Alan Turning was a British code-breaker and mathematical genius credited with cracking the German enigma code during WWII which, it can be argued, was a major turning point in the war. He was also known as the “father of modern computing.” If you use a computer, you might want to thank him. And he was gay, a crime for which he was arrested. To avoid jail, he opted for chemical castration. Two years later, he committed suicide. He has recently been pardoned for his crime and acknowledged for his contributions by the Queen.
Perhaps one of the grossest and most damaging injustices the LGBT community has faced is the exclusion of our stories from history. The exclusion of our contributions. The exclusion of our sacrifices. The exclusion of our challenges, and therefore the exclusion of our strengths. One has to wonder how history can be considered complete when it is told through such an exclusive lens. Not to mention the message of deafening silence sent to our LGBT children: they took no part in history. The didn’t exist. Which robs them of identity, connection, pride and inspiration. And in the past, when LGBT contributions have been told, they were editorially castrated so as not to “tarnish” one’s heroic reputation. Message sent, message received: heroism and being gay are incompatible.
Here’s hoping that the posthumous pardoning of Alan Turning is the beginning of the unscrubbing of gay people from history. President Obama certainly helped this year when he awarded Bayard Rustin the Presidential Medal of Freedom; when he added the rock wielding, high kicking drag queens of Stonewall to the sweep of civil rights history. The movie “Milk” made Harvey Milk, if not a household name, then at the very least far more famous and recognized for his life and work than he had been. The acknowledgement of Sally Ride’s life and love as she too was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. It’s all a part of our equality. The recognition of our presence and the acknowledgement that we have been here, contributing. May our gay children and our children’s children never know a world scrubbed of their historic and heroic LGBT foremothers and fathers.