An actor known by all for roles such as Gandalf in Lord of The Rings, Sir Ian McKellen kept his sexuality a secret for a long time until the age of 49. Speaking to the Gary O’Connor, the British actor explained why he felt it necessary to stand up for his sexuality and the LGBTQ community altogether,
“I didn’t really know who I was—a closeted gay,” McKellen, the 80-year-old tells author Gary O’Connor, whom he had known since his Cambridge University days.
“Cambridge was great for me…all the many parts I had played there, as I loved for the first time going out in public and displaying my emotions,” McKellen continues, according to the biography.
“I enjoyed disguising myself as a closeted gay boy.”
While McKellen’s sexuality was known by close friends and those in the theatre circle, he finally came out as gay to the public in 1988 during a debate on a radio broadcast with journalist Peregrine Worsthorne when discussing the U.K.’s Section 28 legislation, which was created “to make it illegal for local authorities to ‘promote homosexuality’ O’Connor writes in his biography, Ian McKellen: A Biography.
According to the book, McKellen was able to come out of the ‘dark closet’ after the broadcast,
“He had left the dark closet of secrecy for self-exposure and liberation,” O’Connor writes.
“This galvanized him, energised him in a direction he had never thought himself capable of. Identified now as a chaste, never promiscuous, completely dedicated general and leader of men, as an activist he displayed an inner mobilisation of force and direction of power in the social, political field’’.
O’Connor’s Ian McKellen: A Biography publishes on Tuesday.