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Editor’s Words – July 2010

PeterTatchellHow do you think the coalition government is doing? Big Dave and Our Nick seem to have got a team together despite some very obvious political differences. Could this be a new era of cooperation and understanding or is it just a marriage (or should that be a civil partnership) of convenience?

At a recent reception at 10 Downing Street hosted by the Prime Minister for a horde of gay, lesbian and trans-gendered people, he said that after last year’s Pride events where he admitted that his party had “not always got this issue (gay rights) right”, things were now different. In an opening speech he repeated and expanded on the topic to the gathered politicians, charity heads, gay business leaders and assorted gay do-gooders. “I know we didn’t get this right in the past, I know that we were slow learners, we had a long way to travel, but I am proud of the fact that we have travelled a long way in terms of supporting civil partnerships, in terms of standing up for equal rights and for equal treatment, and I think that is very important.”

One very important person missing from this gay collective is the man I have bestowed a sainthood on because of his ceaseless work on behalf of gays everywhere… Mr Peter Tatchell. Although Peter is thought of by some to be the ‘negative’ side of gay campaigning, what is indisputable is his passion for equality for all and his consistent objection to anyone who reviled the gay community. He has centred a spotlight on our gripes and injustices for more years than I bet even he cares to remember… and yet, he’s still there, pushing the boundaries and demanding action. His selfless work has seen him verbally, emotionally and physically attacked for his beliefs and in any other area of such dedicated campaigning would have been offered some national recognition by now. Alas, over the years, all UK governments have run and hidden from Peter’s none-equivocal approach to his message – treat everyone equally, if you don’t there will be someone to pull you on what you say and do.

I think the gay community owes so much to Peter and I’m sad that even Nick Glegg, the Lib Dem leader and the party that has espoused gay rights, didn’t seem to feel it necessary to invite our greatest gay campaigner to the party in ‘our’ honour.

Peter is too big a man to care about such a slight, after all, he’s used to it, but this was a glorious opportunity missed for some kind of recognition.  Because of that, I hope the coalition government doesn’t come up short on any of its other gay specific policies for trans-people and the pledge to remove historic convictions for now-legal gay sex offences.
Peter isn’t the only one who’ll wait and judge on performance.