thugs batter a peaceful protester in front of television cameras in the heart of a European capital in broad daylight, imagine what he does to his own people in Zimbabwe after dark when the world's media is not watching.
Despite suffering some minor eye and brain damage, my only regret is that I was not successful in getting Mugabe arrested. If the governments of Britain and Belgium had responded to my citizen's arrests by detaining Mugabe under the UN Torture Convention, the people of Zimbabwe might have been spared much of the suffering of recent months. Many lives could have been saved.
It is not too late. President Mugabe still travels abroad on a regular basis. He could be arrested at any time, in any of the many states that have undertaken to enforce the UN Convention Against Torture. If Slobodan Milosevic can stand trial in The Hague, why not Robert Mugabe?
My story of volunteeer direct action is only one of many. All over the world volunteer activists are working to overturn prejudice and discrimination. When we think of volunteering, let's remember their efforts. Without them, many social injustices would remain unchallenged, and many human rights would never have been won.
Geraldine Aves Memorial Lecture, Royal Society of Arts, London,16 January
Copy right Peter Tatchell 2002. All rights reserved.
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Vol. II Issue 7 August 2001
GOODBYE TO GAY?
Peter Tatchell says that overcoming homophobia will result in more people having gay sex but fewer people claiming gay identity.
He sets out his views in his latest Tatchell Talks feature on the www.rainbownetwork.com website. The article can be accessed direct via: http://www.rainbownetwork.com/content/FeatureLife.asp?featid=10093
An edited version follows. Peter Tatchell writes:
Tory leadership contender Michael Portillo claims that all his gay experiences happened a long time ago and that he is now happily married. But can someone suddenly cease to be gay and overnight become heterosexual?
Sexual orientation reversal in mid-life is an intriguing idea. Unusual yes, but not impossible.
There is, after all, plenty of research suggesting that most people are born with a sexual desire that is, to varying degrees, capable of both heterosexual and homosexual attraction. Bisexuals are proof of that.....
The fixation of desire on one sex to the exclusion of the other is permanent and irreversible in most people. For a minority, however, the other side of desire can sometimes be awakened in mid-life...they can become either bisexual or switch completely from one orientation to another. It remains open to question whether Michael Portillo is one of these flexible
What we do know for certain is that the sociological surveys of Dr. Alfred Kinsey in the United States during the 1940s and 1950s uncovered substantive empirical evidence that heterosexuality and homosexuality are not watertight, irreconcilable sexual orientations. His research, with over 10,000 men and women, revealed that human sexuality is a continuum of desires and behaviours, ranging from exclusive heterosexuality to exclusive homosexuality. A significant proportion of the population is somewhere in the middle, sharing an amalgam of same-sex and opposite-sex feelings.
In Sexual Behaviour In The Human Male (1948), Kinsey recorded that 13 per cent of the men he surveyed were either mostly or exclusively homosexual for at least three years between the ages of 16 and 55. Twenty-five per cent had more than incidental gay reactions or experience, amounting to clear and continuing same-sex desires. Altogether, 37 per cent of the men Kinsey questioned had experienced sex with other males to the point of orgasm at least once, and half had experienced mental attraction or erotic arousal towards other men (sometimes transient and not physically expressed).....
Kinsey's statistics have been called into question by the results of more recent sexological investigations, such as The National Survey of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles in the UK. Published under the title Sexual Behaviour in Britain (1994), it found significantly lower levels of same-sex relations. Only 6.1 per cent of men and 3.4 per cent of women reported having had a homosexual experience during their lifetime.
The methodology of this survey has, however, also been questioned. It was based on a random geographic sample of the population. Yet we know that homosexuals are not randomly distributed across the country. They tend to be concentrated in big cities, and in particular districts within those cities. Moreover, the interviews took place in people's homes. Closeted lesbians, gays and bisexuals are unlikely to admit same-sex behaviour to a stranger who knocks on their door, especially if they live with their families and fear exposure.
A number of other sex research projects have produced statistics at variance with those of The National Survey:
* Polling by the British Marketing Research Bureau, conducted on behalf of the Health Education Authority in 1989, discovered that 86.5 per cent of men and women had "never" felt attracted to a person of the same sex. Thirteen and a half per cent had either experienced homosexual attraction (7.5 per cent) or declined to answer the question (6 per cent). This exceptionally high refusal rate suggests that some of those who declined may have been closeted/repressed lesbians, gays or bisexuals, afraid to admit their same-sex desires.
