homosexuality

All posts tagged homosexuality

Posthumous pardon for WWII gay codebreaker Alan Turing as Royal prerogative of Mercy

Published December 24, 2013 by Katy J Went

After 60 years “father of modern computing” computer pioneer and WWII Enigma codebreaker Alan Turing has been given a posthumous royal pardon. Turing shortened the War, it is estimated, by 2 years saving millions of lives as 11 million were dying annually. He mechanised the manual codebreaking work done at Bletchley Park at the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS or GCCS) which in 1946 became GCHQ.

Alan Turing sculptureIain Stewart, a Conservative MP involved in the cross-Party campaign to secure a royal pardon, said:

“Alan Turing was an incredibly important figure in our history. He was the father of computer science and the originator of the dominant technology of the late 20th century.”

LGBT History Month 2013 remembered LGBT pioneers in maths and science including Turing and 2012 was both the centenary of his birth and 50 years since his conviction for “gross indecency” in 1952. Offered prison or so-called “organo-therapy” – chemical castration, he chose the latter, but unlike for a trans person, pumping a gay man full of female hormones was a chemical assault on his gender and sexual orientation not a relief or longed-for medical intervention. His conviction ended his career through his lost security clearance. Two years later, aged just 41, he seems to have killed himself with a cyanide-laced poisoned apple.

Thousands have sought Dr Turing’s pardon over the years, tens of thousands signed a 2009 petition which led to a public apology from No.10 Downing Street at Prime Minister Gordon Brown apologised on behalf of the nation or at least the then laws and Government that treated him “so inhumanely”, but as yet no pardon – royal or otherwise. Brown said in his statement on 10 September 2009:

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

Over 4 years later, it is indeed long overdue! LibDem peer Lord Sharkey introduced a Private Member’s Bill in the House of Lords on 25th July 2012 which called for a statutory pardon for Dr Turing. The e-petition that year received over 37,000 signatures. A royal pardon is a rare thing these days, formerly used to waive a death sentence, and usually only granted where a person has been found innocent of an offence and the approach made by a family member. In this case as the Ministry of Justice have said:

“Uniquely on this occasion a pardon has been issued without either requirement having been met, reflecting the exceptional nature of Alan Turing’s achievements.”

The pardon states:

Royal Pardon“Now know ye that we, in consideration of circumstances humbly represented unto Us, are Graciously pleased to grant Our Grace and Mercy unto the said Alan Mathison Turing and to grant him Our Free Pardon posthumously in respect of the said convictions; And to pardon and remit unto him the sentence imposed upon him aforesaid; And for so doing this shall be a sufficient Warrant. Given at Our Court at Saint James’s the 24th day of December 2013; In the sixty-second Year of Our Reign. By Her Majesty’s Command. Chris Grayling”

It is signed by Chris Grayling, Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice. The pedantic grammatical debate as to whether he should have used St James’ or St James’s is an age old one.

The capitalisation throughout puts emphasis on respect for royalty and the “Royal prerogative of mercy”, an anachronistic and patronising term. It is a throwback to the days of rule by divine right and the monarch being the nearest thing to God, who alone had the power to forgive. It is time this too was ended.

The pardon itself, though gratefully acknowledged, raises other issues, although why should we be grateful for something that should never have happened and should not need a Queen or their representative to enact it? But why him, and not other gay men? Are we rewarding his War-shortening hero status and “excusing” his crime under 1950s laws? Do others fail to receive the same pardon because they were not war heroes, that is a slap in the face for other gay veterans. What about those imprisoned or given chemical castration or ECT against their will to rid them of homosexual desires? What about the medical pathologisation of homosexuality in the DSM an ICD (International Classification of Diseases) that continued after the criminal law was revoked and that of transsexualism that continues to this day?

In an enlightened age, although it may make a mockery of retrospective legal change, it is also mockery of human decency not to pardon all for breaching laws that we now consider an affront to human rights. Turing’s “Royal” pardon should be extended to tens of thousands of people convicted of homosexuality-related crimes, campaigners have said.

Veteran LGBT activist and campaigner Peter Tatchell said:

“Singling out Turing just because he is famous is wrong. Unlike Alan, many thousands of ordinary gay and bisexual men who were convicted under the same law have never been offered a pardon and will never get one. An apology and pardon is due to another 50,000-plus men who were also convicted of consenting, victimless homosexual relationships during the 20th century.”

It is also poignant as it comes at a time when President Putin in Russia has brought in Section 28 style laws that have criminalised educating the young about homosexuality and cast a shadow over February’s forthcoming Sochi Winter Olympics.

