I would be lying if I said that I agreed with everything that Peter Tatchell said or wrote. I do not, for instance, believe that cottaging is a basic human right which the State should allow. Have sex with whom you want but whether you are straight or gay you should, in my view, not engage in sex in public as that infringes on the rights of others. Having said all of that, freedom of speech is what makes living in Britain vaguely tolerable and over the past forty years Tatch has used that freedom to great effect campaigning not only on LGBT issues but on exposing the actions of Robert Mugabe and many other good causes.
Tatchell writes today of how he has survived oppression as a gay man, which he will have done in less enlightened times when he was much younger, the Aids pandemic which so thinned the ranks of his generation and having Robert Mugabe's thugs break most bones in his body. As he turns 65 today, there is no doubt that he has put his body on the line for what he believes in and is one of, if not the, bravest and most principled spokespeople for civil liberties in the UK. We would be a poorer and less free nation without him.
I have always thought Tatchell was far younger than he is. I wonder if he uses a less than up to date photo on twitter? Before anyone says anything, mine is just five years old and I really will update it this year. But I do not expect near pensioners to confront the security guards of Africa's Hitler but that is exactly what Tatchell did. While many folks stop fighting for what they believe in as they get older, Tatchell never seems to give up - the fire still burns within him.
That he is principled is beyond doubt. Unlike me he has been offered a gong several times. He has actually done what I would do, reject the honour because he is a Republican and because the honours system is utterly corrupt. Whether you agree with Peter Tatchell on some things or or nothing or on most things he is a man who you just have to admire.
I hope that he has a wonderful birthday and enjoys his bus pass, winter fuel allowance and free TV license to the full and keeps on speaking out, on matters where I agree with him and also where I disagree with him vehemently, for many years to come.