* A French compilation of questionnaire results on a range of subjects published in the same year, Vous les Francais: 56 Millions de Francais en 2200 Sondages, revealed that 25 per cent of French men claimed to have had sex with another man.
* The American National Health and Social Life Survey, published in 1994, found that 10 per cent of males and 9 per cent of females said they had either desired or experienced sex with a person of the same gender.
These figures suggest that while Kinsey may have overestimated the incidence of same-sex relations, the research by The National Survey in Britain has almost certainly under-reported it.....
If queerness is intrinsic to human sexuality, then it has the potential to be much more commonplace than it is currently. What prevents this is the social homophobia of peer pressure and contemporary morality.
Although he did so rather ambiguously, Sigmund Freud tacitly acknowledged the cultural suppression homosexuality. His case study, Fragment Of An Analysis Of A Case Of Hysteria (1905), contrasts the denigration of homosexuals in western societies with their frequent acceptance by "different races and different epochs". In Three Essays On The Theory Of Sexuality (1905), he added that sexual repression was substantially the result of the "structures of morality and authority erected by society". The
intimation is that the existing sexual order is mostly man-made and could therefore be modified by human will and effort.
Cultural conditioning explanations for homosexuality and heterosexuality are supported by the research findings of the anthropologists Clellan Ford and Frank Beach. In Patterns of Sexual Behaviour (1965), they noted that certain
forms of homosexuality were considered normal and acceptable in 49 (nearly two-thirds) of the 76 tribal societies surveyed from the 1920s to the 1950s.
They also recorded details of some aboriginal cultures, such as the Keraki and Sambia of Papua New Guinea, where all young men entered into a homosexual relationship with an unmarried male warrior, sometimes lasting several years, as part of their rites of passage into manhood. Once completed, they ceased all homosexual contact and assumed sexual desires for women. If sexual orientation was biologically preprogrammed, these men would have never been able to switch to homosexuality and then to heterosexuality with such apparent ease.
This led Ford and Beach to deduce that homosexuality is "the product of the fundamental mammalian heritage of general sexual responsiveness as modified under the impact of experience". In other words, the potential for erotic attraction to both sexes is fundamental to the human species, and is largely socially influenced.
The evidence from these three research disciplines - sociology, psychology and anthropology - is that the incidence of heterosexuality and homosexuality is not fixed and universal, and that the two sexual orientations are not mutually exclusive. There is a good deal of movement and overlap.
What's more, although sexuality may be partly affected by biological predispositions - such as genes, hormones and possibly brain structures - the decisive causal factors appear to be a combination of childhood experiences, social expectations, peer pressure and moral values. These are the key determinants that channel erotic impluses in certain directions and not others. An individual's sexual orientation is thus more culturally influenced than biologically given.
This means that everyone is born with a bisexual potential.
Because our sexual desire is not predestined to be hetero or homo, there is the possibility it could develop in either or both directions......
This picture of human sexuality is much more complex, diverse and blurred than the traditional simplistic binary image of hetero and homo, so loved by straight moralists and - more alarmingly - by most lesbians and gay men.
If sexual orientation has a culturally-influenced element of indeterminancy and fluidity, then the present forms of homosexuality and heterosexuality are unlikely to remain the same in perpetuity. As cultural attitudes change, so will sexuality.
Once homophobia declines, we are bound to witness the emergence of a homosexuality that is quite different from the homosexuality we know today. With the strictures on queerness removed, and same-sex relationships normalised and accepted, it is very likely that more people will have gay sex but, paradoxically, less of them will identify as gay. This is because, in the absence of homophobia, the need to assert gayness becomes redundant.
Gay identity is the product of anti-gay repression. When homosexuality is disparaged and victimised, it is quite understandable that gay people want to affirm their desire and lifestyle. However, if prejudice is vanquished, and if one sexuality is not privileged over another, defining oneself as gay (or straight) will cease to be necessary and have no social significance. The need to maintain sexual differences and boundaries disappears with the demise of straight supremacism.