Worse, still, is Uganda’s recent passing of a Bill that criminalises homosexuality with terms of up to life imprisonment and makes the non-reporting of gay people also a criminal offence. The so-called “Kill the Gays bill” was passed just 4 days ago and is already raising fears  of an impending tide of violence, fear and witch hunts, as in Russia. Homosexual “gross indecency”, similar to the British law under which Turing was convicted, is still on the statute books of Uganda, and new stronger laws are being made, with many calling for the death penalty for homosexuality. Some of these campaigns are supported by fundamentalist Christians in the USA.

The same argument that Putin has used, that homosexuality and the “genderless and infertile Western tolerance” destroys traditional family, and that people need laws to protect them from it, is being peddled around many of the 38 African countries that ban it. PM David Cameron has called for aid cuts to nations such as Uganda that deny LGBT rights.

Grateful and grudging though my appreciation is for this pardon, it should be the beginning of blanket retrospective amnesties not an act of royal “Grace and Mercy”, though it is fitting that this pardon comes at Christmas, which symbolically, whether you hold Christian beliefs or not, marks the birth of a royal pardon for all.

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Pope, Pat and Tutu all speak out on faith and LGBT

Published July 30, 2013 by Katy J Went
This week has seen Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Pope and firebrand Pat Robertson, speak out on LGBT identity and faith positions. Perhaps the biggest surprise was the usually extreme fundamentalist homophobic Pat Robertson who, when questioned on TV about transgender, said:

“I don’t think there’s any sin associated with that. I don’t condemn somebody for doing that…It’s not for you to decide or to judge.” http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/29/pat-robertson-transgender_n_3672244.html

Is age or grace softening him or is he seeking to get one up on the Pope’s latest announcement that being gay or a woman might actually be ok, just don’t ask to be a priest.

Pope Francis has affirmed gay orientation, but not practice (which still requires forgiveness) nor equal marriage. Also, on women, they are to be more proiminent but  “But with regards to their ordination, “the Church has spoken and says no… That door is closed.” http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-23489702

Meanwhile, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, of South Africa, has blown people away with his statement on homosexuality, coming from a continent where even more usually liberal-minded Anglicanism is homophobic. He said that he would rather go to hell than a homophobic heaven and could not worship a homophobic God. He was speaking at the launch of a United Nations gay rights program in South Africa:

“We have to build a society that is accepting and it is not a free society until every single person knows they are acknowledged and accepted for who they are.”

“I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this.”

“I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place.”

“I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid. For me, it is at the same level.”, “I think it’s as utterly unjust as racism ever was.”

“Can you imagine me having said it’s unjust to penalise something they cannot do anything about, their race or gender, and then to keep quiet when people are hounded, people are killed, because of their sexual orientation?”

South Africa may have deep divisions and violence still but it is the only African country to fully support equality of race, sex and LGB identity, allowing gay marriage since 2006, 7 years before the UK and France. The laws passed with overwhelming political support.

South Africa was also the first country in the world to protect sexual orientation as a human right in its constitution. Discrimination on the basis of race, sex, gender or sexual orientation, has been against the law there since the 1994 interim and 1997 final constitutions.

Homophobic attacks in South Africa are, if anything, on the rise and especially of lesbians. Several having been murdered and even mutilated over the last year.

Of the world’s 76 nations that criminalise homosexuality 39 are in sub-Saharan Africa, with some of their homophobic campaigning allegedly encouraged and supported by American fundamentalist Christian organisations.

Transgender and Intersex people have also had a level of legal recognition for gender change since 2004 when the Alteration of Sex Description and Sex Status Act (2003) came in to force, although in 10 years only 95 people have taken advantage of it since medical and/or surgical proof is often deemed to be required and many officials are still transphobic and reluctant to implement the law according to reports.

It’s slow speed ahead, but a seed of change nonetheless. One can easily jump on the ongoing LGBTIphobia, and one should – yet acknowledge too that 14 nations and 14 US states bringing in same-sex marriage laws, with several denominations increasingly and fully accepting LGBTI identities is a gathering storm of progress. Bigotry will not fall in a day and inching towards equality should be celebrated without letting them off the hook for hypocrisy and double standards.

