To the likely discomfort of my neighbours, I have taken to flying the GAY PRIDE flag in my yard, during the month of June, also known as PRIDE month.
The reason I fly it can best be explained by the recounting of the story of British national, Dr. Alan Turing, mathematician. During the Second World War, Turing answered his country’s call to duty by working as a cryptographer, employed to break the Nazi’s Enigma military code. He was instrumental in doing so, and can be credited with assisting in shortening the course of the Second World War and saving countless lives.
He was also the creator, in 1936, of the “Turing Machine,” an early computer. As a result of his work, Dr. Turing is considered by many as the father of theoretical computer science. That is something you might want to remember the next time you use your computer or smart phone.
But, Turing was a homosexual, and was convicted as such under British law in the early 1950’s. He accepted chemical castration as an alternative to a prison sentence. He died in 1954, allegedly by suicide. He was 41 years of age. His genius and potential future contributions to science were lost.
In 2009 British society had a change of heart relative to Dr. Turing. He received an official, posthumous apology from the British Prime Minister, and a subsequent pardon from Queen Elizabeth. He is now considered a hero. His likeness appears on British 50 pound notes.
Canada has its own dark history relative to the treatment of homosexuals and others in the LGBTQ spectrum. Beginning in the 1950’s and lasting until 1992, there was a federal government initiative to seek out and purge the federal civil service, the Canadian Armed Forces, and the RCMP of gay and transgendered persons. It destroyed the careers and lives of thousands of Canadians.
Government persecution of gay and transgendered persons did not stop there. As late as 1967 the Supreme Court of Canada considered homosexuals to be dangerous criminal offenders. (Ref Klippert v. the Queen, 1967).
While there was partial decriminalization of homosexual acts by the federal government in 1969, police sought out and prosecuted gay behavior as late as 1981, the year in which Metro Toronto Police conducted four raids on gay bath houses.
For years after, homosexuality continued to be considered a disgusting and immoral behavior. A segment of Canadian society still holds that view today. Gay and transgendered persons are the continued focus of discriminatory behavior, by some, ranging from ostracism to acts of violence.
It was only last year that the Canadian government banned Conversion Therapy, the bigoted and widely discredited practise of trying to change a person’s sexual or gender identity, from homosexual or transgendered to heterosexual and cis gendered. The battle for acceptance of LGBTQ folk by Canadian society seems to continue.
Very few, if any, LGBTQ Canadians will make the kind of individual contribution that Dr. Alan Turing did. But in their hundreds of thousands, as they exist in Canadian society, as our brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, parents, sons, daughters, and non-binary persons, in a variety of occupations and professions, their contributions are inestimable and invaluable. They deserve our respect, acceptance and support.
There was a slogan I saw years ago, scrawled by a group of young people on a police barricade at a protest in Ottawa. It read, “THERE’S NO JUSTICE. THERE’S JUST US.” We cannot always depend on the courts, the government, our police or military to do what is right and just. It is up to the individual. It is in that spirit that I, an individual, fly the PRIDE flag in support of the LGBTQ community.
- Terry Storey, Olds