LGBT History Month

February is LGBT History month, so every week in February I am using my various human forms to talk about a small part of LGBTQ+ history. I thought I would also collate what I’m writing here on Newsnibbles so those of you to whom I still remain a mystery could have access to some important history.

“What’s LGBT history?” You say. “Never heard of it.” Well, that’s the point of the month. To give a voice to voices that have previously been erased from history. It doesn’t mean it didn’t exist, it means the narrative has been distorted to erase certain groups of people and control the way society is viewed.

Feminists have spent the last fifty years or so “rediscovering” women from history who had been erased. I wrote my Masters’ dissertation on a playwright who was the most prolific of the Eighteenth Century, but no one had heard of her because she was erased from the Canon during the Victorian era.

Similarly, whilst you have probably heard of Florence Nightingale, you have probably not heard of Mary Seacole, who also supported soldiers during the Crimean war, bankrupting herself in the process. Mary Seacole was black.

This is why we have Women’s History Month in March and Black History month in October. Because history is not just white and male. It’s “herstory”, it’s “their story” and it’s time everyone’s stories were heard.

For the first week I’m going to talk about Alan Turing.

Until the 2014 film starring Benedict Cumberbatch (The Imitation Game) not many people will have heard of Alan Turring. Those who had heard of him may have first done so after he received a Royal Pardon in 2013. (i)

The pardon itself is problematic for a number of reasons, but mainly, as Ally Fogg lays out in his 2013 article for The Guardian a pardon implies forgiveness was required, and Turing did nothing wrong. (ii) 

But I’ve jumped ahead, so let me take you back to the beginning.

 Born in 1912, Alan Turing was soon identified at school as a genius. (1)

A lot of his work in computer theory and artificial intelligence (AI) preempted modern computer theory; his “Turing Machine”, developed between 1936-1938 is said to have “foreshadowed the digital computer” (2). His studies into AI and more significantly “The Turing Test” (previously known as ‘The Imitation Game’) has been said to have significantly influenced modern research on AI (3).

 Turing is perhaps most famously known for his work on breaking the Enigma code during the Second World War, which is said to have reduced the war by 2 years, saving countless lives. (4).

 In 1945 Turing received an OBE for his services to the country and went on to become the deputy director of the Computing Laboratory at Manchester University.

 In 1952, after reporting a burglary in his home Turing was investigated for “Acts of Gross Indecency” (homosexual relationships remained illegal in the UK until 1967) and was convicted. In order to avoid prison time, Turing opted for “Chemical Castration – a hormone treatment that was supposed to suppress his sexual urges.” (5)

 Two years later, in 1954 (after continued surveillance from police) Turing died of cyanide poisoning. The official coroner’s verdict was suicide, although this has been contested in recent years. (6)

 

References

(i) BBC Online “Royal pardon for codebreaker Alan Turing” 24th December 2013. Las accessed 5th February 2020

(ii) Fogg, Ally. “Alan Turing’s pardon is wrong | Ally Fogg | OpinionThe Guardian 24th December 2014. Last accessed 5th February 2020.  (i) Royal pardon for codebreaker Alan Turing

  1. Biography Youtube Channel. 2019  “Alan Turing | A Genius With A Complex Personal Life” Last accessed 5th Feb 2020
  2.       British Library online “Alan Turing” Last accessed 5th February 2020
  3.       British Library online “Alan Turing” Last accessed 5th February 2020
  4.       Smith, Chris. 2017 Cracking the Enigma code: How Turing’s Bombe turned the tide of WWII (last accessed 31/1/2020)
  5.       Peace, Roland. 2012 “Alan Turing: Inquest’s suicide verdict ‘not supportable’

(last accessed 31/1/2020) 

  1.       Peace, Roland. 2012 “Alan Turing: Inquest’s suicide verdict ‘not supportable’” (last accessed 31/1/2020) 
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