On Alan Turing, Me and My Son


Recently, my husband and I went with a friend to see The Imitation Game. The movie is about Alan Turing, a brilliant mathematician who helped crack the secret code created by the Nazi’s Enigma machine in World War II. It’s estimated that this shortened the war by at least two years and saved millions of lives.

Most people outside the world of computing have never heard of Alan Turing. Not only was his work during the war classified for fifty years, he died in 1953 from cyanide poisoning, possibly suicide. Alan was 41 when he died. He also died in disgrace. He had been convicted of indecency in a time when sexual relations with another man were a criminal offense. He spent his life hiding his sexuality for fear of rejection and the social and criminal consequences. This brilliant war hero was never able to talk about his role in breaking Enigma. Nor could he talk about his true self. He most certainly could not have imagined living his life as a successful, openly gay, man.

We related to many aspects of the movie. When I first came out, I couldn’t imagine being able to marry and have a family with another man. I had also once considered joining the military, but ultimately couldn’t accept that I’d have to lie and live in the closet through my years of service, as Turing had done for his. Still, I never worried about being arrested and prosecuted for being gay.

The three of us left the theater feeling very thankful to have been born in our time and not Turing’s. We are all in our 40’s, like Turing was when he died. Yet we are successful, accepted members of our professions and communities. We are all openly gay and legally married. My husband and I have two adopted children. Our friend and his husband have hosted and cared for several foreign exchange students. While marriage equality has yet to come to some states, the federal government recognizes our marriages. It is all but inevitable that same-sex couples will soon be able to legally marry nationwide. How very different our lives and possibilities are than Alan Turing’s.

Which brings me to my son. He came into our home just before his 13th birthday. We knew from his case worker that he was gay before we met him. At that point, he had only come out to her. Later, just before his 14th birthday, he decided to come out to the rest of his world through social media. We were very proud of him for the courage and strength he showed at such a young age to be honest and true to himself and let the chips fall where they may. It also made us wonder at how different his world is from the one in which we grew up. Being openly gay in middle school would have seemed close to a death wish for us at his age. For our son and his peers, it has been largely a non-issue.

Today we marvel at the world in which our son is growing up. Of course there are still inequities and serious struggles, and there will always be those who have issues with the LGBT community. Sadly, not all LGBT youth have as accepting a reality as does our son. But we know that his reality includes same-sex couples living openly as successful, accepted members of their families and communities, raising their children in peace. He knows, without question, that he can date whomever he chooses. He can bring them home to our family, and we will accept them completely. He will be able to marry anyone he pleases, and his marriage will be just as legal and valid as his sister’s. If he chooses to join the military, he will be able to do so and serve openly with honesty, integrity and honor. The world is his to enjoy – without limitation.

Ye, we aren’t looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. We know that countless numbers of men and women have been, and continue to be, persecuted simply for being who they are. We understand how fortunate we are just to be able to raise our children and to glimpse the possibilities in store for them. We can only imagine how the world may be for our grandchildren. As for our son, we marvel with full hearts at how different his opportunities are than ours were at his age – just as we are grateful for how different our lives and opportunities are than Alan Turing’s were in his time.