Turing

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Gordon Brown has issued a formal apology for the British government’s prosecution and persecution of the late Alan Turing, and by extension, offered an apology to all homosexual men* who suffered under the heterosexist laws of the time. Unlike so many official apologies, this one uses uncompromising language to acknowledge the enormity of the wrong committed. A paragraph from the speech serves as an example (emphasis mine in all cases):

Thousands of people have come together to demand justice for Alan Turing and recognition of the appalling way he was treated. While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can’t put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him. Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted under homophobic laws were treated terribly. Over the years millions more lived in fear of conviction.

The speech also draws attention to the cause-effect relationship between Turing’s (putatively rehabilitative) punishment and his suicide.

Of course, it is only words, not acts. What has been done cannot be undone. But surely this is a reflection of a welcome shift in our mores, an erosion of long-held bigotry, that the P.M.’s public contrition extends beyond the public figure of Turing and embraces all those other gay men* wronged by the same laws.

*Note that Brown specifies “men” in this statement.

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