Peter Tatchell was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1952. Opposed to United States and Australian aggression against the people of Vietnam, in the late 1960s he became active in the National Campaign Against Conscription, Draft Resister’s Union, Christians For Peace, and the Vietnam Moratorium Campaign, helping to organise the huge “Stop Work To Stop The War” demonstrations which immobilised the city of Melbourne in 1970.

Unwilling to be drafted to serve in a genocidal war, and faced with the alternative of two years imprisonment, Peter Tatchell went into exile in London in 1971. Five days after his arrival, he joined the newly-formed Gay Liberation Front and, a little later, the Troops Out Movement, supporting its campaign for an end to the British military occupation of north-east Ireland. Since 1971, he has been involved in nearly every major campaign for homosexual human rights in Britain.

After completing college, Peter Tatchell began working as journalist, specialising in undercover investigative reporting. In 1978, to gather material for a book exposing the class ridden, anti-democratic and imperialistic culture of the British armed forces, he applied for an officer’s commission in the Royal Artillery, participated in training exercises in artillery and tank warfare, and was offered a place at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (which he declined).

On the basis of these experiences and subsequent research, Peter Tatchell wrote Democratic Defence: A Non-Nuclear Alternative(GMP, London, 1985). Arguing for a radical democratisation and de-imperialisation of the armed forces, this book set out ideas on the themes of non-nuclear and nonprovocative defence, civil rights for military personnel, community-based citizen’s armies, and alternative methods of defence such non-violent civilian resistance.

During the 1980s, Peter Tatchell lectured at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, the Army Staff College Camberley, the Royal Naval College Greenwich and the Royal College of Defence Studies Belgravia. His military theories of “defensive defence” have been the subject of dissertations by officers at Sandhurst and Camberley.

Peter Tatchell stood unsuccessfully as the Labour candidate in the 1983 Bermondsey by-election. Pilloried for his socialist convictions, refusal to fight in Vietnam, advocacy of lesbian and gay human rights, and his opposition to the wars in the north of Ireland and the Falklands, he was subject to more media slurs and violent assaults than any other political candidate in Britain this century.

In 1985, there were demands for Peter Tatchell to be charged with sedition and incitement to mutiny following his television and leaflet appeal to military personnel to refuse to obey orders for the preparation and use of nuclear weapons of mass destruction which, he argued, was in violation of international law.


Peter Tatchell’s recent books include: Europe In The Pink – Lesbian & Gay Equality in The New Europe (GMP, London, 1992), and Safer Sexy – The Guide To Gay Sex Safely (Freedom Editions/Cassell, London, 1994).

* This biography was published in the preface to Peter Tatchell’s book, We Don’t Want To March Straight – Masculinity, Queers & The Military, Cassell, London, 1995