Homosexuality as a separate, exclusive, clearly demarcated orientation and identity will then begin to fade (as will its mirror opposite, heterosexuality). Instead, the vast majority of people will be open to the possibility of both opposite-sex and same-sex relations They won't feel the need to label themselves (or others) as gay or straight because, in a non-homophobic culture, no one will give a damn about other people's loves and lusts. Goodbye to gay? Yes! And a good thing too!
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Vol. II Issue 6 Special Issue 2001
a forgotten holocaust.
Heinrich Himmler set out to rid Germany of the homosexual 'plague' by mass extermination.
Peter Tatchell hears the testimony of the gay men and women who survived Nazi death camps but whose stories were never told after the war.
The Independent, Tuesday Review, 12 June 2001
"We must exterminate these people root and branch. We can't permit such danger to the country; the homosexual must be entirely eliminated."
With these chilling words, the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, set out the Nazi master plan for the sexual cleansing of the Aryan race.
Heinz F, now 96, was a carefree young gay man living in Munich in the early 1930s. He had no idea of what was about to happen. "I didn't fully understand the situation," he admits with pained regret. One morning, out of the blue, the police knocked on his door. "You are suspected of being a homosexual," they told him. "You are hereby under arrest."
"What could I do?" he asks, struggling to hold back the tears. "Off I went to Dachau, without a trial." After spending a year and a half in Dachau, Heinz was released but soon rearrested and sent to Buchenwald. He was stunned to discover the grisly fate of gays in the camp. "Almost all the homosexuals nearly all of them," he says, now sobbing, "were killed."
Heinz survived a total of eight years in concentration camps. Following the war, he never spoke to anyone about his experiences. He was afraid. Gay ex-prisoners were regarded as common criminals not victims of Nazism. "Nobody wanted to hear about it," he says, with tears still rolling down his cheeks.
Heinz is one of only eight known gay holocaust survivors who are still alive. Together with five others and one lesbian he recounts his experience of the homophobic witch-hunts of the Third Reich in a new film, Paragraph 175, which premieres in Britain this week.
The feature-length documentary is by the US directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, who won an Oscar for their Aids film Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt. "Paragraph 175 explores a history that has not been told," says Epstein. "We felt a particular urgency to record what stories we could while there were still living witnesses to tell them."
The dignified, defiant testimonies of gay survivors are seldom heard in mainstream holocaust histories. Indeed, until now most historians have neglected the Nazi war against homosexuals.
Martin Gilbert's recent book, Never Again, purports to be "a comprehensive account of the holocaust". Yet the fate of non-Jews merits only one two-page chapter and the mass murder of homosexuals is accorded a single sentence.
The film Paragraph 175 rescues historical truth from half a century of amnesia. There is no happy ending, but the beginning was full of joy and hope. Before the ascent of Nazism, Berlin was the queer capital of the world. Jewish lesbian Annette Eick, who escaped to Britain shortly before the outbreak of war in 1939, recalls with fond nostalgia: "In Berlin, you were free. You could do what you wanted."
The city boasted dozens of gay organisations and magazines; plus more than 80 gay bars, restaurants and night clubs. The film describes it as "a homosexual Eden".
Although homosexuality was illegal under paragraph 175 of the German criminal code, prior to the Third Reich it was rarely enforced. In the Reichstag, MPs were on the verge of securing its repeal. A new era of freedom seemed to be dawning.
Within a month of assuming power in 1933, Hitler outlawed homosexual organisations and publications. Gay bars and clubs were closed down soon afterwards. Stormtroopers ransacked the headquarters of the gay rights movement, the Institute of Sexual Science, and publicly burned its vast library of "degenerate" books. Before the end of the year, the first homosexuals were deported to the concentration camps which had been established to hold political and social "undesirables", Communists and homosexuals among them.
Now 78, Gad Beck was, in those days, a precociously gay Jewish schoolboy, innocent of homophobia. "I had an athletics teacher one day we were showering together and I jumped on him. I ran home to my mother and said: 'Mother, today I had my first man.'" Fortunately, his parents accepted his homosexuality. But they feared for his future. He remembers their reaction:
"They said: 'Oh my God, he's Jewish and he's gay. Either way he'll be persecuted. This cannot end well.'"
