The Legacy of Alan Turing

Updated: Oct 6, 2020

Welcome to the LGBT Technology Partnership! We are incredibly proud to be the first site dedicated to the betterment and social welfare of LGBT communities primarily by exploring the unique technology and communications issues of specific concern to LGBT communities. Our mission is to provide information, education, strategic outreach and training for LGBT organizations and LGBT Member groups as well as engage with telecommunications, technology and cable companies to ensure such issues are considered and addressed in policy and strategic discussions. The Partnership aims to provide a centralized voice at a national level for its LGBT Member groups and ensure that policy implementation at the local, state and federal levels addresses the unique technological needs of LGBT communities.

We inaugurate our blog with a nod to Alan Turing’s legacy and what his story tells us about the intersection between technology and LGBT communities. Alan Turing, widely considered to be the father of modern computer science, was one of technology’s greatest thinkers as well as someone who was persecuted and ultimately destroyed because of his sexual orientation. Born in London in 1912, he established himself as a visionary early on by publishing a paper that introduced an idea called the Universal Turing Machine which for the first time laid out the principle that a machine (hardware) could be programmed (software) to perform tasks. This concept describes the basis for all modern computers and was years ahead of its time. During World War II, he was lead on a British government team that broke Germany’s notorious Enigma code, which Germany used to encrypt its top-secret military communications.

Breaking this code was considered one of the pivotal events that determined the outcome of the war. After the war, Turing helped to develop the first modern computers and became a leader in the field of artificial intelligence. Sadly, his life started coming apart in 1952 after a burglary investigation resulted in him being outed as having a relationship with a 19 year-old man. He was arrested and pled guilty in an effort to minimize the scandal and the potential harm to his career. The judge overseeing the case offered him a choice of whether to spend a year behind bars or endure a hormone treatment to cure him (essentially a chemical castration that caused him to, among other things, grow breasts). Turing chose the hormone treatment and committed suicide via cyanide poisoning a year later, just two weeks before his 42nd birthda