On December 23, 2013, Queen Elizabeth II granted a mercy pardon to Alan Turing… posthumously, of course. Turing was convicted of “gross indecency” in 1952 for having sex with a man; in other words he was convicted of being a homosexual. He was chemically castrated and committed suicide in 1954. Prior to being dragged before the raging and fearful eyes of the public, Alan Turing was crucial in defeating the Nazi’s, and in designing one of the world’s first computers.
Just as Abraham Lincoln ended slavery with the Emancipation Proclamation on January 1, 1863, the Sexual Offences Act of 1967 decriminalized homosexuality in the UK. There was quite the absence of bloodshed, uproar, and civil war in the latter act, yet it was no less an important step forward for humanity. In both instances, governments decided it was wrong to enslave or persecute individuals based on factors that were inherent at birth.
To begin with, this pardon will not bring Turing back to life, nor will it be able to posthumously erase the pain and the emotional suffering he endured throughout his life, and particularly the last few years of his life. As the saying goes, if you apologize to the broken plate, does it fix the plate?
More importantly, it is not the Queen nor the government who needs to issue a pardon, it is the family of Alan Turing who need to pardon the government and society for what was done to him. In fact, it is in the hands of the entire LGBT community… They need to decide if they forgive us for over a thousand years of persecution.
In his letter from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote: “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
From the very beginning when slaves first arrived in North America, there were white settlers who opposed slavery. And through the years until the abolishment of slavery in 1863, people of many colors and creeds spoke out and fought against slavery, and their names and their deeds are recorded in honor in history books.
Why do we as a society direct so much hate and fear and anger and violence at them?
Because we do not approve of love as the LGBT community sees it. Perhaps we heterosexuals feel there is enough of our love in the world that we do not need any variations on it. Beside the point that love is love, and that the LGBT community has always been a part of our communities, I do not feel that heterosexual love is enough. Nor do I feel it has been nothing but a bastion of goodness and warmth in the world. What of our love for them? Our gay brothers and sisters, our fellow humans who are still searching for their identity, all of these people whom we loved just prior to the moment they shared their true selves with us. Can love end at the moment a mask is removed? Can love end because the mask was removed?
This is not a question that should be put to governments and society; this is a question for the LGBT community. They committed crimes only in the eyes of unjust governments and against unjust laws, and they were persecuted out of fear. And so it is up to them to decide if we as a society are worthy of their forgiveness.