Ahead of the centenary of his birth, the Lesbian and Gay Foundation has unveiled a new award in its Homo Heroes series dedicated to gay computer genius and Second World War codebreaker Alan Turing.
The LGF’s Homo Heroes Awards, nominations for which open this week, will honour Alan Turing with an award for individuals or groups which have helped combat homophobia.
Turing, who helped break the Enigma codes during the War, contributing to the Allied victory, was convicted under Britain’s indecency laws in 1952 for having a relationship with another man. He underwent chemical castration by the injection of female hormones instead of a prison sentence and killed himself two years later aged 41.
As part of his career’s legacy, now on display at the War’s code-breaking headquarters Bletchley Park, the ‘Turing test’, in which a human asks a computer and a fellow human written questions and receives written answers while trying tell whether one is a machine, has become a classic mark of a computer’s ability to exhibit intelligent behaviour.
The new Alan Turing Memorial Award given by the LGF will reward individuals or groups who have made a significant contribution to the fight against homophobia in Manchester and was unveiled today ahead of the 100th anniversary of his birth tomorrow.
Councillor Kevin Peel, Manchester City Council’s lead member for gay men’s issues, said: “Alan Turing’s achievements during his life were remarkable. Had he not been hounded to death by the state because of his sexuality, who knows what other breakthroughs he could have made. Sadly, we will never know.
“The fact that we are celebrating his life and work shows how society has moved on, but the battle against homophobia continues. On a daily basis people still face prejudice because they are gay, even in our great city.”
In 2009, after a campaign led by Richard Dawkins, Stephen Fry, Peter Tatchell and supported by PinkNews.co.uk, the then prime minister Gordon Brown issue an apology for Turing’s treatment on behalf of the British government.
Paul Martin OBE, Chief Executive of the LGF added: “Alan Turing made a monumental contribution to the freedom that every single one of us enjoys in the UK today. What makes Turing’s legacy so tragic is that in the final months and years of his life, many of his own freedoms were denied to him.
“He was punished because of his sexuality and had to make the humiliating choice between imprisonment or chemical castration. This ultimately led to him taking his own life. Had Turing been alive today, he would have rightly been celebrated as a hero.
“The Homo Heroes Awards provide an opportunity to celebrate people, businesses and organisations in our everyday lives that have made a significant contribution.”
Other awards in 2012 currently seeking nominations include community champion, business, role model and LGBT venue of the year.
Councillor Bev Craig, lead member for lesbian issues, added: “We’re really pleased to be working in partnership with the LGF to recognise those people who stand up for Manchester’s LGBT communities.
“Alan Turing was not ashamed of who he was – but he paid the ultimate price. No-one should have to end their lives because of bigotry.”
Liberal Democrat MP for Manchester Withington John Leech tabled an Early Day Motion at Parliament this week for the government to pardon Turing or disregard his conviction for homosexuality, a Downing Street petition for which has been signed by 34,000 people.