One of Britain's top gay stars, Sir Ian McKellen, has opened up about his sexuality and life before the legalisation of homosexuality for the inaugural episode of Attitude's
landmark podcast series 'Attitude Heroes'.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the partial decriminalisation of homosexuality in England and Wales, we're interviewing 12 of our all-time heroes who've changed the face of LGBT life for people in Britain and around the globe.
In episode one - available to listen to and download now
editor-in-chief Matt Cain chats to Sir Ian in a world-exclusive interview at his home in East London.
In his most revealing and intimate interview ever, the star of X-Men
and The Lord of the Rings
talks about growing up gay in Bolton, his sexual awakening in the theatre, and how his political identity led him to become a global LGBT+ rights activist.
Looking back on his own sexual awakening. McKellen says: "My first intimation that there were men who had sex with each other was in the addresses and telephone numbers scrawled on the walls of public lavatories. And so, when I began to identify myself as, I suppose ‘queer’ was the word then, I didn’t talk to other boys about it.
"I was very much in love with a boy at school and I think he was with me but then, as he explained to me one day, it was a phase we were going through."
The 77-year-old goes on to recall the isolation of life before homosexual acts between two men over the age of 21 were legalised in England and Wales in 1967.
"You did nothing in public to draw attention to yourself because you would be identifying yourself as a potential criminal," he explains. "There was nowhere in the world where homosexuality was accepted. This is how the world was organised, gay people were subhuman."
McKellen came out publicly in 1988 in response to the Thatcher government's Section 28 legislation forbidding the "promotion" of homosexuality in schools around the country, and later co-founded LGBT rights charity Stonewall before going on to become one of the UK's most vocal LGBT+ rights campaigners.
"I feel I’m unassailable. Most people want to meet Gandalf and are impressed by Gandalf and rather nervous in his presence," he says. "So I’m not an easy target and I’ve learnt how to play that and explain that I’m "Gandalf the Gay’."
Listen to the full interview with Sir Ian McKellen in episode one of Attitude Heroes - available to download free from iTunes or other podcast platforms now.
Attitude Heroes is produced by Wisebuddah and sponsored by the GREAT Britain campaign, which welcomes the world to visit, do business, invest and study in the UK.