Sir Ian McKellen has revealed how he came to terms with his sexuality and later devoted himself to fighting for gay rights in a new episode of LGBTI web series It Got Better.
In the intimate video, McKellen said the more tolerant attitude and language of today didn’t exist when he was growing up in the 1930s, was being gay was “simply not discussed and, worse still, it was illegal.”
“That was the world we were living in,” the 76-year-old X-Men and Lord of the Rings actor said.
“To accuse someone of being gay was thought to be one of the most insulting things you could say about them.”
The actor says he knew he was gay from his early teens and was bullied at school.
“I often wondered if the boys doing the bullying detected a difference in me which they found unnerving,” he said.
Once he went to University, McKellen said he was honest about his sexuality: “I fell in love, had sex with men, and sort of understood myself for the first time.”
In his early days in theatre, McKellen didn’t talk about his sexuality because he feared it would limit the roles he could get.
Yet, after the UK government introduced the so-called Section 28 law making it illegal to “promote homosexuality” in any school in the country, he decided to publicly come out in 1988.
“I was so appalled by this, so I joined groups vocally explaining why this was an unjust law,” McKellen recalls. He announced he was gay in a radio debate at the time.
“Once you are honest about your sexuality, you will feel better about it,” he said about the life-changing moment.
“My life totally changed for the better. I became a better son, brother, uncle and friend… In fact, everything became better.”
The It Got Better web series was inspired by the It Gets Better project, and features LGBTI celebrities explaining their struggles and their victories growing up and coming out.
Watch the full interview with Sir Ian McKellen below: