After being initially banned by the Labour leadership for his advocacy of extra-parliamentary action, Peter stood as the Labour candidate in the 1983 Bermondsey by-election. He was defeated in the dirtiest, most violent and homophobic election in modern British history.
In the mid-1980s, he, Bruce Kent and others risked arrest on charges of sedition and incitement to mutiny by publicly urging British military personnel to refuse to obey orders to train, prepare and use nuclear weapons.
His ground-breaking book, AIDS: A guide to survival, published in 1986, was the world’s first self-help guide for people with HIV. It confounded the then consensus that AIDS equals death.
In early 1987, Tatchell launched the world’s first organisation dedicated to defending the human rights of people with HIV, the UK AIDS Vigil Organisation, drafting the world’s first human rights charter for HIV-positive people. In 1988, the UKAVO persuaded the World Health Minister’s Summit on AIDS to issue a declaration opposing government repression and discrimination against people with HIV.
An anti-apartheid activist since his teens in the late 1960s, his lobbying of Thabo Mbeki and the ANC in 1987 contributed to it renouncing homophobia and making its first public commitment to LGBT human rights. Later, together with others, he helped persuade the ANC to include a ban on anti-gay discrimination in the post-apartheid constitution – which became the first constitution in the world to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In the late 1980s, Peter co-organised the Green and Socialist Conferences, which bought together reds and greens and sought to forge a new political alliance for social justice and ecological sustainability. During the same period, he was warning of the dangers of climate change, resource depletion and species extinction.