queer innovation

Richard W. DeVaul
4 min readJun 2, 2021
Alan Turing, aged 16

Long before I realize that I was queer, Alan Turing was my hero. Turing is known today as a larger-than-life figure who fought Nazis with his brain.

He was instrumental in breaking the “unbreakable” cypher of the German Enigma Machine for the British and thus played a decisive role in Allied victory in World War II. He was also one of the founding figures of computer science; He, along with Alonzo Church provided the theoretical foundation for computation that underlies every digital computer that exists today.

The story I didn’t learn until later was that Alan Turing was gay, and after winning the war was prosecuted by the British government for “gross indecency,” and forced into chemical castration as an alternative to prison. He killed himself not long thereafter, shortly before his 42nd birthday.

Melissa Etheridge, singer, songwriter, activist, 2011
Samuel R. Delany, American science fiction author, 2018

Turing is one of the giants of mathematics, computer science, and an indisputable war hero. In a just world that would have mattered more than his sexuality. But as Alan Turing experienced then, and many other gender- or sexuality-nonconforming people experience today, brilliance, courage, hard work and accomplishment are no guarantee of acceptance or humane treatment.

Oscar Wilde, 1882

I believe that making your organization safe for queer people (by which I mean any gender- or sexuality-non conforming person) is the morally right thing to do. However, a well-meaning leader or activist facing opposition to change might want other justifications beyond the moral. For you, I make the following argument: by making your organization safe for queer people, you will make it more innovative, productive, and access a wider pool of talent.

queer innovation arbitrage

If you want innovation, you need weirdos and freaks. These are the people who see the world differently by dint of…

Richard W. DeVaul

Founder, mad scientist, moonshot launcher. Writes on innovation, entrepreneurship, and social/queer issues. ex-CTO of Google X. @rdevaul on twitter

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