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Bank of England and British Intelligence Pride Month tributes to Alan Turing

“Though we should never forget the tragedy of his life being cut short, we should always endeavour to learn from his legacy.”

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Dr. Alan Turing 'Rainbow artwork' revealed on what would have been his 109th birthday Wednesday for Pride month. ( Courtesy of GCHQ)

LONDON – He was quirky, aloof and in the modern vernacular just a tad bit weird. A mathematical genius whose ground breaking work in the art of ‘the maths’ and what later became known as computer sciences led to the Allied Victory in Europe over Nazi Germany- and Dr. Alan Turing was gay.

It was his sexual orientation that led to his loss of his career and then upon conviction for breaking British laws against homosexual acts- “gross indecency” a criminal offence in the UK he was prosecuted for in 1952- he died in 1954, 16 days before his 42nd birthday after committing suicide.

In 2009 then British Prime Minister Gordon Brown made an official public apology on behalf of the British government and people for “the appalling way he was treated,” followed by Queen Elizabeth II granting him a posthumous pardon in 2013.

Turing was for decades one of the unsung heroes of Bletchley Park and the codebreakers who were able through the first systematic electronic method cracked Germany’s infamous Enigma machine’s encoded messages.

Some historians estimate that Bletchley Park’s massive codebreaking operation, especially the breaking of Kriegsmarine’s U-boat fleet’s Enigma codes, shortened the war in Europe by as many as two to four years. If U-boat Enigma had not been broken, and the war had continued for another two to three years, a further 14 to 21 million people might have been killed.

There are those who claim that he stands alongside British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, General of the Army and Allied Supreme Dwight David Eisenhower, and others of the wartime principals as a leading figure in the Allied victory over Hitler. There should be a statue of him in London among Britain’s other leading war heroes they say.

Instead of a statue though, on the 109th anniversary of his birth in London this past Wednesday June 23, the Bank of England’s newly-designed £50 note featuring the portrait of Turing entered circulation.

Courtesy of the Bank of England

But the likely the best tribute during this Pride Month 2021 however, came from the descendent of the wartime Government Code and Cypher School that Turing and the Bletchley Park codebreakers worked under, now known as the Government Communications Headquarters, commonly referred to as GCHQ.

Pink News UK reported;

The 10 by 10 metre rainbow artwork was created by artist Joe Hill in consultation with staff from GCHQ’s Pride network, and has been installed in the centre of the GCHQ hub in Benhall, Gloucestershire, which is known as the Doughnut.

The work features a portrait of Turing, surrounded by wheels from the British Bombe, the machine he designed to break the Enigma code at Bletchley Park. The artwork also includes 15 hidden codes.

The piece will not remain permanently at the intelligence agency, but will be donated to organisations chosen by GCHQ’s Pride Network.

“Alan Turing is a role model for many here at GCHQ and a global icon as an LGBTQ+ person in the field of science and technology,” GCHQ’s Pride Network said in a statement released Wednesday. “Though we should never forget the tragedy of his life being cut short, we should always endeavour to learn from his legacy and create a safer and better future for LGBTQ+ people.”

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The Royal Mint marks 50 years of ‘Pride UK’ with first LGBTQ+ coin

This is first ever UK coin dedicated to Britain’s LGBTQ+ community, with color printing technology capturing the spirit of Pride UK

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Courtesy of The Royal Mint

LONDON – The Royal Mint this week revealed a commemorative 50p (50 pence) coin celebrating the 50th anniversary of Pride UK. This coin marks the first time Britain’s LGBTQ+ community has been celebrated on official UK coinage, and forms part of The Royal Mint’s wider commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The coin has been designed by Dominique Holmes, an east London artist, writer, and LGBTQ+ activist with a varied artistic background that includes tattoo artistry. The coin design features Pride in London’s values of Protest, Visibility, Unity, and Equality in rainbows. With state-of-the-art color printing technology, the iconic colors of the Pride progression flag are recreated with special-edition color versions of the silver and BU coins.

Since the first official Pride UK event in 1972, the Pride UK movement has been one of significant political and cultural importance. Now in its 50th year, Pride UK is more popular than ever and continues to fight against societal oppression and stand up for rights of the LGBTQ+ community.

“As part of the launch, The Royal Mint will make a financial contribution to London LGBT Community Pride. The 50p will not enter circulation but will be available to purchase via The Royal Mint website this summer.”