But Beck survived, although nearly everyone around him perished. Two of his lovers were seized by the Nazis. "I met this beautiful blond Jew. He invited me to spend the night. In the morning the Gestapo came I showed my ID not on the list. They took him to Auschwitz. It had a different value then, a night of love."
Later, Beck tried to free another lover, Manfred, from a Gestapo transfer camp by posing as a Hitler Youth member. This incredibly dangerous deception was successful, but as they walked to freedom, Manfred told Gad he could not abandon his family in the camp. Beck watched helplessly as his lover returned to be with them. He never saw Manfred again.
In 1934, the Nazis stepped up their anti-gay campaign, with the creation of the Reich Office for Combating Abortion and Homosexuality. According to Heinrich Himmler: "Those who practice homosexuality deprive Germany of the children they owe her our nation will fall to pieces because of that plague." The police were ordered to draw up "pink lists" of known or suspected homosexuals. Mass arrests followed.
At the age of 17, Frenchman Pierre Seel was detained by the invading Germans, who had raided local police files on homosexuals. "They saw our names on these lists," he says. "I ended up at the camp in Schirmeck. There was a hierarchy from weakest to strongest. The weakest in the camps were the homosexuals. All the way at the bottom.
"I was tortured, beaten, sodomised and raped," Seel continues. His lover, Jo, was attacked by the Nazis' Alsatian dogs.
The Nazis again intensified the war against "abnormal existence" in 1935, broadening the definition of homosexual behaviour and the grounds for arrest. Gossip and innuendo became evidence. A man could be incarcerated on the basis of a mere touch, gesture or look.
Later, Himmler authorized a scientific program for the eradication of "this vice", with homosexual prisoners being subjected to gruesome medical experiments including hormone implants and castration.
From 1933 until the final defeat of the Nazis in 1945, about 100,000 men were arrested under Paragraph 175 for the crime of homosexuality. Some were sent to prisons; others to concentration camps. The death rate of gay prisoners in the camps was 60 per cent.
Heinz Dörmer, now a very frail 89-year-old, spent nearly 10 years in prisons and concentration camps. In a quivering, barely audible voice, he remembers the haunting, agonised cries from "the singing forest", a row of tall poles on which condemned men were hung: "Everyone who was sentenced to death would be lifted up on to the hook. The howling and screaming were inhuman. Beyond human comprehension."
This "homocaust" was an integral part of the holocaust. The planned eradication of Jews and queers was part of the grand design for the racial purification of the German volk. The Nazis set out to eradicate all racial and genetic "inferiors", including Jewish, gay, disabled, black, Slav, Roma and Sinti people.
Even after the Nazi defeat in 1945, homosexual survivors of the camps about 4,000 people continued to be persecuted. Men liberated from the concentration camps who had not completed their sentences were re-imprisoned by the victorious Allies. Since they were regarded as criminals, all were denied compensation for their suffering. The German government still refuses to pay reparations. As a further insult, the work of the former SS guards in the concentration camps counts toward their pension entitlements, whereas the time spent in the camps by gay inmates doesn't.
Similarly, after the war, most Nazi doctors, including those who experimented on gay prisoners, were never put on trial at Nuremburg. The most notorious of all, Dr Carl Vaernet, was allowed by the British military authorities to escape to Argentina, where he lived freely until his death in 1965.
Paragraph 175 remained in force in Germany until 1969. Some gay holocaust survivors, such as Heinz Dormer, were repeatedly re-arrested in the post-war period and again jailed. In the 1950s and 1960s, the number of convictions for homosexuality in West Germany was as high as it had been under the Nazi regime.
The film Paragraph 175 is the last testament of the remaining few living victims of Nazi homophobia. It will indict for all time, not just the perpetrators of the holocaust, but also the victorious Allies, successive post-war German governments and revisionist historians who have allowed the gay holocaust survivors to pass unnoticed into history.
'Paragraph 175' premieres at the Imperial War Museum, London (020-7416 5499) this Sunday at 12.30pm and 4pm. A discussion will be held after each screening
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Vol. I Issue 18 April 30, 2001
NO PROTEST AGAINST MUGABE'S THUGGERY BRITAIN'S UNETHICAL FOREIGN POLICY
Peter Tatchell deplores the government's failure to protest against his
assault by President Mugabe's minders, and its refusal to enforce the 1984 UN
Convention Against Torture.
