This Saturday marks the 100th birthday of the late English mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing. For those unfamiliar: Turing was one of the key players in England’s Bletchley Park site, charged during the Second World War with cracking Germany’s perplexing Enigma code.
With Turing’s genius at the forefront of the effort, England did indeed defeat the code, which went a long way towards England withstanding the Nazi onslaught long enough to turn the tide back against them. Turing’s work also led to the earliest forms of what we today call computers and artificial intelligence. Turing’s mind was a treasure, a once-in-a-generation gift to humanity, and by rights he should have lived as a hero, at least long enough to see some of the advancements sprung from his ideas.
Instead, he was convicted of gross indecency in 1952 after having admitted to a homosexual relationship, underwent a state-mandated chemical castration procedure as part of his sentence, and died two years later, an apparent suicide, after eating an apple soaked in cyanide (a sad, poetic choice that was likely related to his fondness for the fairy tale of Snow White.)
This weekend is also Pride Weekend in Chicago, the annual statement of the gay community that they are Not Going Anywhere and Are Not Sorry for being who they are. My theatre company, The Neo-Futurists, has a long history as an ally of the gay community, and nearly every year we will put on a special set of performances that benefit a local LGBTQ organization — this year, for example, proceeds from the shows will go to UCAN, an organization that helps queer youth whose families have ejected them from their households.
In advance of all these things I decided to spend yesterday indulging my fear and cowardice, and this is an apology for that.
Below is the fun and vibrant promotional video for our Pride shows this weekend, cobbled together from footage taken at our Saturday rehearsal. When it went live on our social media outlets, I asked to not be tagged, stating that I was concerned about offending more conservative members of my circle who I’ve been more connected to since the birth of Robin. I do appear in this video and I do appear in these shows and I do not recommend viewing either the video or the shows if you have an especially delicate or rigid sensibility when it comes to matters of sex. Nothing is explicit but much is implied.
In the hours in between my request to back off of the promotional push and this writing I’ve been experiencing a sort of bitter, lead-lumpen feeling throughout my body, that indescribable sensation that something is not quite right in one’s physical being, a misdiagnosis of cancer that turns out to be something deadly anyway.
This is how it starts, was the abiding echo. This is how it starts, and what I meant by “it” was that slow march into safety-seeking behavior, that exploitable terror that the happiness in your life will be ripped away from you if you don’t hold tightly to the status quo and vote every two years for whoever promises the hardest that you will never have to feel anything but satisfied.
During every other moment of my adult life I have been a vocal and occasionally furious advocate for equal rights and acceptance of the queer community. I refuse to believe that there is any good reason to treat LGBTQ persons like second-class citizens and find that the reasons offered would be laughable if they weren’t so cruel. But in this one moment I not only backed away from that advocacy I invoked the name of my son to do it.
He’s too young to perceive anything that happened here, which is my good fortune. I don’t have to explain to him how I abandoned my principles briefly because it could raise inconvenient questions for me to answer, so instead I offer the answers to all of the questions at once.
To be a hundred percent clear, then, if I never have been before.
I support the right of homosexuals to live as normal members of society. I support their right to marry who they love and enjoy the attendant legal benefits afforded to other married couples, to adopt children, to work in any job they so choose; I support their right to not be murdered because some insecure cave-beast doesn’t like what their imagination did to them after a few beers, to not be hanged from gibbets because they were born in a nation that institutionalizes such bloodthirst.
I am a performer in one of the finest experimental theatre companies in the nation, if not the world, and that theatre company often demands that I push myself beyond my comfort zone, scouting the new territory until it can be annexed back into that zone. I’m as proud to be a part of that company as I have ever been to be a part of anything, and I support that company’s efforts to see the gay community empowered as the brilliant and diverse and valuable people they are.
I do not care what The Book of Leviticus or indeed any book of religion has to say about this topic. I do not care to hear the rantings of people who offer nothing but hate against people whose only transgression is how they love. I do not give a good goddamn how many Moms you pretend you are or what eight-letter word’s definition you think you are defending. God made them the same as you and as far as I can tell in most cases He made them better.
My job as a father is to raise my son with the potential to be another Alan Turing, which means my job is also to accept the entirety of that Alan Turing and to teach him to accept the entirety of any other Alan Turing he may encounter. I will instill in him my values, not hide those values because they may conflict with outmoded values held by others. I will teach my son how to recognize that the worth of another human being is in how much they love, not how many they condemn.
Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind: 30 Queer Plays in 60 Straight Minutes is this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday at 8 pm. It will be a rock concert and sports championship and water park rolled into one rainbow-colored ball. You should come. You should buy advance tickets because these shows always sell out.
I will be there.
And I won’t again act like I wasn’t going to be.
Sorry about that.
Current Music: Phoenix, “Girlfriend”