Guardian Q&A: Peter Tatchell
Personal & political quick-fire interview
London - Guardian Weekend - 8 September 2012
Peter Tatchell was born in Australia in 1952. At 15, he began his first campaign – against the death penalty. In 1971, he moved to London, and became an activist in the Gay Liberation Front. He staged the first gay rights protest in a communist country, in East Berlin in 1973, and has twice attempted citizen's arrests of Robert Mugabe. Currently he is supporting democracy movements in Syria, Bahrain, Iran and Russia, and in the UK he coordinates the Equal Love campaign. He is director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.
When were you happiest?
Whenever I've done a successful campaign. Exhausted, but elated.
What is your greatest fear?
I have no fears, despite death threats from neo-Nazis and Islamists.
Which living person do you most admire, and why?
The man who stood in front of the tank in Tiananmen Square in 1989.
What has been your most embarrassing moment?
Mistaking a sachet of shampoo for lube when having sex. His bum was blowing bubbles for hours.
Property aside, what's the most expensive thing you've bought?
A bicycle (£300).
What is your most treasured possession?
A photo locket of my great grandfather, who emigrated from London to Australia in the 1850s.
What would your super power be?
To turn human rights abusers into human rights protectors.
What is the worst thing anyone's ever said to you?
"We're going to disembowel you, castrate you, behead you and burn you alive. You queer infidel" (Islamist, 2006).
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
If no one is harmed, no pleasure merits guilt.
What do you owe your parents?
Don't follow the mob. Be true to your own conscience.
Who would you invite to your dream dinner party?
Mohandas Gandhi, Sylvia Pankhurst, Martin Luther King, Rosa Luxemburg, Leonardo da Vinci and Groucho Marx.
What is the worst job you've done?
Operating an industrial dishwasher in a catering factory. Ghastly stench.
If you could go back in time, where would you go?
Berlin, January 1933, to assassinate Hitler as he walked unguarded in Von Ribbontrop's garden.
How do you relax?
I rarely relax. Too busy.
How often do you have sex?
Usually five-plus times a week (it reduces the risk of prostate cancer).
What single thing would improve the quality of your life?
Funding for four staff, so I could have time off to relax and have fun.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Helping expose SS Dr Carl Værnet and the Allied connivance that allowed him to escape justice.
What keeps you awake at night?
My own mistakes and shortcomings. And 800 million people malnourished and with no safe, clean drinking water.
What song would you like played at your funeral?
Diana Ross's medley of Some Day We'll All Be Free and We Shall Overcome.
What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
The only liberation struggle worth fighting is a struggle inspired by love.
Tell us a joke.
Henry Kissinger (whose mass bombing of Cambodia killed 500,000-plus civilians) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973.
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