In Benedict Cumberbatch’s latest film project, “The Imitation Game,” he plays a genius named Alan Turing. However, an author didn’t dream up this character; he was a real person.
After seeing this movie over the weekend, I thought it the ideal time to discuss what was only briefly covered in the end of the movie: his forced chemical castration by the British government to “cure” him of homosexuality.
Alan Turing’s Intellectual and Moral Contribution to the World
During WWII, Alan Turing and a team of like-minded geniuses were hired by the British government to crack the Enigma code. This cryptic code was what Hitler and his allies used to communicate with over radio transmissions.
Turing’s machine (which he named “Christopher”) effectively solved the “unbreakable” Enigma code and provided the Allies with the ability to decrypt the radio transmissions of the enemy. This ended the war two years earlier than it would have, saving an estimated 14 million lives.
Yes, he was a hero for breaking the Enigma code. And yes, he also was a hero for saving 14 million lives and helping to end the war. Yet, he was still prosecuted by the British government in 1952 for being a homosexual.
Chemical Castration Can Lead to Gynecomastia and Other Side Effects
In well-documented studies about the effects of chemical castration on men, Alan Turing also experienced severe side effects from the “treatments” he was ordered to take. A sentence for being gay in those days meant either a prison term of two years or one year of hormone treatments.
When Turing chose the latter, he couldn’t have possibly imagined how it would affect his body and mind. He suffered from impotence (erectile dysfunction) and gynecomastia (breast growth).
Though the emotional side effects were not widely discussed in the movie, his suicide in 1954 from cyanide poisoning is quite telling. It wasn’t until 2013 that Turing was posthumously pardoned for his “crime”.
His life’s story teaches us that intolerance simply cannot be tolerated in today’s society.
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