Asad Shaykh, Director of Marketing and Communications at Pride in London said, “It was a privilege to visit The Royal Mint as part of our partnership and see our coin being made.

“It humbles me greatly that the words that I coined for the brand, PROTEST, VISIBILITY, UNITY & EQUALITY – will be on an actual coin, opposite the Queen. This queer brown immigrant has come a long way, powered by hope, love and this city. Nowhere in the world had this been possible, except the UK. Pride in London feels very proud today.”

Clare Maclennan, Director of Commemorative Coin at The Royal Mint said, “The 50th Anniversary of Pride UK is a milestone celebration, and it is a privilege to mark 50 years of progress with this 50p coin. This is the first ever UK coin dedicated to Britain’s LGBTQ+ community, with color printing technology capturing the spirit of Pride UK with its iconic rainbow colors.

“It was an honour to host representatives from Pride in London at The Royal Mint recently to strike their own coins as part of the launch and discuss with them our commitment to diversity and inclusion within the business and show how we are reinventing for the future.”

As part of the launch, The Royal Mint will make a financial contribution to London LGBT Community Pride. The 50p will not enter circulation but will be available to purchase via The Royal Mint website this summer. The range includes gold, silver, and brilliant uncirculated versions.

The launch of the new LGBTQ+ coin forms part of The Royal Mint’s wider commitment to equality, diversity, and inclusion. Alongside D&I training for all employees, a network of D&I Champions has been established to support The Royal Mint’s wider vision of celebrating differences for an inclusive future. 

This commitment also extends to an LGBTQ+ society for employees at The Royal Mint; established last year.  Named ‘Enfys’, the Welsh word for Rainbow, the group has hosted Q+A sessions, shared their personal stories and encouraged visibility and allyship amongst employees.

To find out more information about the 50th Anniversary of Pride 50p and to register for updates please visit The Royal Mint website.

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Boris Johnson’s LGBTQ+ rights advisor criticizes advocacy groups over conference cancellation

Nick Herbert acknowledges episode damaged UK ‘global reputation’

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Nick Herbert is a member of the British House of Lords who advises British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on LGBTQ issues. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

LONDON — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s advisor on LGBTQ+ issues on Sunday issued a lengthy statement in response to the boycott of the government’s Safe to Be Me Conference that prompted its cancellation.

Nick Herbert, a member of the British House of Lords, in his statement described the conference’s cancellation as “damaging to the government and to the U.K.’s global reputation.” Herbert added it is “also an act of self-harm by the LGBT lobby.”

The conference was to have taken place in London from June 29-July 1.

The British government cancelled it last week after more than 100 British LGBTQ+ rights groups announced they would boycott it in response to Johnson’s decision to exclude Transgender people from a conversion therapy ban. LGBT Business Champion Iain Anderson on Tuesday resigned over the issue.

Here is Herbert’s entire statement.

The Safe To Be Me equality conference was to be a global first, bringing governments, businesses, parliamentarians, faith leaders and activists together to discuss how to advance LGBT rights across the world. Our focus was on ending violence, advancing decriminalization in the 71 jurisdictions where homosexual conduct is still a crime, ensuring access to HIV/AIDS treatments, and building the economic case for inclusion.

We had remarkable speakers lined up and exciting plans for a new public-private fund to support LGBT groups in countries where they need our help. There was enthusiasm from governments and organizations planning to attend, often indicating they would bring new announcements or commitments to progress LGBT rights. We aimed to drive real action globally, and one major government had already indicated that they would hold a successor event to take agreed initiatives forward.

The conference’s cancellation is damaging to the government and to the U.K.’s global reputation. But it is also an act of self-harm by the LGBT lobby. Having orchestrated the boycott which brought the event down, Stonewall now claims to be “truly sad that the government does not feel in a position to run the UK’s first global LGBT+ conference,” adding that this shows a lack of concern for equal rights. Crocodile tears will be of little consolation to brave human rights defenders in countries where the right to wave a rainbow flag without being arrested is a distant dream.   

LGBT groups were understandably dismayed, as was I, when a promised conversion therapy ban was suddenly dropped and then only partially reinstated just hours later. The bill will no longer extend to trans people, reflecting concern that more time is needed to ensure that legitimate therapies to help young people with gender dysphoria are not inadvertently criminalized. I believe such concerns can be allayed. Helping people come to terms with who they are is not the same as setting out to take them in one direction or the other — that is not therapy, it is ideology, and it can do irreparable harm.  

