Peter Tatchell reveals he had a relationship with Justin Fashanu in the 1980s
I had a relationship with Justin Fashanu in the 80s, reveals Peter Tatchell – we went for bike rides along the Thames in disguise and he’d crawl from the stairwell to the front door of my flat to avoid being seen
Human rights activist Peter Tatchell has revealed for the first time that he had a relationship with Justin Fashanu, the first openly-gay British professional footballer.
In an article for The Mail+, Tatchell, now 71, tells how the pair enjoyed clandestine bicycle rides along the Thames around the time he fought – and lost – a poisonous by-election for Labour in Bermondsey, south-east London, in 1983.
Tatchell was forced to keep a fire extinguisher by his bed and installed a rope ladder at his rear window as he lived in fear of being firebombed over his sexuality after leaflets were delivered through voters’ doors revealing his address.
The by-election was triggered when incumbent Labour MP Bob Mellish – who Tatchell later revealed had been secretly bisexual and once propositioned him – stepped down to take a job with London Docklands Development Corporation.
Peter Tatchell outside his former flat in Bermondsey as he recalls the infamous by-election
Justin Fashanu before an England B match in 1980, and Peter Tatchell in 1983
Tatchell reveals how during the campaign – eventually won by ‘closeted’ Liberal candidate Simon Hughes – he met Fashanu at the London gay nightclub Heaven and the pair ‘clicked immediately’.
At the time the player – who had become the first black footballer to fetch a £1m fee after moving from Norwich City to Nottingham Forest – was ‘getting stick’ from manager Brian Clough who had confronted him about ‘going to what Clough called ‘p**f clubs’.
Tatchell said a hooded Fashanu – who eventually came out while still playing in 1990, but committed suicide eight years later – would ‘crawl from the stairwell’ to his first-floor front door, ‘reckoning that even if someone spotted him coming into my block they wouldn’t know which flat he went to.’
Click here to read Tatchell’s article for The Mail+ about his experiences in the early 1980s. A documentary on the by-election is out now on Netflix.