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The tragic suicide of Alan Turing

Right-wing

Cross-posted at Waking Up Now.

by Rob Tisinai

Alan Turing was a brilliant English mathematician who helped the Allies win World War II.

Working as a cryptographer at the now famous Bletchley Park complex he used his incredible focus and intelligence to crack the seemingly impossible codes of the German Enigma Machine. By locking himself in his room for days at a time he managed to reverse engineer the Enigma Machine — a stroke of pure genius that allowed the British and their allies to anticipate attacks and other vital information, changing the course of the war.

He’s also known as the father of computer science. Time named him one of the 100 most important people of the 20th century.

[E]veryone who taps at a keyboard, opening a spreadsheet or a word-processing program, is working on an incarnation of a Turing machine.

Alan Turing was gay. He killed himself on June 8, 1952, by eating a bite of an apple laced with cyanide. But why? We’ve seen a lot of theories from the right on why gay kids are killing themselves. Could any of them apply?

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association might say it’s because society was pushing too hard for people to be gay:

It must be pointed out that homosexual activists are not wholly innocent in these tragedies either. Homosexuals cannot reproduce so they must recruit. Part of the agenda of groups like GLSEN (the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network) is to urge students at younger and younger ages to come out and declare a disordered sexual preference. Sexually confused youth are pressured into locking into a sexual identity far before they are mature enough to do so.

Peter Sprigg of the Family Research Council might argue that society was too accepting of homosexuality:

Peter Sprigg, senior fellow for policy studies at the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., said the rash September suicides by gays might be linked to the students believing they were born gay. “That creates hopelessness,” he said. “It is more loving and compassionate to say you don’t have to be gay for the rest of your lives.”

His colleague Tony Perkins might back him up:

Some homosexuals may recognize intuitively that their same-sex attractions are abnormal–yet they have been told by the homosexual movement, and their allies in the media and the educational establishment, that they are “born gay” and can never change. This–and not society’s disapproval–may create a sense of despair that can lead to suicide.

Could Turing have killed himself because homosexuality was illegal in Britain?

Could he have done it because police discovered his sexual orientation while investigating a burglary of his home, and he was convicted of gross indecency?

Could it have been because in order to avoid a prison term he submitted to chemical castration by the government via female hormones?

No, of course not. As Tony Perkins makes clear, society’s disapproval does not cause suicide. Alan Turing must have killed himself because Britain was just too damn accepting.

52 Comments

  • 1. Kathleen  |  October 31, 2010 at 8:54 am

  • 2. Michelle Evans  |  October 31, 2010 at 8:55 am

    The story or Turing is a horror of what LGBT people used to face in society, and what people like Brian, Maggie, Tony, would like to see return. There was also a very good production about his life by the BBC that starred Derek Jacobi, many years ago. Worth seeking out.

  • 3. Lesbians Love Boies  |  October 31, 2010 at 8:55 am

    ☆┌─┐ ─┐☆
     │▒│ /▒/
     │▒│/▒/
     │▒ /▒/─┬─┐
     │▒│▒|▒│▒│
    ┌┴─┴─┐-┘─┘ ●●PeAcE be with Alan●●
    │▒┌──┘▒▒▒│
    └┐▒▒▒▒▒▒┌┘
     └┐▒▒▒▒┌┘

  • 4. Lesbians Love Boies  |  October 31, 2010 at 8:58 am

    I didn't read the 1952. But, still peace be with Alan!

  • 5. Sagesse  |  October 31, 2010 at 9:01 am

    It was a great film. Imagine what more he could have accomplished if he had lived.

  • 6. Richard W. Fitch  |  October 31, 2010 at 9:01 am

    Yes, mid-20th century 'justice' in the UK allowed Turing to escape prison by taking chemical concoctions which grossly disfigured his body but saved him the terror of being subjected to inmates who might take advantage of him.

  • 7. StraightForEquality  |  October 31, 2010 at 9:03 am

  • 8. Steve  |  October 31, 2010 at 9:06 am

    And he died in 1954. Not 1952.

