Canada is in the process of following the lead of other nations like Britain and Germany which have committed to pardoning and /or apologizing to large numbers of men who were criminally convicted in past decades for engaging in homosexual acts. The German government has determined that it will pardon 50,000 men and offer some form of compensation where appropriate. Britain is preparing a bill called the Alan Turing Law, named after the brilliant World War II code-breaker and mathematician extraordinaire. Turing was convicted of engaging in a homosexual act and subjected to chemical castration as a term of his treatment imposed by the court; the whole ordeal leading to his suicide in 1954. The 1950s were a particularly bleak decade for Britain, as a zealous search and destroy mission was ordained by the Home Secretary of the day, David Maxwell-Fyfe, and carried out with the full approval of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The current British government plans to make amends for the harsh and punitive stance of the law over many years. The Trudeau government promises a legislative program that may prove to be at least as extensive as the British plans. Edmonton MP Randy Boissonnault has been appointed special adviser on the LGBTQ2 issues that his government will address.
In the year prior to Turing's humiliation and conviction, a brave exception to the atmosphere of repression and silence respecting gay lives came in the form of a novel, The Charioteer, by Mary Renault. Renault had been a nurse prior to turning to writing full-time, and had risked her career when she began a relationship with a fellow nurse who would eventually become her life-long partner. One evening in her partner's room at the Radcliffe Infirmary she was required to hide under the covers when the head nurse checked up on the staff members during nightly inspections. I found an account by Renault's biographer of the damning response by critics and the tabloid press to one of Renault's earlier novels, published in 1939.
"The matron told a Sunday Referee reporter: "This book will obviously sell, and the majority of readers will think it is true. But in my experience it is not. I have been matron at this hospital for 25 years, and during that period I have only once come across a case of sexual abnormality between nurses."
The novel Purposes of Love did contain some descriptions of lesbian love-making but it was less open than the first post-war novel Renault offered to...