In this excerpt from his full-length feature article on the Rainbow Network website (www.rainbownetwork.com) Tatchell writes:
Several weeks after I was beaten up and knocked unconscious by President
Mugabe's bodyguards in Brussels, the British Foreign Office still has not
protested to Zimbabwe. No public rebuke. Not even a private murmur of
When a British citizen is battered by a dictatorial regime, and left lying in the gutter, the Foreign Secretary usually lodges a formal diplomatic protest. But not in my case. Why not?
Nor has the Foreign Office protested to the Belgian government at the way its police and security services stood back and allowed me to be assaulted by Mugabe's henchmen, and then refused to arrest my assailants......
Since the Foreign Secretary has talked a lot recently about upholding the international rule of law, I asked the British government to request the extradition and prosecution of the Zimbabwean agents responsible for the attacks on me. To date, I have heard nothing. Complacency? Incompetence?
Cowardice? Appeasement? Who knows!
The Belgians are no better. Many members of the public wrote to the Belgian
Ambassador to London, Lode Willems, to protest at the way Brussels police and security service officials neglected their duty to protect me against assault and to arrest my attackers. The Ambassador assured them that his government would "receive and deal with" any complaint that I made. Fine words. But no action.....
I am now seeking advice from human rights lawyer Ben Cooper about what legal action I could bring against the Belgians. In addition to the assault issue,
there is the separate matter of my right to free speech. At the time of my attempted citizen's arrest of Mugabe, Belgian police and security service officers clamped their hands over my mouth to stop me from speaking. This
was not to protect the President, but to prevent me from expressing my opinion .....
There is also the question of compensation for my injuries. Doctors doubt
there will be any permanent damage. But the healing process is taking longer
than expected. I am still experiencing periodic memory loss, a bit of mental
confusion and slightly diminished coherence of thought and speech. Vision in
both eyes is impaired. Although the blurring in the left eye has cleared, my
long distance vision is still not very good. Specialists now say it may take
another 2 or 3 months for me to recover.
But the abuse of my rights by the Belgians and Zimbabweans is not, of course, the main issue. What is really important is to stop the far worse violation of human rights in Zimbabwe.
Britain, Belgium and almost every other country in the world have signed the
1984 UN Convention Against Torture. They have ratified it, but they are not
enforcing it! This is the problem. It should not be left to me to attempt to enforce the law by making a citizen's arrest. The apprehension of torturers
is the responsibility of the signatory governments.....
Over 50 years ago, following the Nazi atrocities, the Nuremberg Tribunal verdicts established the principle that no one is above the law. That principle still applies. It is time the victors over Nazism - countries like Britain and Belgium - started applying the law against torture to prosecute President Mugabe - and all torturers everywhere.
The full version of this article can be accessed at
Message originated from firstname.lastname@example.org
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Vol. I Issue 17 March 15, 2001
As a Courtesy to and in Support of Peter Tatchell
Peter Tatchell has received over 2500 messages of
congratulations and support in response to his his attempted arrest of President
Mugabe on charges of human rights abuses.
Nearly 500 of these messages have been sent by people in Zimbabwe - black and white, gay and straight. The emails have come from priests, trade unionists, students, journalists, politicians, human rights campaigners and members of gay, women's and cooperative organisations. Nearly all express messages, such as:
"Thank you for doing in Brussels what we cannot do here in Zimbabwe"
"Your protest has given a boost to all of us who are campaigning against the
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
London SW1A 2AH
12 March 2001
Dear Robin Cook,
ATTEMPTED ARREST OF PRESIDENT MUGABE
I am writing to request that you protest in the strongest possible terms to the Belgian government at the way their uniformed police and secret service agents stood by - just feet away - and allowed me to be beaten by President Mugabe's bodyguards on three separate occasions - at the Hilton Hotel in Brussels on 5 March 2001.
I am also requesting that you make a similar protest to the Zimbabwean government over the assaults on me by the President's security men.
My protest was entirely peaceful and unthreatening. I calmly approached the President in the hotel lobby, smiling and with arms outstretched to make it obvious that I had no weapon.
