Hi, a friend wanted to share this writing elsewhere; and I think it’s genuinely good and necessary queer history that needs to be shared too. So I would appreciate if you shared it! Without further ado…
[Content and Trigger Warning: Homophobia, Transphobia, Weaponized Dysphoria, TERF Island]
A Post on Transgender History and the Horrors That Still Linger Told Through Alan Turing
I’m just going to start writing, I don’t know a better way to put any of this but… I hate hearing people in computer science talk about Alan Turing. I hate it. I hate every fucking time it happens because inevitably it’s a race for them to talk about how sad they got by their government treating them poorly and how good boy Turing died because his government treated him wrongly, and then decide to stop there instead of doing the last 5% of research you need to do to realize JUST how ghoulish the UK was to him.
So, let’s do a time history trip, For context with scale. 1919 to 1933 was the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft. The Nazi’s burned a lot of books and killed a lot of people, and this is where those pictures that show book burnings usually come from. This is also where the first trans woman to have gcs was probably killed in 1933 as our records end. Magnus Hirschfeld was experimenting with trans people, like with their consent to try different stuff. They realized that estrogen and testosterone had feminizing and masculinizing agents. They knew all this stuff happened from this point on and had the research for it. Then the Nazi’s rolled in and destroyed everything and burnt anything that was burnable. These are the books that you always see, in photos passed around when people talk about the Nazi’s burning books.
Fast forward to January 1952, where a genius computer scientist named Alan Turing. He was indispensable to the world’s efforts to stop the Nazi, by being the lead researcher behind the Enigma Cipher’s end, and became a national treasure of the UK. One day his house was robbed, Turing had a few weeks before found a lover of 19 years old and they did know the person who robbed him. Turing called the police and talked about everything going on honestly and openly about how he was possibly robbed by someone that his gay lover knew. This immediately took the detectives off of the robbery and immediately turned into a “This man is Homosexual” charges because that was all they needed. He at trial was charged with ‘Gross Indecency’ and went through chemical castration in lieu of imprisonment. His mother stood by him. His brother did not.
Spoilers btw. Chemical castration in 1952 was “Guys take estrogen and a testosterone suppressant”. 20-30 years ago we knew that this had feminizing effects. The court knew this, The queen knew this, The prosecutors knew this. His prosecutor maintained that the enlargement of his breasts would help the homosexual Turing fully grasp his mistake. In his journals he writes a lot of depression, and a large part of it is that he was getting a more feminine body with breasts.
One year later, in 1953. His treatment ended, so at the end of his penalty implanted a hormonal “balloon”, which would kept on secreting oestrogens.
One year after that Turing had committed suicide. The man who had done so much for his country, killed himself essentially because of Gender Dysphoria that the justice system of the UK caused.
60 years later, in 2013, Turing was officially pardoned for being gay. I find zero solace in this when there are no discussions about just how ghastly his own country treated him, and even now in almost any media piece you can find that talks about Turing… None of them actually talk about the nuance that shows how ghastly his country was to him. Everyone I’ve seen in the discussions of Turing usually summarize as “Gave hormones” for “chemical castration” and then he decided to kill himself because his country was bad to him, and not “They literally gave him gender dysphoria so bad that he would rather die”.
The worst part about this entire conversation is that, I’m writing this in 2021. 2017 has the ‘Alan Turing’ law retroactively pardoning men who were criminalized under anti-gay laws. 2019 BBC series named him as ‘the greatest person in the 20th century’. The Bank of England is going to release a 50 pound note with him as the face in 2023. The UK acts like it is beyond the cruelty inflicted on Turing. Conversion Therapy is finally getting banned in the UK with delays still stalling it, but we still see the same malice inflicted on trans people. The same hormones that were forced upon Alan Turing to drive him to suicide are now being withheld from trans women with the same intent in mind. The method has changed, but the cruelty is the same, because as always: The cruelty is the point.