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Alan Turing: Our Engima codebreaker and an ongoing LGBTQ+ role model

In today’s society, Alan Turing is remembered for his crucial efforts in the fight against Nazi Germany throughout WW2.  Turing was a brilliant mathematician who is notoriously celebrated for breaking the Enigma code after years of hard work and dedication at Bletchley Park.

WW2 British cryptographer, Captain Jerry Roberts, is quoted saying, “Without him – we would have lost the war.” However, his legacy did not stop there. This month, it is important to reflect on the experiences of those in the LGBTQ+ community and society’s role in shaping them.  Turing was a victim of the mid-20th century attitudes towards homosexuality.  He was ultimately arrested in 1952 for “gross indecency” under Section 11 of the Criminal Law Amendment Act 1885.  His conviction meant that he could no longer continue working at GCHQ. He was forced to choose between hormone treatment and imprisonment. Turing eventually accepted hormone treatment with DES, a so-called chemical castration.  Unfortunately, in 1954, aged only 41, Turing took his own life.  Despite the social and the legal boundaries that he was made subject to because he was gay, Turing never hid his sexuality.  Instead, he continued to live his life as an openly gay man.  His commitment to being true to himself, despite his sexuality, really makes his achievements truly extraordinary for us today.  In 2013, Queen Elizabeth II signed a royal pardon for Turing’s conviction, following an official apology which Prime Minister Gordon Brown issued in 2009.  In 2017, the government agreed to officially pardon all men accused of “crimes” like this, highlighting Turing’s enduring influence even after his death in changing attitudes within society.  This legacy is known as “Turing’s Law”.  He is often referred to as a role model within the LGBTQ+ community.  Since this, the Turing Law has gone on to secure pardons for 75,000 men and women, all of whom were subjected to similar treatment.  It is important for us to recognise the remarkable contributions of individuals such as Turing, both within society, and the workplace.  His decision to stay authentic, be his true self and not try to hide who he was, despite the consequences he knew he would suffer, is an inspiration to us all.  We would like to wish you all a very Happy LGBTQ+ History Month!

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