NUSU'S LGBTQ+ Officer comments on new £50 note featuring Alan Turing

Many have raised issues with the celebration of Alan Turing despite the continuation of conversion therapy in the UK

Charlie Pugh
5th April 2021
@bankofengland on Twitter

CW/ Discussion of Conversion Therapy

The Bank of England has announced a new £50 note, to be released 23 June. It features Alan Turing, a gay computer scientist whose work was instrumental in defeating Nazi Germany and founding computer science as we know it today.

The note will be released on Turing's birthday seemingly surrounded by praise. However, some, such as Newcastle University's current LGBTQ+ Officer, Ben Campbell, have had reservations.

Campell told The Courier "The government's inaction is unacceptable as if they truly want to honour the memory of Alan Turing, conversion therapy should be banned outright" - Turing himself was a victim of government-mandated conversion therapy.

Governmental promises toward banning conversion therapy have stalled for over 1,000 days without a ban, and three members of the LGBT advisory panel have resigned in protest.

Elen Murray, a former member of the panel, tweeted that she resigned "due to the government's persistent and worsening hostility towards our community in myriad areas." She cited conversion therapy as one example of the government working in "appalling faith".

"to honour the memory of Alan Turing, conversion therapy should be banned outright"

Ben Campbell, Newcastle University LGBTQ+ oFFICER

Conversion therapy is an attempt to coerce someone to change their sexuality or gender identity. It is condemned by LGBT rights groups, the UN human rights board, the NHS, the Church of England, and leading religious figures. It often entails mental, physical, or sexual abuse, and is "repeatedly linked to long-term harm to the physical and mental health of LGBT persons" according to a UN report. Almost half of the victims of conversion therapy have attempted suicide, according to one survey taken in 2020.

Ben Campbell appreciated that Turing is getting the recognition he deserves for his ground-breaking and lifesaving science. However, he added: "It is very important that we also recognise the persecution he faced due to his sexuality at the time. He suffered the atrocities of conversion therapy and underwent horrific treatments after being prosecuted for homosexual acts."

"The representation is important but the government has to follow up with its promises. It highlights that progress has been made, but also the work that is still needed to ensure the protection and safeguarding of LGBT+ people in the UK as the practice is unacceptable and cannot continue in any capacity."

Commenting on the new note to The Bank of England, Governor Andrew Bailey praised Turing's scientific work and said, “He was also gay, and was treated appallingly as a result. By placing him on our new polymer £50 banknote, we are celebrating his achievements, and the values he symbolises”.

In the press release, the Bank’s Chief Cashier explains that the new polymer note "is part of our most secure series of banknotes yet.” The security details and features of the note can be found here.

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