Equal progress – same-sex equality slowly but surely

Published May 10, 2013 by Katy J Went
In the UK equal marriage is progressing, despite disbelief that a Tory government would ever bring it in and despite high UKIP local election vote share allegedly based on immigration, EU and equal marriage fears. The Queen’s Speech suggested the Tories would do something about EU and immigration to try and win back some of their traditional vote but that the Equal Marriage proposals would continue in spite of back bench opposition. Meanwhile, another US state, Delaware, along with Rhode Island, has progressed its ‘gay’ or equal marriage legislation, the 10th and 11th states to do so. Yesterday, an historic vote for the Midwest USA as Minnesota closely approved equal marriage progress, making it the 12th state, which, along with the District of Columbia means 25% of US states have or are approving same-sex marriage into law. 

Last month 3 more countries – France, New Zealand and Uruguay, joined 11 others that allow equal marriage. Meanwhile, 75 nations still criminalise homosexuality, some with the death penalty. In Britain and in Australia it is the Green Party that have made equal marriage a party policy.

The former Chief Constable of West Midlands Police, now Lord Dear, has scaremongered in the House of Lords that introducing same-sex marriage might “create such opposition to homosexuals in general that the climate of tolerance and acceptance in this country that we have all championed and supported and seen flourish over recent years could well be set back by decades.” What utter rubbish, has equal marriage in over a dozen countries, back as far as 2001 in the Netherlands, resulted in increased homophobia? 

Lord Dear also related how 3 days before the last general election, Cameron said he’d no plans to introduce same-sex marriage. This private comment conflicts with a more public profession by Cameron to at least consider it. A month earlier Cameron had already written on PinkNews that he was open to changing the law on marriage to “further to guarantee equality.”, and that the Conservative party had committed to consider the case for same-sex marriage in its equality manifesto. 

 
Surely the avalanche effect of snowballing acceptance these last 12 years will eventually see EU and US wide acceptance of equal marriage, LGBT rights and overall society’s misplaced fears proven unfounded. Extremists will remain a vociferous minority, but just as nobody is calling for the disenfranchising of women voters or the reintroduction of slavery, they too will one day fall silent.

Transgender on TV

Published April 2, 2008 by Katy J Went

Transgender and transvestitism are becoming more ok on the appropriately abbreviated TV. In the last month alone I have caught the following shows.

BBC2 ran a programme on Transsexuals in Iran, watched by 1.7 million UK viewers, portraying how this Islamic country allows gender change but not homosexuality. More sex change operations are carried out there than anywhere apart from Thailand. Admittedly, for some it seemed the only way to have a legal gay relationship, and others have suggested that it is part of an Iranian program to stamp out homosexuality. Crossdressing is only allowed if you are scheduled for surgery, hence transvestitism is illegal but transsexuality ok. Triple standards.

C4’s Cutting Edge documentary Sex Change Soldier aired on 20 March 2008. Jan Hamilton, formerly Captain Ian Hamilton was a British paratrooper officer who served in the Gulf War and Afghanistan. S/he is the first British Army officer to complete gender reassignment but was dismissed from the army and cut off from her family. (Wiki)

Sexcetera ran episodes on shemale parties and visits to Fairplay Imaging‘s crossdressing services on Staten Island, NY.

Married US senator to be William Baldwin cannot end his affair and love for his transgender shemale lover in Dirty Sexy Money, the new hit US show.

Gorgeous lesbian and sexily named Portia de Rossi (she changed her name at just 15 after the famed character in Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice) from Sirens and Ally McBeal now appears in Arrested Development. In a currently aired episode she is passed off by her daughter Maeby as a pre-op transexual to her school chums as her mum is getting more attention than she is and trying to date one of the high school seniors.

In the same show Barry Zuckerkorn, the Bluth family attorney, played by the Fonz, Henry Winkler is portrayed as having ambiguous sexual preferences including transvestite hookers.

Back to Portia, who wouldn’t? She is now dating Ellen DeGeneres since coming out as lesbian in 2004/5. First she feared Hollywood’s reaction then she had problems convincing anyone she was gay!

Portia de Rossi and spookily similar seeming Joely Richardson, who plays Julia McNamara coupled up as a gay relationship on Nip/Tuck in 2007, an episode about to air in the UK. Nip/Tuck creator Ryan Murphy says that was no accident “Since the show is always about the search for identity”.

Julia’s coming out to her ex-husband Sean and fellow surgeon Christian leads the men to offer vile anti-lesbian insults. Apparently,the scripts brought back some of de Rossi’s own early experiences. “It makes me remember all the people I had to come out to and how often I had to come out,” said de Rossi, “People think you just hold a press conference, but you don’t – you tell individuals. And you cross your fingers with every single person you care about, hoping that they’ll love you just the same.”