  • 9. Michelle Evans  |  October 31, 2010 at 9:11 am

    "grossly disfigured"

    Yes, he was forced to take female hormones so that his "homosexual urges" would not "harm" British society. And it points to a very interesting thing with regard to gays in that a lot of people who do not understand gays think that they somehow want to be female anyway. This sort of misrepresentation happens all the time.

    For a trans person, such as myself, female hormones (along with surgery) is what I required to rid myself of being "grossly disfigured" by testosterone.

    Some people think that being trans is just a further evolution of being gay, whereas, as very definitely pointed out in the story of Turing, this could not be further from the truth. He was gay, and he had absolutely no problem with being a man himself.

    When he was given female hormones things happened to him such as starting to grow breasts. Along with the basic "undesirability" of being gay at that time in Britain, he also could not live with the fact that, in many ways, he was also being turned from a man into a woman. I believe that was the final breaking point for him, and why he took his life.

    As a trans person, I know what horrors it is to be stuck with the wrong physical body. Because of that, I can fully understand why he ended up doing what he did to end the torment, not just of society, but of his own body being used against him.

  • 10. Fr0zt  |  October 31, 2010 at 9:15 am

    It's worth noting that Turing's homosexuality was a pretty open secret during the war, but he was quite literally indispensable–no one else came close to his genius. It was only after he won the was that the government "discovered" his homosexuality and decided he couldn't be trusted with the technology he created for them.

  • 11. JT1962  |  October 31, 2010 at 9:18 am

    I just love the "homosexuals can't reproduce so they have to recruit" line. The one thing I always want to know is, if gays have to recruit, who recruited the very first gay? Oh, wait…they didn't think about that, did they?

  • 12. Alan E.  |  October 31, 2010 at 9:20 am

    It was Satan, but the first gay had a hearing problem, and heard it as satin. The rest is history.

  • 13. Michelle Evans  |  October 31, 2010 at 9:21 am

    The movie, by the way, is Breaking the Code, 1996

  • 14. Ben  |  October 31, 2010 at 9:21 am

    Yep, the chicken-and-egg conundrum always bothers these types. Maybe the first gay happened by just trying it — oh, wait, they don't want to consider that possibility. Because there's no such thing as an in-between, or any sort of flexibility in terms of attractions. Gee, it's something of a pickle (pardon the pun) to approach it logically, isn't it?

  • 15. Richard A. Walter (s  |  October 31, 2010 at 9:34 am

    Yes, and we all know how Tony Perkins, Pete Sprigg, Porno Pete LaBarbera, Maggie Gallagher, James Dobson, and all the others of their ilk love to twist facts when they are not ignoring the facts. they will say and do anything they can in order to convince themselves that they do not have blood on their hands. I myself would love to know how these POSL's can sleep at night knowing the harm they have done!

  • 16. Rhie  |  October 31, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Stories like this make me so ANGRY. And the reactions to such tragedies are heartless and evil. People like Perkins and most of the rest of the leaders of the Religious Right – no, ALL of the leaders of the Religious Right – want to see genocide – Have contributed to it.

    They have contributed, through negligence, indifference and mocking, to the death of several generations. Either a literal death, like Alan Turing, or a death of character and personality. It's difficult to say which is worse; such value judgments aren't useful.

    The end result is the same: Bright men and women, with important contributions to science, art, literature, politics are hurtled into nothingness by these demonic entities. If I ever did believe in a literal devil that walked the earth, I would point to Perkins. To Brown. To Dobson. They are the anti-Christ.

  • 17. Rhie  |  October 31, 2010 at 9:45 am

    Wow.

  • 18. Chris B  |  October 31, 2010 at 9:57 am

    Exactly. I wish they would look at the facts and be honest. If it is sooooooo easy for a teen to be talked into being gay, it should be just as easy to talk them into becoming straight, right? So what are they so afraid of? If someone tries out the 'gay lifestyle' and is not happy, they can just choose the straight lifestyle, right? Because, as they would have you believe, it's so easy to switch back and forth.

