Sexual Offences and the Queerness of the English Past: Alan Turing, Queer Liaisons and the Operations of the Law in 1950s Cheshire
Dulcie Hollyock Room, Ground Floor
T: (03) 8344 4079
In the stories we tell about Alan Turing there are a lot of erasures, lots left in the unsaid, peripheral or even irrelevant to the making of the gay icon that Turing has, in recent years, become.
For example, in the Turing we celebrate today largely erased is the young man central to his arrest and undoing, back in 1952: Arnold Murray, the lad he picked up on the Oxford Road in Manchester and for whom he developed a genuine affection. Erased, too, is the local, the world in which Turing was ensnared and yet is not deemed necessary for the telling of his national greatness, or for his emergence as a gay icon. The local is the world in which he was arrested and tried, not Manchester – not the city in which he worked as a pioneer in a university computing lab in the aftermath of his code-breaking work in the Second World War – but its well-healed suburban fringes, part of the larger county of Cheshire.
It was there in February 1952 that he was tried on charges of gross indecency at the County Quarter Sessions, found guilty, and sentenced to a course of treatment by hormones, contributing to his early death two years later.
Turing and Murray were not alone: during the 1950s over 160 other men faced similar charges. seminar seeks to understand Turing’s experience in the context of that of others similarly charged. By offering a composite demographic profile of these men, by exploring the legal statutes under which they were charged, by mapping the penalties imposed on them, and by focusing on the situations that led to their arrests, case studies of these ‘ordinary’ men will be contrasted with the rather extraordinary case of Alan Turing.
This seminar is part of a series coordinated by the Melbourne Feminist History Group.