Alan Turing – the good queer

Alan Turing (1912-1954)

I was one of those who in 2011 signed an e-petition calling on the UK government to pardon the mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing. In 1952, the genius who broke the Nazi military codes, and built the foundations of digital computing, was chemically castrated following a criminal conviction for being gay. Two years later, Turing killed himself.

The petition I signed with misgivings, not because of any doubts about the moral virtue of the cause, but rather the neglect if not negation of all those other homosexual people persecuted for their sexuality, along with the threat and implementation of a barbaric legal sanction.

Today we hear that Turing is to get his pardon, with which I am sure he will be delighted. Truth be told, the real purpose of the pardon is to salve the consciences of the embarrassed living, so I suppose that we should be delighted too.

The only thing that would delight me is for the British government of 2013 to declare that its predecessors were morally wrong to persecute gay people, as were all those ordinary folk who went along with if not actively supported such prejudice and hate, and on occasion still do.

In practical terms it would mean pardoning all those convicted under historic anti-gay laws, but this is not going to happen. Turing, you see, was the good queer, and as such we are encouraged to treasure his memory. Even if he was a shirt-lifter.

The English are masters at such hypocrisy. How long will it take before homophobia is totally eradicated from these lands and abroad, and people of all sexualities and none allowed to just be, without a second, judgemental thought?