Most of us have probably not heard of Jon "Maddog" Hall, the executive director of Linux International. But he's super important to tons of computer geeks out there, and he was an early proponent for free and open source software. Well, the 61-year-old came out today in honor of Alan Turing's birthday. Oh, not sure who Turing is? Well you should be. He may be one of the greatest gay heroes of history (and you should check out the biography about him by Andrew Hodges that was just recently reissued), credited with cracking the Nazi code and helping the Allies win WWII. The mathematician is the father of computer science. And his apparent suicide is currently being questioned.
But back to Hall. As he wrote on the Linux Magazine website:
On the second point I have been extremely lucky in my life to have grown up in technologically advanced surroundings. Most of the people in my world of electronics and computers were like the mathematicians of Alan Turings’ time, highly educated and not really caring whether their compatriots were homosexual or not, or at least looking beyond the sexuality and seeing the rest of the person.
In fact, computer science was a haven for homosexuals, trans-sexuals and a lot of other “sexuals”, mostly because the history of the science called for fairly intelligent, modern-thinking people. Many computer companies were the first to enact “diversity” programs, and the USENIX organization had a special interest group that was made up of LGBT people.
That is not to say that all computer science people are homosexual, or even non-homophobic, but for the most part the CS community and companies have been more accepting and accommodating than others.
Nevertheless, as I went through life I have sometimes found that the people that should be the most understanding and accepting are not, and I did not want this to reflect upon Linux or FOSS in any way.
A hero to many, it's siginificant that now Hall will go down in history as openly homosexual. As John Biggs writes at TechCrunch: Hall's "sexual orientation is none of our business yet, just as he has dedicated his life to the expansion of free software, he is now standing up for the expansion of freedom itself. He did a noble thing – I don’t say brave simply because his act shouldn’t be cause for scorn or fear – and his efforts on all fronts are making the tech community stronger, smarter, and more connected."