    They keep talking about "recruiting", but growing up, I was in a very conservative christian home, being gay was about the worst thing you could be. I didn't know any gay people, didn't have any gay relatives, didn't have any gay teachers, didn't have any gay role models, saw no gay movies or TV shows, went to a christian school and fundamentalist college. My parents were married, had no affairs, no divorces, no alcohol or drugs. I had no child abuse, no molestation. Yet somehow, even though I had no exposure to gays, and no one recruited me, I turned out gay.

  • 19. Rhie  |  October 31, 2010 at 10:09 am

    Seriously. It couldn't POSSIBLY be that you were just born the way you are, now could it? (dripping sarcasm, there).

    All sexual identity can be influenced by abuse. I know straight people who have a difficult time finding and keeping healthy relationships of any stripe because of abuse. The are still straight and still would be straight no matter what. The same applies to any sexual identity.

    Abuse doesn't turn a person gay, nor does a show like Will and Grace or Torchwood. Bad role models or good can influence how a person sees that identity and how they act it out.

    This is not a complicated concept, really. I swear.

  • 20. Richard A. Walter (s  |  October 31, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Thank you. I have mostly resolved the issues I have been dealing with because of my adoptive "father" and the sexual abuse he began inflicting after he caught me with one of my boyfriends. I have been told repeatedly that I am gay because of the sexual abuse, and that I "enjoyed" the abuse, and yet, if the sexual abuse were the cause of my sexual orientation, why did it only start after the perpetrator discovered that I am gay?
    And yes, it has affected how I saw myself, and I have gotten into abusive relationships in the past because of the abuse. I got into those abusive relationships because I had been convinced by my first abuser that abuse was all I deserved. And for anyone out there who may be reading this who is currently undergoing abuse, I can tell you from my own experience that IT GETS BETTER I can also tell you that you can get out of that house, and you can get away from that abuse. Contact http://www.thetrevorproject.org or http://www.projectlifevest.org for help finding a safe place to go to. YOu owe that much to yourself. You are too fabulous and too beautiful to endure any more of that abuse, so please, get out and find some place that is safe.

  • 21. Rhie  |  October 31, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Oh Wow. I am so very sorry that happened to you. I am so glad you found a wonderful relationship now. (I haven't met your partner, of course, but when you talk about him you are just so happy. )

    I am just dumbstruck that people say oh you must have enjoyed the abuse. It's ABUSE. it doesn't work that way. It sure as hell – like you say – doesn't lead a person to find a lasting, healthy relationship with any person.

    Your links are wonderful too. Many people don't know that they can get out or where to go if they do. I will keep those in my bookmarks just in case someone needs them one day.

  • 22. Bob  |  October 31, 2010 at 10:51 am

    @Richard, thanks for shining a light in dark places, you are a survivor, so glad you were able to break the cycle of abuse in your lifetime,,,, it takes your courage in sharing, that gives hope to those presently experiencing it , to realize it gets better. may the next person feel less alone because of the information you shared,

  • 23. JonT  |  October 31, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Rob, thanks for the post on Alan Turing.

    He is the reason, in many ways, that we sit here in front of our computers communicating with each other over the Internet. He truly was the 'Father' of Computer Science.

    But. I am a little pissed off that you felt the need to include the opinions of assholes like Perkins and his hater buddies.

    Why? We all know what those assholes think. Did we really need another post to remind us of the poison these pieces of human shit represent?

    What have these people ever done for society, other than sow hatred? Why include their opinions? To even include their spew in an article about Turing sullies his name in my opinion.

    Turing was a great man, who committed suicide because he was gay, which was illegal in England at the time.

    He had a choice – prison or chemical castration. He chose chemical castration. Are we really surprised, given recent events, that he committed suicide shortly thereafter?

    I would have too. Many kids these days have as well.

    I would have appreciated a post honoring Turing, and what he accomplished for the allies in WWII, and what his theories have accomplished for society today.

