Peter Tatchell receives UCD James Joyce award for 50 years of activism

Posted October 28, 2016

Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell has been awarded the UCD James Joyce award by the Literary and Historical Society, University College Dublin for his lifetime of activism on human rights and LGBT issues.

Previous winners include Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling; South African social activist Desmond Tutu and economist Paul Krugman. 

The event was co-hosted by the UCD LGBTQ+ Society. In his acceptance address, Tatchell said that social progress over several decades meant that “homosexuality as a separate exclusive orientation and identity will begin to fade and so will its mirror opposite, heterosexuality.”

“If sexual orientation has a culturally influenced element of indeterminacy and flexibility, then the present forms of heterosexually and homosexuality are unlikely to remain the same in perpetuity. As culture changes, so will expressions of sexuality.”

When asked about no platform policies, where speakers are banned or disinvited from events because their views are considered ‘harmful’, Tatchell said he believed these had “probably gone too far.”

“What’s happened today is that it’s been broadened out and interpreted much more widely to basically include anyone who some students disagree with. Some of the people who have been no platformed, I happen to totally oppose their views but I’m not sure that no platforming is the way to deal with it.”

“I think it’s probably better to let them speak and then challenge and question them then expose them and show why their views are wrong. Because if you no platform them, nothing changes, you don’t get the opportunity to show them up for who they are.”

Peter Tatchell was born in Australia and has campaigned for human rights, LGBT freedom and global justice since 1967. He became an activist aged 15, when he campaigned against the death penalty, in support of aboriginal rights and against the Vietnam War.

In 1973, he was interrogated by the East German Stasi after participating in the first gay rights protest in the country. He twice attempted a citizen’s arrest of Robert Mugabe in 1999 and 2001.

In 2010, he started the Peter Tatchell Foundation (PTF) to promote and protect human rights around the world.

The PTF seeks to raise awareness, understanding, protection and implementation of human rights in the UK and worldwide. This involves research, education, advice, casework, publicity and advocacy for the enforcement and furtherance of humanitarian statutes and values.

By: Jonny Baxter, digital journalist, UCD University Relations