The 2014 film The Imitation Game tells the story of Alan Turing, the homosexual British mathematician/codebreaker whose WWII solution to the Nazi Enigma encryptions arguably won the war. His country repaid him by convicting him in 1952 of “gross indecency” under Section 11 of the Criminal Amendment Act of 1885 and sentencing him to chemical castration, with painful and disfiguring results. In 1954, he killed himself; in 2013, he received a posthumous, if belated, Royal Pardon.
But Turing was hardly the only victim of Section 11. The Imitation Game refers briefly to the other 50,000 men who were convicted and imprisoned for the same “crime” and never received even an apology, let alone a pardon. Their convictions stand. As many as 15,000 of them are still alive, still on the margins of society, their lives destroyed because their illegal sexuality brought them to public toilets, bars, and back alleys to find partners. Now they, or in some cases, their families, are seeking an apology from their government for criminalizing their sexuality, and a pardon to expunge their criminal records. But to pardon one famous person is quite different from giving 50,000 blanket pardons. How will this be accomplished. We will ask the relevant questions to this issue.
In 2009, with such luminaries as Stephen Hawking, Richard Dawkins and Elton John, an online petition drew 37,000 signatories to secure Turing a royal pardon, which Queen Elizabeth II granted in 2013. Now an effort is underway to secure a pardon for the other 50,000 men similarly convicted. This petition, originated by Change.com and signed by more than 650,000 people, has been presented to Prime Minister David Cameron.
If the 50,000 men – The Forgotten Many — are ever to receive justice, it is now, while their plight is the subject of international controversy. This especially applies to the 15,000 survivors, who are victims of job discrimination, personal harassment, and recent police action forcing many of them to surrender DNA samples for inclusion in a national database, Operation Nutmeg, with those convicted of violent sexual crimes. The government had included “gross indecency” in this database although homosexuality was decriminalized in 2003.
We will document how these men have survived, the challenges they face, and the activities they are engaging in to get their criminal records expunged: protests, petitions, legal tactics, confrontations with political leaders. We are following their online petition closely. Rachel Barnes, who presented the petition for a royal pardon to 10 Downing Street, plays a key role in our documentary.
I invite you to comment on the film and the issues it raises and hope that you will be part of the dialogue as we develop the film.
Invite your friends and interested parties to join.
I look forward to hearing from you and engaging in this topic with you.