    I really did not need to hear more of the shit pouring forth from the mouths of perkins and fischer. I have already heard it many times.

    /angry rant ended.

  • 24. Bennett  |  October 31, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    What? I've never heard that. What?

    Why would gay people recruit? You mean like Christians recruit? What would be the point. Gay people have the same interest in the survial of the Human species as any straight person. They may not be able to procreate, but promoting homosexuality is not a concern. The world doesnt spin solely on the existence of gay people. It would go on if gay people, uh, died out. But I have to tell you, good luck getting a good haircut after that happens.

    Promoting equality for homosexuals is the only agenda. The only recruiting activity is the recruiting of tolerance, understanding, and fairmindedness. If you are not gay, please don't worry about being recruited.

    What is that phrase the religious right is using these days? Oh yeah! We are the religious right, you will be assimilated

  • 25. Ray in MA  |  October 31, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    JonT

    "the shit pouring forth from the mouths of perkins and fischer."

    I agree…

    and don't forget to give credit to Catholics and the Mormon Church of Latter Day Saints.

  • 26. Ray in MA  |  October 31, 2010 at 12:20 pm

    …very minor point given the travesty of it all.

  • 27. Ray in MA  |  October 31, 2010 at 12:21 pm

    …a small, very minor point given the travesty of it all.

  • 28. Ray in MA  |  October 31, 2010 at 12:23 pm

    "pretty open secret " ? you meant "known, but not acknowledged"

  • 29. Rhie  |  October 31, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    Oh I heard that all the time growing up in the Fascist Right. They believe that being LGBT is a choice, a dangerous, risky, unhealthy choice. WE have to brainwash people into being LGBT because no intelligent, sane person would choose that lifestyle. They think we choose kids for two reasons. First, it is easier (theoretically) to convince a child of something dangerous than an adult. Second, they equate us with child molesters and other monsters. They are equating a child being gay with a child who has been groomed by an abuser.

    It's quite disgusting, really, what they are thinking, isn't it?

  • 30. RainbowWarrior  |  October 31, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    We all hurt for you, Richard, but it's such a testament to your strength and conviction that you survived and went on to spread a message for the hopeless that even in the depths of your darkest moment there can be recovery, and acceptance, and love in your future. You're an inspiration, and that's the truth.

    I dealt a lot with this issue with my first girlfriend, who I still consider the love of my life. Her father severely sexually abused her for most of her life, giving her deep-seated emotional scars and horrible emotional reactions to being touched that it took us many months of cautious progress to even partially overcome. Upon discovering us together one night, he forbade her from seeing me again, at which point she turned him in to Child Protective Services rather than allow him to sever her "anchor" to sanity. Unfortunately the SOB got away scot-free due to "lack of evidence" and the unwillingness of his abused wife to testify against him and put the family's sole breadwinner in prison. His return to her life proved too much for my girlfriend, who spiraled pretty quickly, turned to excessive drinking and eventually ended our relationship on the grounds that she could never be in a normal, stable, healthy relationship and I deserved to get out while I could. Three years of my life spent trying to save the one person I loved more than any other proved more or less fruitless, and although I eschew religion I say a prayer every night that she'll eventually find peace and someone else who will take care of her as I did.
    I pray, perhaps naively, that no other children will have to come through that hell and emerge, however broken, on the other side, but I know the truth is that as long as we allow people to think that gays, even helpless children, are less than human, it will be a story all too often repeated.

  • 31. Bob  |  October 31, 2010 at 2:05 pm

    ditto JonT

  • 32. Cat  |  October 31, 2010 at 2:27 pm

    I'm glad Alan Turing is still the hero of computing. Just like straight people, gays have made great contributions to society. No distasteful rhetoric can change that fact. We're all standing on the shoulders of giants such as Turing, even people who don't recognize or appreciate that.

