A gay member of the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ
) has given an exclusive interview to Attitude about his life as a British spy.
Alan Turing, a gay man, is possibly the most notable figure in the history of British intelligence. However, in the 1950s a government edict prohibited gay men from being employed in the intelligence services - a policy that remained in place as late as 1993.
Just four months ago, however, GCHQ was ranked 75th on Stonewall's Workplace Equality Index. In order to discover what has changed in the organisation, Attitude spoke to an anonymous gay spy 'Ben' about the realities of life at GCHQ.
Ben has been with the organisation for nearly a decade, after applying to join as an openly gay man. He has since become chairman of GCHQ's Pride network and his husband also works for the organisation.
Today, Ben and his team have helped to aid vetting interviews for its LGBT+ applicants, something that Ben is very passionate about.
"We don't feel we can afford for the Turing of today - some gay 16-year-old considering what to study in life - not coming to work for us because he thinks we wouldn't welcome him," Ben says, arguing that potential applicants need to feel like they would be accepted in the organisation.
"We can't afford to let them not come and work for us. We can't afford to turn them away. It's too important for that."
On the topic of international travel for LGBT+ GCHQ employees who may have to go to countries with strict anti-LGBT+ laws, Ben realised that that the organisation needed a clearer, more definitive policy on travel.
"Obviously you have to be a bit sensitive when you're travelling through quite a lot of countries anyway, about documentation and links to here you've come from," he says.
"But it requires a very mature organisation to pick this apart and think at first 'OK , well you can't discriminate', or the other slight knee-jerk of 'gosh, we couldn't send them there because they are gay...' which is a knee-jerk the wrong way.
"Actually, we've got to work with this. We need to give people the opportunity."
Read more of Ben's story and the gay history of GCHQ in Attitude's Summer issue – out now. Buy in print, subscribe or download.
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