One of our favorite gay icons is Gandalf himself, Ian McKellen. But today’s a very special day — Jan. 27, 1988 is the day of Ian McKellen coming out. And we couldn’t be happier for him.
McKellen announced the anniversary in a tweet, saying:
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!
In fact, that radio interview is still online. The program was about the infamous Section 28, a law in the United Kingdom that banned the “promotion of homosexuality.” Section 28 was finally repealed in 2000.
The radio interview, part of the Third Ear program, focuses on whether or not Section 28 would stifle the arts, potentially opening artists up to prosecution for making art about homosexuality, as well as keeping homosexuality-related literature out of schools.
Interestingly, when McKellen came out on this radio program, he later realized he hadn’t actually come out to his family yet. So, at the age of 48, McKellen came out. The year after this interview, he became a founding member of Stonewall, the UK LGBTQ activist group.
When McKellen came out, he said that the dangers posed by Section 28 overrode any concerns his career could be damaged by coming out. In a 1998 interview, McKellen said, “I have many regrets about not having come out earlier, but one of them might be that I didn’t engage myself in the politicking.”
Ironically enough, McKellen’s first film role was a gay man. In A Touch of Love, he played George Matthews, a gay newsreader who, on his one night of straight sex, impregnates Rosamund Stacy, played by Sandy Dennis. He was also in the first production of the play Bent, which he called “the ultimate coming-out play,” though he said he “missed the obvious lead to say, ‘Oh, and I’m gay too. The actor’s gay.'”
Still, better late than never! Happy anniversary, Ian McKellen! Here’s to many, many more.