The three separate beatings that I received took place after the President had passed. I was no threat to him. The attacks on me appear to have been motivated solely by a desire for revenge.
In the last assault, I was briefly knocked unconscious. A week later, I am still sore from the kicks and punches, my left eye has impaired vision, and I have moments of memory loss and split-second blackouts.
I am also seeking your assurance that President Mugabe will be arrested, if he returns to Britain, in accordance with the requirements of the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture, which has been incorporated into our domestic law - Section 134 of the 1988 Criminal Justice Act.
President Mugabe does not have Head of State immunity, because the 1984 UN Convention and 1988 Criminal Justice Act contain no exemptions for Heads of State.
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Vol. I Issue 15 November 6, 2000
UNVEILING OF THE GAY LIBERATION FRONT MEMORIAL PLAQUE COMMEMORATING THE FIRST-EVER GAY RIGHTS PROTEST IN BRITAIN
12 noon on Saturday 25 November 2000 Junction of Highbury Corner and Highbury Place, London N1
Invited guests include the Culture Secretary Chris Smith MP,
local MP Jeremy Corbyn, the Mayor of Islington, and veterans from the Gay
Liberation Front (GLF).
The solid bronze, triangular-shaped plaque commemorates the 30th anniversary of the first-ever gay rights demonstration in Britain, which took place in Highbury Fields on 27 November 1970. The original demonstration was a torchlight rally by about 150 members of the newly-founded Gay Liberation Front in protest against police harassment and intimidation.
It had been provoked by the arrest of a prominent Young Liberal, Louis Eakes, during a police entrapment operation. Officers alleged that Eakes had cruised several men. He claimed he merely asked them for a light. The erection of the commemorative plaque has been organised by OutRage! and made possible by a generous donation from GLF veteran Andrew Lumsden, who will unveil it on the day.
The plaque reads:
"The first gay rights demonstration in Britain took place here, in Highbury
Fields, on 27th November 1970, when 150 members of the Gay Liberation Front
held a torchlight rally against police harassment".
It is being mounted on the public toilet in Highbury Fields, near where Louis Eakes was arrested and where GLF staged its torchlight rally in 1970. The erection of the plaque will take place with the help and permission of Councillors and Officers of the London Borough of Islington.
"The GLF protest in November 1970 was a milestone in gay
history", said Peter Tatchell of OutRage!, who was himself a prominent
campaigner in the GLF in the early 1970s. "For the first time in Britain,
gay people demonstrated to demand human rights. Before this protest, the police
harassed the gay community with impunity. The 27 November 1970 was the moment
that lesbians and gay men got up off their knees. It ended forever the era of
queers as passive victims of injustice. From that date onwards, the fear that
had cowed gay people into submission was gone. Instead of fear, we felt pride
FURTHER INFORMATION: Peter Tatchell 020 7403 1790
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VOTE FOR SAME-SEX PARENTING
Gay and lesbian couples should have full access to donor insemination and surrogacy services, according to gynecologists, obstetricians, embryologists and reproductive scientists attending the annual conference of the British Fertility Society in Belfast today, Thursday 26 April 2001.
Backing a motion proposed by gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, "This House Supports the Right to Same-Sex Parenting", the delegates voted two-thirds in favor.
Prior to the debate, the vote on the motion had been split 50-50 for and against, indicating that many delegates were persuaded after they heard the arguments in favor of same-sex parenting.
This is the first the British Fertility Society (BFS) has debated the reproductive rights of lesbian and gay people.
The chair of the BFS, Dr J Mills, welcomed the vote as evidence of professional open-mindedness and sympathy for the needs of lesbian and gay people who wish to have children.
But as Mr Tatchell pointed out in his address to the conference, many NHS and private fertility clinics refuse to provide donor insemination and surrogacy to same-sex couples.
Mr Tatchell was particularly critical of discrimination in the NHS:
"The NHS is a public service. Gay and lesbian people are part of the public it serves. We are entitled to the same NHS services as the rest of the public.
"The health service is funded by taxation. Lesbians and gay men are taxpayers too. We have a rightful claim to the services we contribute towards.
"Access to donor insemination and surrogacy services should be available to all, without discrimination. The sole selection criterion should be the suitability of the applicants in terms of their ability to provide a loving, stable home environment for their child. If same-sex couples have the
necessary commitment and skills to make good parents, they should be eligible. Their sexuality is irrelevant.
