Today I would like to honor and pay tribute to Sir Ian McKellen. McKellen came out in 1988 and has been been a dedicated activist for the LGBT community, thus making him an ideal person for TSM. While McKellen is a staunch supporter of and fundraiser for AIDS research, as well as a vocal opponent to nuclear weapons, he reserves much of his energy to be a strong advocate for “ legal and social equality for gay people worldwide.”
Here are just a few reasons why I consider McKellen to be a wonderful and courageous hero. McKellen shows that growth and empathy are possible regardless of where you are in your journey of life:
A year ago, I was one of those men, content to be gay, but unaware that I might have any relevance to the lives of other gays, whose lives are more vulnerable than mine to homophobia. I’d never joined a Gay Pride March; ignorant even of the significance of the word ‘Stonewall.’ Nor had I ever read Capital Gay!
McKellen talks about how his friend Carole encouraged him to become an activist:
Carole took me to meet the Arts Lobby, the sort of people I like best – articulate, funny and concerned. Their concern, in January, was to fight Section 28 by highlighting its threat of censoring the arts. Most of them were gay — those who weren’t lesbians, that is. Sharing their views and under their guidance, I became a trainee activist.
I love that McKellen was willing to be drawn out of his comfort zone and willing to use his voice for the greater good. In McKellen we see humanity–we see the the evolution of empathy and “planting trees of which we will not enjoy their shade.” McKellen shows us why we must be visible:
Good acting is so dependent on projecting sexuality that American film producers don’t risk confusing an audience’s fantasies by allowing their stars publicly to be anything but straight as Hollywood Boulevard. And in the British theatre too, even 40 years after Gielgud was named, we are not allowed to declare which half of our best actors here are privately lesbian or gay. (Half our theatre impresarios, too – and half the theatre critics.)
What a very sad commentary here, which sends the message to our youth that it is not safe or acceptable to be gay. We must change the message. Thank you Ian McKellen for your activism, your talent, and your voice. Click here to learn more about Sir Ian McKellen.