When director Christopher Amos, came up with the idea to do a documentary about Peter Tatchell he was surprised to discover how many people hated the Australian-born activist
“When researching the film, the director was astonished to discover the intense abuse and vitriol that had been directed against me over the last five decades. That’s how he came up with the title ‘Hating Peter Tatchell’. It’s an eye-catching, attention-grabbing title that prompts people to stop, think and discuss,” Tatchell told Star Observer.
Hating Peter Tatchell is a new documentary that was produced by Elton John and David Furnish released on Netflix this past Wednesday.
A Lifetime Of Activism
The film tracks the activists 54 years as an activist for LGBTQIA+ issues and other human rights campaigns and follows Tatchell’s childhood life and influences while growing up in Melbourne.
It also features rare archive and an intimate conversation between Tatchell and celebrated actor Ian McKellen and interviews with his Australian mother, the former Archbishop of Canterbury George Carey, actor Stephen Fry, the ex-head of the UK LGBT+ group Stonewall Angela Mason, 1970s pop star Tom Robinson, the world’s first out cabinet minister Chris Smith and photojournalist Adrian Arbib who reported on some of Tatchell’s best-known protests.
During his time in Australia Tatchell was heavily involved in the anti-Vietnam war movement, however according to the controversial activist, his first ever campaign was against the execution of Ronald Ryan in 1967.
“At the age of 15, I read the warder’s autopsy report and concluded from the trajectory of the bullet through his body that it was doubtful Ryan fired the fatal shot,” Tatchell said. “He was hanged anyway. That made me a life-long sceptic of authority.”
Coming Out, Moving Out
During his youth Tatchell also campaign for the civil and land rights of indigenous Australians and when he came out as gay at 17 he started to campaign for LGBTQIA+ issues.
“I had very little support from friends or family when I came out. But fortunately, I was confident about being gay, despite my homophobic religious upbringing.”
“I tried to set up a gay rights organisation but my gay friends were too scared. All I felt able to do was write letters to the press, urging the decriminalisation of homosexuality and an end to police harassment.”
Moving to London in 1971 to avoid conscription Tatchell amped up his activism especially for LGBTQIA+ issues. The film follows many key events during Tatchell’s life including his confrontation with boxer Mike Tyson.
“Tyson is huge and packs a knock-out punch. But I was appalled that no one was challenging his homophobia. So I went to Memphis a few days before his world title fight in 2002.”
“At first, I thought he was going to floor me, but when he saw the media, he calmed down and denied being homophobic. I challenged him to prove it by making a pro-gay statement. To his credit, he condemned anti-gay discrimination. This made him one of the first macho straight sports stars to express support for LGBT+ rights.”
Arrests, Attacks And Death Threats
Another major protest the film focuses on is Thatchell’s protest in Moscow during the 2018 FIFA World Cup to draw attention to the persecution of LGBT+ people in Russia and Chechnya.
“Protesting for LGBTQIA+ rights in Moscow during the football World Cup was a nerve-wracking experience. I had to take extreme security measures to evade detection by the Russian police.”
“I felt quite vulnerable because it was a solo protest. I was lucky to pull it off and relieved that the protest helped highlight the anti-LGBT+ witch hunts in Chechnya.”
Over the past five decades Tatchell has been involved in 3,000 non-violent protests, 100 arrests, 300 violent assaults, 50 attacks on his flat, half a dozen plots to kill him and thousands of death threats.
Despite the arrests and attacks Tatchell hopes the documentary will inspire audiences to get involved and demand social change.
“The film shows that social change is possible,and gives examples of ways in which it can be achieved. I hope it will inspire others to become change-makers.”
Hating Peter Tatchell is out now and can be streamed on Netflix in Australia.