  • 33. Sheryl, Mormon Mothe  |  October 31, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    So, I have a question that comes to mind every time I hear the recruit line. Is it the gay agenda to turn the entire nation (world) gay? I mean, do they really, really believe that those who are gay aren't intelligent enough to know they were born that way and recruitng won't work? Yes, I know the answer to that question, it is just another of their scare tactics for people who do not think for themselves.

    These people totally frustrate me.

    Sheryl, Mormon mother

  • 34. Kate  |  October 31, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    Of course that's why LGBT folk keep trying to sneak into teaching jobs, to recruit the next generation. Or so they would have you believe. It couldn't have anything to do with having the same loving, caring, nurturing instincts as any other decent human being.

  • 35. Rhie  |  October 31, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    No OF COURSE not. You can't possibly say in all seriousness that LGBT are the same in love and desire and creativity and beauty and everything else wonderful as straight folk!!

    (I understood your comment was sarcasm and am responding in kind :) )

  • 36. fern  |  October 31, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    "The code breakers" edited by F.H. Hinsley and Alan Stripp, Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-285.304-X.
    I'll have you know that a telex tape consisted of Five binary bits whereas for computers there eight bits.
    After what they did to poor Oscar Wilde, I'm sure society pushed Alan Turing to suicide.

  • 37. fern  |  October 31, 2010 at 9:21 pm

    Read my post 36.
    Yes you were right to remind us about Perkins & co. lest were forget what shit looks and smells like.

  • 38. fern  |  October 31, 2010 at 9:24 pm

    Read the book! info at fern36.

  • 39. Leo  |  October 31, 2010 at 11:43 pm

    "Don't attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity."

    Such a person probably thinks along the lines of, "I am straight and I want to have straight children. Therefore, gay people must want to have gay children."

  • 40. BK  |  October 31, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    This post utterly disgusted me… the last sentence Rob wrote made me want to throw up. This whole mess is so unjust! I can only hope there is some form of karma out there. People like Alan Turing deserve it.

  • 41. Catherine  |  November 1, 2010 at 1:16 am

    That's just about my story in a nutshell, Chris. There were no gay recruiters, all influence was the exact opposite and yet . . .here I am.

  • 42. Kate  |  November 1, 2010 at 1:20 am

    Seems to me that all the "recruiters" are straight. Everything in our society is geared toward kids being assumed to be straight. (And, if possibly seen as otherwise, being "corrected.")

  • 43. Sheryl Carver  |  November 1, 2010 at 1:33 am

    Richard,

    You have endured so much and, more than just survived, have grown into one of the finest people I've ever met (if only online). I so wish that anyone, teenager or any age, who is contemplating suicide or using drugs to escape their pain could have a chance to talk with you first.

    You are an amazing man, Richard, & I am honored to have met you on this site.

    Love, Sheryl

  • 44. Ronnie  |  November 1, 2010 at 1:38 am

    The Haterosexual community (i.e. FRC, NOM, FotF etc etc.)….do nothing but use us…they have no problem with LGBT people when they use what we create to push their Fascist control the world agenda on the whole of Society but would kill us easily when there is no more need for us….

    They bitch & moan when a business is pro-LGBT, like they are doing right now on their Destroy…I mean "Protect" Marriage Facebook page….but then they tell us to STFU when we speak out against homophobic businesses…They think they own the world & that is so far from the truth…they are all delusional…

    Facebook was co-created by Chris Hughes who still owns 1% of a multi million dollar company…that is still a lot of money…They bitch & moan about businesses being supportive of LGBT people & Equality as well as businesses owned & created by LGBT people…then STFU get the frak of Facebook….

    like Rob added in this thread:

    "[E]veryone who taps at a keyboard, opening a spreadsheet or a word-processing program, is working on an incarnation of a Turing machine."

    The Fascist Homophobic bigots are all INGRATES!!!!

