Peter Tatchell Defends LGBT Officer Who Called Him 'Transphobic'

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Gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell stands outside Metropolitan Police headquarters in London on September 8, 2010. Tatchell has defend the student officer who refused to join him in a recent public debate. Chris Helgren

British gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell spent this week at the center of a free speech row, after he revealed a National Union of Students (NUS) official had refused to share a platform with him. Despite Tatchell's years of anti-racism and gay rights campaigning, Fran Cowling, of the NUS, pulled out of a talk at Canterbury Christ Church University featuring Tatchell, accusing him of being racist and transphobic.

Tatchell has strongly rejected both labels. But speaking on Sam Delaney's News Thing on Russia Today UK, Tatchell said he respected Cowling's decision: "I defend Fran's right not to share a platform with me. She has a right to say no, and I entirely respect that…I think it would have been much better for her to join me in a debate, so her point of view could be heard. And whether people agree with her or not, it's good she has a right and an opportunity to make her view known."

The campaigner also clarified his own position on "no platforming" —a tactic whose increasingly widespread use in universities on both sides of the Atlantic has attracted controversy.

"I make a distinction between people who are bigoted and those who incite…encourage or endorse violence," he said, "So, it's true that I sought to cancel the concerts of eight Jamaican reggae and dancehall singers (with the support of Jamaican LGBT campaigners) because they were encouraging the killing of gay and lesbian people. I also, yes, did seek to ban, or get stopped from speaking, various Islamist preachers who've also endorsed Sharia executions of Muslims who have turned away from their faith, of people who have blasphemed Islam, of adulterers and of gay people."

Watch the whole exchange here: