Ian McKellen explains what it was like growing up as ‘the only gay boy’ in his home town

British actor Sir Ian McKellen speaks during a service to dedicate a memorial stone to actor Sir John Gielgud in Poets' Corner at Westminster Abbey on April 26, 2022 in London, England.

Sir Ian McKellen has opened up about his upbringing as “the only gay boy” in his hometown.

“Isolation because of one’s sexuality is a miserably confusing state,” the actor told The Bolton News.

Speaking ahead of Bolton Pride, which is taking place from 4 August, he added: “I wish there had been a Pride celebration in Bolton [back then]

“Anyone feeling like that should watch the 2022 Pride parade pass by and see the thousands of gay Boltonians and their friends, at ease with themselves, bringing a special joy to their hometown,” he added.

The actor was born in Burnley, moved to Wigan when war broke out, and spent his formative teenage years in Bolton.

Ian McKellen has often spoken about his upbringing, telling the BBC’s Amol Rajan that despite having a “very happy” childhood, there was “one thing missing.”

“I never talked to [my father] about being gay,” he said.

“He’d been to see me at my first show in the West End, I’m always glad of that, and three weeks later in a car crash, he died.”

McKellen now spends a lot of his time going to schools across the country, including Bolton School, giving talks on what it was like to grow up when being gay was illegal.

“They give me the time of day because they’re aware that Gandalf’s in town,” he told Rajan.

“I tell them, ‘I’m not going to talk about that, to begin with, I’m going to talk about being gay’… When I tell them that when I was their age it was illegal for gay men to make love to each other, they simply cannot believe it.”

McKellen was a guest speaker at the first-ever Bolton Pride, which took place in 2015, founded by James Edginton and Liz Pycroft an effort to increase LGBTQ+ acceptance in the area.

Using the slogan “love Bolton, hate homophobia,” the first Pride parade was a major success.

Since then, the parade has grown, even winning the NO2H8 Crime Award in 2017 for its role in dealing with hate crimes in the area.