Wednesday, 25 January 2012

HAPPY 60th BIRTHDAY TO ICONIC GLOBAL GAY ACTIVIST PETER TATCHELL



(January 25)  Over the course of two decades U.K. gay activist Peter Tatchell has gone from being a nuisance (though he never was in my book) to a national treasure. Today, to mark his 60th birthday, famed writer and thespian Stephen Fry even wrote a poem to Tatchell:

You are maddening.
You are threatening.
You are insanely brave.
You have moved us forward.
You sometimes embarrass us.
We would so often look the other way.
But we owe you, Peter.
We owe you so much.
Thank you
Thank you
Thank you
Peter Tatchell
Scourge of hatred
And upholder of honour
You would hate to be called it
But you are our knight
Our champion
Our friend.
Happy birthday

As for myself, I remember an August 2004 cover story I'd written for Montreal's HOUR magazine about anti-gay dancehall reggae superstar Sizzla who was also the target of Tatchell's Stop Murder Music campaign (you can still read that cover story in its entirety by clicking here.)

"We won’t tolerate homosexuals, we won’t tolerate lesbians," Sizzla told me. "Once we stoop to sodomites and homosexuals, it is wrong! Wherever I go it is the same thing – burn sodomite, burn battyman."

My interview with Sizzla made national newscasts and international headlines, and the Montreal-based Centre for Research-Action on Race Relations (CRARR) unsuccessfully tried to shut down Sizzla’s Montreal concert.

"After our denunciation of Sizzla’s concert in Montreal in 2004, Foreign Affairs Canada’s office in Kingston, Jamaica, requires all artists to sign a formal declaration to respect Canadian laws and values on equality and non-discrimination," CRARR executive director Fo Niemi told me afterwards. "Obviously, this is not enough because some of these artists continue to promote anti-gay violence in their songs."

Sizzla held a press conference in Montreal that turned into a media frenzy with the dancehall star barely escaping in a black Cadillac SUV. Meanwhile, my Sizzla story in HOUR made national newscasts like Canada AM and the CTV National News, as well as international healdines (I was even vilified in the op-ed pages of Jamaica's national newspaper The Gleaner). I was interviewed on CBC Television, MusiquePlus and National Public Radio in America, and one Montreal radio DJ friend dubbed the scandal "Batty-gate."

Over in the U.K., the story was seized by Tatchell's gay activist group Outrage! for their Stop Murder Music campaign (click here to read Tatchell's statement about the story).

Sizzla was so pissed off about it all that he wrote his 2005 Caribbean hit song Nah Apologize (to No Batty Bwoy) about Tatchell and myself. (See the video below of Sizzla performing the song live in Toronto in 2006.)

Personally, it's an honour just to be mentioned in the same breath as Tatchell, and I want to thank him for all of his amazing gay activism over the years, and wish him much health and happiness on his 60th birthday!

No comments:

Post a Comment