It is quite possible that Parliament will decide to include trans people in the new law, as many other countries have done, for instance in Canada, where Conservative MPs unanimously supported the fast-tracking of a ban. But we must address the concerns and make the case for change, deploying the evidence and reassuring parliamentarians that a ban which include trans people is a safe and justifiable course to take.

Some of those who have raised their voices in Parliament about trans rights are reactionaries who opposed reforms such as equal marriage. But others are not. They are decent, middle-of-the-road politicians who supported gay rights but have genuine concerns that gender ideology may have gone too far, and that women’s rights and children must be protected.

Opinion research tells us that the public is sympathetic to trans people, and wishes to be kind, but has concerns about certain issues such as the safety of women in single sex spaces and especially the fairness of trans women competing in elite women’s sports. Our laws already allow for sensible balances to be struck to meet these concerns: Exemptions to the Equality Act allow single sex spaces to be protected, trans women prisoners to be placed in special wings, and sports bodies to set rules which may exclude trans competitors. Calm explanation of the facts and discussion on the right boundaries of these compromises is needed.

But social media, the rise of identity politics and the bitter polarization of every issue does not lend itself to rational discussion. When the prime minister expresses concerns, in reasonable terms, about issues such as fairness in sport, he is not being “transphobic”, as Stonewall immediately branded him. Nor is he alone, and growing disquiet across the political spectrum cannot sensibly be swept aside.

In the days when it was winning, the LGBT lobby made a compelling case for change, engaging successive governments and briefing parliamentarians. Now it is organizing boycotts and shouty protests. A fortnight ago in Manchester, a protester held up a trans flag with the words “some women have penises.” It is hard to imagine a surer way to lose a public argument. For days afterwards, politicians struggled to say whether they agreed, or could define what a woman is. A sensitive, complex debate is being reduced to ugly, dehumanizing talk about body parts.

Some may tell the government that this is a political opportunity for a wedge issue, but this would be deeply unwise. It is one thing to make an issue of statue-toppling and historical revisionism, another to appear to be attacking minorities and vulnerable people. It is also a misreading of public opinion. People want to hear solutions: they don’t see these issues through an ideological lens. 

We must not allow a descent into a political mire which is dominated by extremes and which suffocates the reasonable middle ground. Across the Atlantic, this debate has become toxic, with hideous and persecutory anti-trans laws being passed by state legislatures. That is not who we are. We have to find a way to take the heat out of this debate.

I believe we now need a Royal Commission to examine these issues dispassionately. Its members would have to be truly neutral for such an inquiry to work: It could be led by a senior judge. It would need to be set up with cross-party support and without predetermination of its direction or outcome. Weighing the evidence on contested areas such as sport, safe spaces for women, and gender identity services for children and young people — building on the work of the independent Cass review — would be a better way to detoxify the debate, protect trans people from being caught in the political crossfire, and find the common ground we need.

No one will win from a culture war on these issues, and those most harmed will be trans people who already feel stigmatized, people who are different yet just like us, human beings who deserve greater kindness than today’s politics will permit.

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British government cancels global LGBTQ+ rights conference

Boycott announced after prime minister backed trans-exclusive conversion therapy ban

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(Photo by Rob Wilson/Bigstock)

LONDON — The Washington Blade has confirmed the British government has cancelled a global LGBTQ+ rights conference it was to have hosted this summer.

The Safe to Be Me Conference was to have taken place in London from June 29-July 1. Toby Usnik, the head of communications for the British Consulate General in New York, on Tuesday confirmed the conference has been cancelled.

The conference’s cancellation comes a day after Stonewall and dozens of other British LGBTQ+ rights groups announced they would not attend in response to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to exclude transgender people from a conversion therapy ban. LGBT Business Champion Iain Anderson, whose appointment Women and Equalities Minister Liz Truss announced last September, on Tuesday resigned.

“It is disappointing to see partners withdraw from an international conference focused on the fundamental human rights issues facing LGBT+ people around the world, and as a result it will not be possible to proceed with the Safe To Be Me Conference,” said a British government spokesperson on Wednesday in a statement.

“We remain committed to strengthening LGBT+ rights and freedoms and will continue to support human rights defenders globally and to influence and support countries on the path to decriminalization,” added the spokesperson. “The U.K. will continue to engage extensively with our international partners, and we will continue to use our position on the world stage to push for global change for LGBT+ people.”

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