"Far from being inferior parents, same-sex couples tend to be better ones. Every child born to same-sex partners through donor insemination and surrogacy is a planned, wanted child. This planned, conscious nature of lesbian and gay parenthood - together with the huge effort and hurdles
involved in securing assisted fertility - means that the children of homosexual parents tend to be especially well loved and cared for.
"Research published in the 1990s by Professors Susan Golombok and Fiona Tasker of City University in London, shows that children of lesbian mothers suffer no disadvantage, compared to children raised by heterosexual mothers in similar circumstances. Their 14-year study - which followed the children of both sets of mothers from the ages of nine to 23 - found no psychological,
emotional or other difference. Only two out of 39 children bought up in lesbian families later grew up to be gay", noted Mr Tatchell.
Message originated from email@example.com
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Tatchell: End the Church's war on gay and lesbian people
Taken from an address given at All Hallows church in Leeds by the gay rights campaigner
The Independent - 02 August 2001
The time has come for Christian leaders to apologise for the church-sponsored persecution of lesbian and gay people. Without this gesture of truth and reconciliation, the homosexual community cannot easily forgive 2,000 years of church homophobia.
The churches last year marked the millennium by celebrating 2,000 years of Christianity. But many lesbians and gay men were not celebrating. We were mourning two millennia of Christian prejudice, which has inflicted terrible pain on homosexual people. Over the last 2,000 years, church-inspired homophobia has led to hundreds of millions of homosexuals worldwide being rejected and reviled by their families, driven to depression and suicide, discriminated against by anti-gay laws, and condemned to death for sodomy.
Christian leaders have never expressed any remorse for the church's oppression of queers. The Pope's 1999 apology for Vatican intolerance made no mention of past Catholic support for murderous anti-homosexual witch-hunts. The Archbishop of Canterbury's millennium sermon in January 2000 was an opportunity to atone for the genocide inflicted on us, but Dr Carey chose to ignore our suffering. When we asked the Archbishop to express his remorse for the church's crimes against queer humanity, he said nothing. In response to our request for an apology to the lesbian and gay community, Dr Carey remained silent and indifferent.
The Christian churches, more than any other institution, have waged almost ceaseless war against homosexual people. Religious homophobia has its roots in Biblical teaching: Leviticus 20:13 demands that homosexuals be put to death. While the church no longer advocates the death penalty for gay lovers, it still preaches sexual apartheid, arguing that homosexuality
should not be accorded the same moral or legal status as heterosexuality.
Is not this claim for the moral superiority of heterosexuality analogous to the way the leaders of the Dutch Reformed Church defended apartheid in South Africa? The Archbishop of Canterbury preaches a doctrine of straight suprematism, which is used by him to justify the abuse of queers as second-class citizens. He and most of the church hierarchy continue to support discrimination against gay people with regard to the age of consent, marriage, employment, Section 28 and the fostering and adoption of children. While Dr Carey may disclaim it as his intention, his opposition to gay equality gives succour to queer-bashers everywhere.
His intolerance brings shame on the church. I urge Dr Carey to repent his homophobia. If the Archbishop advocated similar discrimination against black or Jewish people, there would be a nationwide outcry. He would be shunned, discredited and forced to resign. Instead, this apostle of intolerance and unreason is invited to advise the government on the school curriculum.
In this atmosphere of ongoing religious bigotry, it is difficult to show forgiveness - all the more so when the church leaders who have authorised our victimisation show no signs of sorrow and regret. Nevertheless, the lesbian and gay community must not stoop to the church's inhumanity. We should loathe the sin of homophobia, but love the sinner and strive to deliver them from prejudice.
We must never give up seeking to win the hearts of homophobes. I want to be able to count Dr Carey as a friend of the gay community and a supporter of gay human rights. Some may find it odd that I call for forgiveness. I have suffered terrible vilification on account of my stand for homosexual rights - hate mail, death threats, attacks on my home and physical assaults.
But I forgive those who are prepared to renounce prejudice and discrimination, and I urge the lesbian and gay community to show the same compassion and forgiveness to those who come over to the side of lesbian and gay liberation.
Read more of and about Peter Tatchell here.
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