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Drag Race UK’s The Vivienne apologises for not knowing who Alan Turing is and makes important point about drag’s ‘power to teach’

Reiss Smith January 21, 2021
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The Vivienne, Alan Turing, Tia Kofi

The Vivienne apologised for not understanding Tia Kofi's Alan Turing reference. (YouTube/BBC)

Drag Race UK winner The Vivienne has apologised for not knowing who Alan Turing is, prompting an important conversation about the power of drag to educate.

The Vivienne blundered while reviewing the Drag Race UK season two opener, in which the queens were asked to dress up as a British gay icon.

She was hosting the web series Fashion Photo Review with Raja, when both queens admitted they didn’t get the reference behind Tia Kofi’s much-memed Alan Turing drag.

“Im going to assume that maybe this Alan Turing person might have been cross-dresser too?” Raja, winner of Drag Race season three, asked.

The Vivienne replied: “Well, girl, just like you I haven’t got a clue who Alan Turing is.”

The exchange sparked a passionate debate about the importance of LGBT+ history, and prompted The Vivienne to issue a heartfelt apology.

“As an LGBTQ+ person I apologise for not knowing the reference in Tia Kofi’s look,” the Drag Race UK season one winner tweeted.

“This shows the power of drag to educate and teach. I’m still learning and growing as a person, so thank you Tia for educating me about Alan Turing and his importance in history.”

She added that when filming, “we literally see a photo” and not the full episode, which saw Tia explain Turing’s part in ending the Second World War, and how he was prosecuted for being gay.

“A huge mistake on my part,” she added.

Tia Kofi agreed with The Vivienne’s point on drag being a tool for learning, tweeting: “Drag can definitely educate and teach.

“This is exactly why I chose to do a tribute to Alan Turing this week on Drag Race UK.

“I’m soooo happy more people are learning about his genius and the impact on all of our lives.”

A number of fans were in agreement.

Who was Alan Turing?

Alan Turing was a giant of mathematics and computer science, whose innovative codebreaking skills played a vital part in ending the Second World War, and whose genius laid the foundations for personal computing and artificial intelligence (AI).

Born in 1912, Turing was educated at Cambridge and two years later delivered a paper on the idea of his “Turing machine”, a processor to the modern computer.

After studying for a PhD at Princeton University, he returned to Cambridge and soon joined the government’s codebreaking squad.

During the Second World War, Turing worked at the famous Bletchley Park where he cracked the Enigma code use by Nazis to transmit secret communications.

It is said that without the efforts of Turing and his colleagues, the war might have continued for two to four years longer. Each year the war raged on claimed the lives of about seven million.

After the war ended, Turing continue to innovate. In 1950 he proposed the “Turing test” to determine whether a computer was artificially intelligent. Seven decades on, it remains an important concept in AI.

Alan Turing
Alan Turing was a gay man, a scientist and a war hero. (Getty)

Sadly, Turing is remembered for the inhumane treatment he received as a gay man as much as he is for his achievements.

Homosexuality was still a crime when Turing was alive, and in 1952 he was arrested after being forced to admit to so-called acts of “gross indecency”.

He was given a choice between prison or probation on the condition he undergo chemical castration – hormonal treatment to eliminate his libido, and therefore any gay sexual urges. He chose the latter.

His security clearance was revoked and he was banned from entering the US due to his conviction – though he was able to continue his academic work, his career as he knew it was over.

Two years later, on June 7, 1954, Alan Turing died by suicide. He was just 41.

Homosexuality was partially decriminalised 13 years later, but it wasn’t until 2009 that the government apologised for the state’s “horrifying” malfeasance.

“We’re sorry, you deserved so much better,” wrote then-prime minister Gordon Brown in a statement.

“This recognition of Alan’s status as one of Britain’s most famous victims of homophobia is another step towards equality and long overdue.”

“But even more than that, Alan deserves recognition for his contribution to humankind … It is thanks to men and women who were totally committed to fighting fascism, people like Alan Turing, that the horrors of the Holocaust and of total war are part of Europe’s history and not Europe’s present.”

Four years on, in 2014, on Turing was granted a posthumous royal pardon, and in 2017 a law was passed in his name allowing thousands of men convicted of historical gay sex offences to apply for a formal pardon.

At the time it was passed, 15,000 queer men were said to be eligible for a pardon, while another 50,000 who had died had their convictions deleted.

However, as of September 2019 fewer than 200 living people had successfully had received pardons.

Related topics: Alan Turing, Drag Race UK, the vivienne, Tia Kofi

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