Alan Turing - A cure for homosexuality

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Japaholic

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I have been reading about the British Code Breaker from WW2, Alan Turing who was exposed as being homosexual when being so was still illegal in the United Kingdom. He is now seen as a hero by some because of his part in cracking the enigma codes from the Germans. He was caught with his lover, charged with indecency and give a choice of imprisonment or chemical castration by injections of Stilboestrol. He chose the latter option.
 

H20shed65

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I have been reading about the British Code Breaker from WW2, Alan Turing who was exposed as being homosexual when being so was still illegal in the United Kingdom. He is now seen as a hero by some because of his part in cracking the enigma codes from the Germans. He was caught with his lover, charged with indecency and give a choice of imprisonment or chemical castration by injections of Stilboestrol. He chose the latter option.

Indeed! I saw the name and immediately recognized it, but was unsure why or who Mr. Turing was. After reading your post I remembered reading a piece about him somewhere quite some time ago. If I'm not mistaken, I believe there is, was or will be a movie about this in theatres. Perhaps this is why you ran across the piece you were reading that you referred to.

I think one always has to consider the time and context of such situations in order to fully comprehend the actions of those who would carry out or enforce such an inhumane policy. ( Do not read that comment as an apology or excuse, rather additional information to add to context.)
Homosexuals have been persecuted for a whole host of silly reasons throughout history not the least of which was under the Nazi regime after Hitler came to power. Ironically, Berlin was probably far and away the most tolerant of homosexuals pre WWII. Much of the play Cabaret is loosely drawn from the writings and experiences of gay writer and fan of Berlin, Christopher Isherwood.

We have come a long way from those days thank goodness. People are always fearful of that which do not understand and as gay people ( yes, that includes me ) we do ourselves no favors by hiding our sexuality. It's very easy to hate "those people" in the abstract, be they gay, a different ethnicity or religion; it is far more difficult to hate your friend, co-worker, sibling or parent who happens to be gay.

Interesting post! Thanks for sharing it. :)
 

notcharlotte

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yes, i wrote a thesis on isherwood and he had a great time in berlin despite the stirrings of the nazi party. isherwood used a technique he called "i am a camera" to record events, a style i thought he used as a metaphor for his homosexuality. as a gay man, he felt isolated, cut off from the main part of society, forced to play a role that hid his true self. the narrator of the berlin stories is always looking in but never a participant in events. isherwood lived long enough to come out in his work. his last book, a single man, tells of his struggle to deal with his partner's death. they made a.movie of this recently but i haven't seen it.
i was also reminded of oscar wilde, who spent time in jail because of immorality. his lover's father pursued a vendetta against wilde. the stay in jail ruined him and his health. he was a genius we lost because of these charges and incarceration. he was also married with two young kids. funny how they don't mention that, isn't it? wilde must have felt torn between his two selves.
i'm hoping that the recent supreme court decisions upholding gay marriage demonstrate that americans are beginning to accept differences. we know about the struggles of some famous gay people, but each one represents thousands of lives filled with desperation and fear. turing is yet another man defined not by his genius but by his sexuality. and he was the father of the computer.
 

Japaholic

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The film is called "the imitation game" and I have it preordered on itunes - http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/weinstein/theimitationgame/

My intention was to find out a bit more about this man before seeing the film. Interesting to note that he was posthumously pardoned for his "crimes" by our Monarch Queen Elizabeth for " the atrocious way he was treated ".

His cure left him impotent and with breasts and this is often cited as the reason for his apparent suicide. Some say it wasn't suicide however.....
 

notcharlotte

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@Japaholic, i'm under the impression that they still offer chemical castration as a condition for release to certain sex offenders, especially pedophiles. is the the same stuff? i had no idea they used it on gay people.
 

Japaholic

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@Japaholic, i'm under the impression that they still offer chemical castration as a condition for release to certain sex offenders, especially pedophiles. is the the same stuff? i had no idea they used it on gay people.

That's too kind for pedophiles, theirs should be hacked off with a rusty spoon.

