Monday, September 14, 2009

Gay Genius

Alan Turing is considered by many as the "father of modern computing" and he is well remembered for breaking a German code from WWII, which had a profound influence on the outcome of the war. In the 1950's, he was imprisoned for being a homosexual, which was then illegal under the British laws.

But now, the British government has apologized for what they have done to one of the greatest homosexuals who ever lived in this planet. Here's the statement from British prime minister Gordon Brown:

"...thanks to a coalition of computer scientists, historians and LGBT activists, we have this year a chance to mark and celebrate another contribution to Britain’s fight against the darkness of dictatorship; that of code-breaker Alan Turing.

Turing was a quite brilliant mathematician, most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes. It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of World War Two could well have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war. The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely. In 1952, he was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ - in effect, tried for being gay. His sentence - and he was faced with the miserable choice of this or prison - was chemical castration by a series of injections of female hormones. He took his own life just two years later.

Thousands of people have come together to demand justice for Alan Turing and recognition of the appalling way he was treated. While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can’t put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him. Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted under homophobic laws were treated terribly. Over the years millions more lived in fear of conviction.

I am proud that those days are gone and that in the last 12 years this government has done so much to make life fairer and more equal for our LGBT community. This recognition of Alan’s status as one of Britain’s most famous victims of homophobia is another step towards equality and long overdue.

But even more than that, Alan deserves recognition for his contribution to humankind. For those of us born after 1945, into a Europe which is united, democratic and at peace, it is hard to imagine that our continent was once the theatre of mankind’s darkest hour. It is difficult to believe that in living memory, people could become so consumed by hate - by anti-Semitism, by homophobia, by xenophobia and other murderous prejudices - that the gas chambers and crematoria became a piece of the European landscape as surely as the galleries and universities and concert halls which had marked out the European civilisation for hundreds of years. It is thanks to men and women who were totally committed to fighting fascism, people like Alan Turing, that the horrors of the Holocaust and of total war are part of Europe’s history and not Europe’s present.

So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


toronto is one of my favourite cities to vacation. gay-friendly, modern cosmopolitan metropolis and has a world famous class A film festival. the other night while dining in its gay village, we passed by a street corner and bumped into a brass statue of a certain Alexander Wood. i asked, "who is he to deserve such honour?" i sat myself into the nearest Starbucks with WiFi, tinkered on my netbook, searched google and read his story between sips of my latte. finally, with a whiff of vanilla bean and a smile, the only words i was able to utter was - HOW INTERESTING.