Sir John Dermot Turing spoke movingly of his uncle’s arrest – on the day of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation – and subsequent appalling treatment at the hands of the legal system in the 1950s in a speech that rounded off a fantastic array of events and speeches at the Pre-Launch of LGBT History Month 2013 at Bletchley Park.
The evening included other tributes to Alan Turing from Bletchley’s CEO Iain Standen and Leeds University maths Professor and Chair of the Alan Turing Centenary Committee Barry Cooper, as well as from Annika Joy from the Science Museum, which currently houses a unique display of different episodes from Turing’s fantastic but all-too-short life.
Elly Barnes and Nigel Tart, both teachers and Schools OUT members, demonstrated how to use LGBT History Month to celebrate diversity in schools and how to use our fantastic teachers’ resource The Classroom – to which they both contributed – to usualise the lesbian gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) community in the classroom and the curriculum.
Prison Officer Kirsty Horrocks spoke of the importance of education and challenging homophobia in prisons as well as praising the supportive work of Gays and Lesbians in the Prison Service (GALIPS).
Moving entertainment was provided by the Norwich Pride Choir with a few familiar numbers as well as a couple of specially prepared ones – including ‘That’s Mathematics’ sung to the tune of ‘That’s Entertainment’.
The Evening Pre-Launch, promoting awareness of LGBT people in the fields of maths, science, engineering and technology, was timed to coincide with the centenary of Alan Turing in 2012 and Bletchley Park – Home of the Codebreakers – hosted it. LGBT History Month co-chair Tony Fenwick said: “When we decided we were going to focus on science and the Alan Turing centenary came up I thought our pre-Launch had to be in Bletchley Park. When I approached them I found we were knocking at an open door. They provided the place free of charge and helped us plan the event over the course of the year. Over 200 people passed through the doors and everybody was thrilled by the atmosphere and said it was a wonderful venue”.
The Evening Pre-launch rounded off a day of events organised by LGBT History Month in Bletchley Park. Schools from as far away as Birmingham, London and Staines in Surrey attended lessons from The Classroom in the morning, as well as having a tour of Bletchley Park Museum and carrying out a code-breaking exercise using the same facilities as existed in Turing’s time there (The message was: ‘Educate OUT homophobia and transphobia with Schools OUT’). One girl described the experience as “awesome”.
The afternoon featured tours of the Alan Turing section of the museum, a demonstration of the Enigma machine and a session about the Classroom and the pan-European RAINBOW Project; using film to challenge homophobia and transphobia in schools by challenging stereotypes, led by LGBT History Month co-chair Sue Sanders and LGBT Youth North West co-ordinator and Schools OUT officer Amelia Lee.
The main event of the afternoon however was a thought provoking debate questioning the role of science in the development of the modern LGBT community. Trans-activist and adviser Christine Burns, the Science Museum’s Annika Joy, radical black lesbian feminist Linda Bellos and historical researcher and Schools OUT officer Jeffery Evans engaged in a heated intellectually stimulating debate over whether science has used the medical model to pathologise same-sex desire and gender variance to our detriment or whether it has played an essential role in saving lives and bringing attitudes about lesbians, gays, bi-sexual and trans people out of the Dark Ages.
Milton Keynes College Leisure and Tourism students helped all day, giving them an opportunity to practise their hosting skills and gain enrichment opportunities. Volunteers were also supplied by Google, Simmons and Simmons, BT and Schools OUT. The technical side was looked after by the management and staff of Pink Punters, who also brightened the day with the delightful Rainbow bus, which is now so famous a feature in Milton Keynes that it has become a landmark on wheels. Rainbow is also a regular at LGBT History Month events.
Co-Chair Sue Sanders said: “It was a feast. There was fun, tragedy, education and intellectual stimulation. Now we all need to work on this foundation to make science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) a safe and welcoming educational and career choice for LGBT people.