So many lives ruined, childhoods lost, messed up adults created...........

I honestly don't know, I've just been researching Alan Turing.
 

muser

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Yeah he cose the latter so that he could continue his work. He did a bunch of work in tons of fields and pretty much invented the computer. Tragic case.
 

Smash

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Haven't seen the film but know a little about him. He was a true genius and they don't come along very often. I believe he was in the same league as Einstein, Da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Archimedes, Tesla etc.

Alan Turing pretty much invented algorithms and computation and most computer languages are still based his work and logic.

His suicide was an absolute travesty and the Government should have thought very hard about what they were doing. They should have brushed the homosexuality issue under the carpet and pandered to arguably the greatest mind of the time, not put him through hell after all of his work and successes in helping to win a war - which could have gone on much longer if it wasn't for him.
 

harryberry

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He 'pretty much invented' a lot of things. His contribution to mathematics is unfathomable.

Just to fill in a few blanks for you. He was not 'caught with his partner'. He was indeed homosexual and took pity on a homeless acquaintance whom he let stay with him for a while. One day the acquaintance left, taking a watch of great personal value to Turing.

Left with no other alternative, and a massive misjudgement on Turing's part, Turing went to the police in order get the watch back, which meant explaining his complicated relationship with the man. That's how he was arrested.

The people of Bletchley Park were like you would find at any high ranking educational institution. Cantankerously academic to the point of dysfunctionality, but mind bogglingly brilliant. The Germans at the same time had 8 corresponding teams of codebreakers whom society would probably deam 'normal', that would spend most of their time actively fighting each other in the streets.

It is estimated that the enigma code break reduced the length of the war by 2 years, with approximately 14 million people dying per year on all sides. Henceforth, it could be argued that the folk at Bletchley Park saved about 30 million lives.

Turing was only officially pardoned for his 'crime' by Gordon Brown during the last government. There have been many petitions on change.gov to get Turing placed on the £20 for his contribution to the country.

For me, the whole Turing debacle highlights a simple concept, which is that people perform at their peak when they are left alone to become the person they perceive themselves to be. The people at Bletchley Park achieved things most people couldn't dream of, and they did it because they were strange and weirdly wonderful and the government and society, in a time of strict adherence to social norms, just let them be themselves . . . . .

After the war many of them struggled to integrate back into society after the freedom they'd experienced at Bletchley, Turning included.
 

Alma

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Recently, I watched Imitation Game - a film about Turing. That's how a discovered his personality. It's a pity that a man who had been so talented could not live his life because of the epoch and its moral values. I was so much touched by the movie. And behind the movie, there was a human life which was treated so inhumanly.
 

Ravenousbird

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So, castration by surgical knife (physical mutilation) or chemical castration (physical mutilation) both resulting in physiological and emotional torment.

People don't choose their sexuality any more than a cat chooses not to be a dog.

Malarky. Leave it up to the government and that's what happens.

A government should be afraid of it's people, not the other way around.

I'm not gay. I've had many very very close friends over years that are. I see no difference as human beings. If anything a lot of my 'gay' friends have a lot more compassion than most 'heterosexuals' I know because they choose love and kept their faith in who they were/are.

Einstein-genius.jpg
 

Kipper

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I really liked that movie too.... and oh it was such a tragic end to an amazing mans life.... why they could not overlooked it, I really don't know.... the war would never have been won if it wasn't for him... thank goodness we are living in a time of tolarence and acceptance... well, in lots of countries there is acceptance but sadly a lot of the world has still got a lot of catching up to do.
 

toby

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Just saw this thread, and though slightly off-topic, Leonardo was mentioned. He is often cited as the most intelligent person who ever lived because of his stellar talents in so many fields even beyond painting, but also because of his endless curiosity. I'm currently reading Young Leonardo, about his earliest years as a professional artist, and he was brought up on a sodomy charge along with some others. There was a nobleman involved, so they got off. But I don't think a lot of people know Leonardo was homosexual, as they do seem to know that Michelangelo was. I only recently learned it in an interview with Walter Isaacson, who has also produced what looks like a fabulous book. Florence was notoriously liberated about these things in the early years of Leonardo's career, so repression has not nearly always been the case in the past (people often think of the ancient Greeks, but that was in different form and has itself been mythologized so we don't know exactly how it worked, what with Alcibiades et alia); and in Latin countries of Europe, as Spain, Italy, France, Greece, it was in some ways freer in practice sexually even if not officially so.

