What 'The Imitation Game' teaches about the history of LGBT rights

Alan Turing in 1951 (left) and actor Benedict Cumberbatch (right)
as Turing in 'The Imitation Game'
Imagine if it was illegal to love the person who you love.

That's exactly what it was like in the United Kingdom until the late 1960s when homosexual acts were considered criminal offenses.

Under the Buggery Act 1533, same-sex sexual activity was outlawed and punishable by death (and later changed to life imprisonment by the Offences against the Person Act 1861). By the end of 1954, there were 1,069 gay men in prison in England and Wales, according to the Oxford Human Rights Hub.

The Oscar nominated movie "The Imitation Game" gives a look into the treatment of homosexual men in the 1940s and 50s with legendary mathematician Alan Turing's story.

It's been estimated that Turing's work shortened World War II by at least two years after he determined a technique for breaking Germany's ciphers.

How was Turing thanked for saving the lives of countless people by ending the war early? After all he did for the country he loved, Turing was chemically castrated. And if he refused to take these estrogen injections, which reduces libido and sexual activity, he would have been sent to prison.

Because of the government taking away such a significant part of his identity, Turing ingested cyanide and died. His death was determined a suicide.

Obviously, the world has come a long way since then. But, still, gay men and women are not treated as equal to straight men and women. And this is proven by research which shows that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are twice as likely to report being physically assaulted at school than their heterosexual peers, in a survey of 10,000 teens by the U.S.-based Human Rights Campaign. They are also four times more likely to attempt suicide, according to the nonprofit, the Trevor Project.

There is an important quote in the movie "The Imitation Game" that anyone who is considering suicide should remember — "Sometimes it is the people who no one imagines anything of who do the things that no one can imagine." No matter your race, gender or sexual orientation, you do have the ability to change the world, despite how others may treat you.

If still alive, Turing would be turning 103 this year. But, instead, he died at age 41 — 16 days before his 42nd birthday.

Who knows how long he would have lived if he wouldn't have died from cyanide poisoning. But, with all Turing was capable of, this world certainly would be very different if just this one man would have lived.

You too have the ability to change the world, just like Turing did. You just need to keep on living.

To watch inspiring videos on how, unlike in Turing's time, victimization is shown to decrease as LGBT adolescents grow up,  visit www.itgetsbetter.org.

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