    On a more upbeat note, I would like to thank Mr. Turning (RIP) for what he has contributed to society. The genius that he has created has turned into a portal that debunks every lie put forth by the Anti-gay agenda…Mr. Turning you had a hand in creating the future. You are why Equality in inevitable…..<3…Ronnie

  • 45. Ann S.  |  November 1, 2010 at 1:46 am

  • 46. paul  |  November 1, 2010 at 3:38 am

    Hi JonT….I understand your anger and feel much of the same, but I'm trying not to allow it in these days because it's doing bad things to me. My husband thinks I'm spending too much time angry and it's not a good thing.
    Try to let yourself focus on the good people out there that support us and work hard for us. Let them know how much you appreciate them…write to them…call them.
    These others that are mentioned above will all be take care of by their own hate and bigotry when the time is right…usually they end up turning on each other…so let that play itself out.
    Stay healthy so you can enjoy the new world we're entering into!!

  • 47. Ronnie  |  November 1, 2010 at 3:40 am

    Cheeks is the greatest….I love his "It Gets Better" video…..<3…Ronnie:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0CRA3Ed4Y1c

  • 48. Bob  |  November 1, 2010 at 3:52 am

    Turing is proof that , universal intelligence, god, or divine being, life force, spirit, or whatever term we wish to use favours and employs a gay brain, no different than any other.

    And furthermore enables a gay brain to work to solve problems created from misuse of human nature,, reversing hatred and ending a war. Thus proving that gay people, are equally capable of enhancing the world and human nature.

    This proves that religious beliefs that both then and now would act to destroy gay life, as evil and distructive are simply not true, for God himself blessed this gay brain with the wisdom to do much good….. If his sexuality would have been known at the time, he would not have served the world in the way he did, This is a strong message to all religious bigots, For this gay man was blessed with intelligence far beyond anything they themselves could imagine. Having not been so blessed themselves, one can only hope that one day this truth will dawn on them, and they would utter an apology for their ignorance, the same way the Britsh Prime Minister did for Mr. Turing.

  • 49. Chris B  |  November 1, 2010 at 10:49 am

    Exactly! Society's "norm" is straight. Everyone is geared toward kids becoming straight.

    So there must be something else going on than simply being recruited–something other than accidentally picking up "Heather has two Mommies" in the library and thinking "wow, this gay thing must be really cool, I'd like to try it out".

    There are thousands (millions?) of people with SS attractions that even try so hard to live as straight–getting married, having children, etc. who can't "catch" being straight. But "catching the gay", according to what they say, seems to be as easy as watching a single episode of Will and Grace.

  • 50. Straight Dave  |  November 1, 2010 at 12:09 pm

    Alan Turing will get his due, and in the worldwide glare of the Olympics. Mr Turing encompasses 3 of my strongest personal interests: computer science, gay rights and running.

    I have a degree in computer science. The annual Turing Award is given for supreme achievement in the world of computers. Within that industry, it is considered the equivalent of a Nobel Prize in Computer Science.

    Gay rights goes without saying.

    Two weeks ago, I completed my first marathon at the age of…. oh geez, I was alive when Turing still was. Alan Turing was a world-class runner, finishing in 5th place in the marathon in the British Olympic trials for the 1948 Olympics which were held in London that year. Unfortunately, only the top 3 made the British team.

    By a lovely coincidence, the Olympics return to London in 2012, the 100th anniversary of Turing's birth. That year has been designated as Alan Turing Year, when his many accomplishments will be celebrated. http://www.mathcomp.leeds.ac.uk/turing2012

    By bringing him into the public spotlight much more than the average person has ever seen before, I can only hope that the unfortunate details of his personal life remind the public, across the world, of the tragic loss that was caused by so much ignorance and prejudice.

  • 51. icapricorn  |  November 2, 2010 at 6:17 am

    Christopher Hitchens once pointed out that Alan Turing had more to do with ending World War II than Churchill or FDR.

  • 52. Richard W. Fitch  |  November 2, 2010 at 2:37 pm

    Thx for those added bits of Turing's bio. I have the greatest respect for his contributions to the free world and the bedrock he laid for computer science. Didn't know the part about his athletic abilities.

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