I didn't know about Turing's castration. Thanks for starting the thread. The whole matrix of tales around Wilde and Lord Douglas ('Bosie') is so lurid as to be nearly unbelievable. Douglas's father, the libel suits, all of it. Douglas, not Wilde, was the one who created the phrase 'the love that dare not speak its name', often attributed to Wilde. Douglas was an important poet, deeply troubled most of his life, even when he wasn't in some form of litigation or, in one case, prison, for libelling Winston Churchill. Astonishing story, and Wilde is far from innocent in a great deal of this psychodrama. Not that being 16 years older than Douglas, who was only 21 at their meeting proves that, of course. Douglas outlived him by 45 years, and after Wilde's death in 1900, went back and forth with condemnation and appreciation of him. He was of noble birth, was very spoiled, yet he was 'the beauty' and a fine poet himself--Wilde also expected an allowance from him, which Douglas was somewhat willing to grant, but quite amusingly, at his own whim; Wilde was spoiled too, but because of his fame. Wilde had himself earlier given Douglas money, which he felt quite free to spend on hustlers. What is not often understood is that even when homosexuality is accepted in various ways in enlightened cultures, the kind of flamboyance we associate with Wilde is almost always looked askance at and never has much status. (as @notcharlotte mentioned, Wilde had two children, but so did Douglas eventually marry and have one son.) This is what Bosie's father, the 9th Marquess of Queensberry was so allergic to, and he's the one who got Wilde jailed-- but it was Wilde's own case against the Marquess that backfired on him--a terrible miscalculation on Wilde's part, probably due to his smugness. Lord Douglas, with all his wild passions, did well enough with so much excess, but we remember Wilde's works more, and I adore the film The Importance of Being Earnest beyond all measure. It's in my all-time Top 5--as if Edith Evans alone wasn't worth it, but it also had everybody else--Joan Greenwood as Gwendolyn Fairfax ("I distinctly asked for bread and butter...and you have given me CAKE!"), Michael Redgrave, Dorothy Tutin and even Margaret Rutherford as 'Prism'.

So it's not always been a struggle, or wasn't for Leonardo, who also didn't live in squalour like Michelangelo, despite his own success. Leonard lived well, and I was surprised that his sexuality is so rarely mentioned--he was obviously more what we think of now as 'top', Michelangelo's was more cerebral, if also dingier. But in the Victorian period, and then in the England that followed, there was going to be a lot of conflict--Bosie was a supreme example. The high-born were hardly immune, there are all sorts of stories like that of Rupert Brooke, and they're all different. Aubrey Beardsley did the illustrations, I believe, Wilde said Douglas's English translation of Salome from the French sucked, etc., hurt feelings everywhere.

ADDED: Mainly, there's also the Turing Test, which he developed in 1950 to test a machine's ability to be indistinguishable from a human in terms of intelligent behaviour. People I talk to in one sector of the net were always talking about it, and I know a guy who believes that the only good is AI, even if humans become extinct. But that's neither here nor there.

The dates were important, though. It was 1952 that he was prosecuted, only 2 years later. This is utterly tragic, and it does prove the difference in humans--I would definitely have chosen prison over castration, and find it astonishing that anyone wouldn't--but there was his work. But it is also nearly unfathomable to me that England was still that backward that recently. Of course, in the U.S. it was more so, with the sodomy laws (however rarely enforced unless publicly acted out), but I'll have to do some research myself to find out if US was using chemical castration like this. I had never gotten it through my head that this is really what happened to Alan Turing and so unbelievably relatively recently.
 
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