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Peter Tatchell wins Albert Medal for human rights campaigns

London SE1 website team

In a lecture at the Royal Society of Arts, Peter Tatchell has described how his campaigning left him with a "real fear of being killed" in his Elephant & Castle home.

The Albert Medal 2016 has been awarded to LGBT and human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation.

Bestowed by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA), the citation reads: "Peter Tatchell is awarded the 2016 RSA Albert Medal for tireless campaigning on human rights and social equality."

Tatchell is not the first Elephant & Castle local to win the Albert Medal – previous winners include Michael Faraday.

After being presented with the medal on Tuesday night, Tatchell went on to deliver a lecture at the RSA.

He described the 1983 Bermondsey by-election – in which he was the Labour candidate – as "one the dirtiest, most violent and homophobic elections in Britain in the twentieth century".

Tatchell described how his role as the front man for the OutRage! campaign made him a magnet for attacks and threats, often from organised far right gangs.

"I lived with the real fear of being killed," he said.

"There were dozens of attacks on my flat, including arson attempts and bricks through the windows. I was beaten up in the street scores of times; leaving nearly all my teeth chipped and cracked. It was like living through a low level civil war. Plus I was on a 'kill list' drawn up by the neo-Nazi terrorists, Combat 18.

"This forced me to rebuild my flat as a fortress, with bars on the windows, a steel reinforced door and fire extinguishers in every room.

"As well as stress-induced migraines and hallucinations, I had frequent night terrors and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.

"These constant threats and assaults were devastating. They left me physically ill and emotionally shaken. I was periodically on the precipice of a mental breakdown; struggling to maintain my sanity.

"Somehow, my survival instinct and idealism kept me going. Despite flashes of despair, I remained determined to carry on and not let the bigots win. What helped me cope was the knowledge that human rights defenders in Iran, Russia, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia suffer far worse fates."

He concluded the lecture on an optimistic note, highlighting the social change that has occurred.

"Looking back over my half a century of campaigning, LGBT people and causes have gone from the margin to the mainstream," he said.

"Anti-gay laws have been abolished and new legal protections enshrined in law. Public acceptance has burgeoned and homophobia dissipated. LGBT visibility is the norm. Homophobia, not homosexuality, is deemed a social problem.

"Britain is moving towards becoming a post-homophobic society. "

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