Sir Ian McKellen might not have accepted his knighthood if he hadn’t come out

Sir Ian McKellen

Sir Ian McKellen has opened up about being knighted, saying that it was important that he had come out before accepting the honour.

The veteran actor and LGBT rights activist received a knighthood for services to Public Arts in 1991, after three decades of acting on stage and screen.

McKellen, best known for his roles in Lord of the Rings and X-Men, recently admitted that he was “glad” that he had come out prior to accepting his knighthood.

The actor, who was the subject of a viral death hoax in 2017, publicly came out as gay on a BBC Radio 3 show in 1988.

(Photo by Ernesto S. Ruscio/Getty)

The 78-year-old told Attitude magazine: “I will always be glad that I didn’t accept the knighthood until I’d come out of the closet.

“If you’re lying about that central part of your nature, can you be trusted? I think that’s why when people come out the reception is usually positive.”

Related: Sir Ian McKellen: I want to be remembered more for LGBT rights activism than acting

He continued: “People like honesty. They think if gay people don’t talk about being gay that they have something to be ashamed of and it’s a secret.


“Why should it matter? Once you say I’m gay, then you know where you are with a person.”

On the 30th anniversary of his public coming out earlier this year, McKellen took to Twitter to celebrate and share an inspiring message.

In January he wrote: “I’ve never met a gay person who regretted coming out – including myself.

“Life at last begins to make sense, when you are open and honest.

“Today is the 30th anniversary of the BBC radio discussion when I publically said I was gay. So I’m celebrating!”

More than 65,000 people retweeted the update and a further 40,000 liked the post on Twitter.

Sir Ian McKellen


These remarks echoed previous speeches the beloved actor had made, including a talk where McKellen hailed the power and importance of gay people coming out.

“It is the best thing that any gay person will ever do,” he said as the host of the 2017 Stonewall Youth Awards.

“When coming out everyone is always frightened about somebody else, ‘What will my mother think?’.

“Actors think, ‘Will I ever work again if people know that I am gay?’. Yes, is the answer.  It was only when I came out that I got cast as Gandalf and Magneto.”

McKellen added that he would love to have written on his tombstone when he dies: “Here lies Gandalf. He came out.”