You Shall Not Pass (Judgement): The Great Sir Ian McKellen

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On 2 June 2015, HuffPost Gay Voices published an interview with the legendary Sir Ian McKellen. June being Pride Month, McKellen has a busy month ahead of him. Notably, on June 15th, McKellen will be honored with the Trevor Project’s Trevor Hero Award and on June 28th, he’ll serve as one of four Grand Marshals at New York City’s Pride celebration.

The interview starts with McKellen talking about the two approaches to gay rights: state and social. One must make sure that the State does not discriminate and make sure that everybody obeys the law not to discriminate. McKellen is honored to accept an award from The Trevor Project, a group that pushes for these ‘regrettably necessary’ actions.

As a proud cofounder of Stonewall UK, McKellen speaks of his own admirable assists of the progression of the gay rights. With the assistance of Stonewall UK, the age of consent had leveled out to a consistent 16 years of age in the UK, gays can now openly serve in the military, and civil partnerships and marriage is available for homosexual couples. He mentions a ‘very nasty law’ Section 28, which restricted the teaching of homosexuality in schools. The law urged him to come out, and now has been abolished to the extreme — where it’s illegal to discriminate against gay people in schools.

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When asked his thoughts on the importance of celebrities coming out, he responded:

Of course, the importance of coming out is personal. The importance of coming out is that you’re out yourself and your life is changed, I think, for the better. That affects those who you love — your friends, your family, people you work with. I would never say to a celebrity, “Come out for the good of society.” You must come out for the good of yourself. The rest will follow. Nor does it mean that if you come out, you have to immediately start talking about gay issues as if you were an expert.

He goes on to mention his patronage to The Albert Kennedy Trust, which help young people who are thrown out of their families ‘because of old prejudices.’ The Trust cares for those people, mentors them and fosters them.

McKellen speaks about his own coming out, saying:

It was a different time. My mother died when I was 12 and I didn’t get a chance to talk to her about it. But, there really wouldn’t have been anything to talk about. We didn’t have the language to talk about it. No one in England talked about being gay when I was growing up — the word hadn’t been invented. “Queer” was the word that was used about us. It was against the law to have sex with another man. If we were to express ourselves, we would define ourselves as being criminal. So, of course, you didn’t talk about it.

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My coming out was to eventually tell my step mother. I gave her a bit of news that she said she had known ever since she’d met me! But, I didn’t feel the oppression of the closet because it didn’t apply. Nobody in theater worried about your sexuality, they just cared if you’re any good at the job. When I did finally come out, when I did finally tell my step mother and sister and my aunt and my nephew, nobody gave a damn!

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And with the media, it was like a millstone that I didn’t know had been around my neck and that fell off. And what happened immediately, according to friends, is I became not just a happier person, but a better actor. I think up to that point, I had been using acting as a disguise — somewhere where I could express my emotions, and draw attention to myself in a way that I didn’t particularly want to do in real life. Acting became not about disguise, but about telling the truth. And my emotions became much freer. I was able to act better as I think you are able to do any job. Everyone’s better if they’re being honest.

The interviewer goes on to ask if his personal life helped him to play gay roles. McKellen replied that, “I didn’t turn myself into a queer actor, which I think a lot of people rather expected I ought to do or that was my new responsibility. I find heterosexuality far too interesting a phenomenon to avoid!” He implies that he never focused his professional career on the LGBT cause, but found the roles that interest him and went with it — having it be a gay character would just be a happenstance.

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McKellen goes on to say that at the genesis of his acting career, it was almost a given to be hush-hush about bisexuality or homosexuality until the dying days. He admits that his film career flourished after coming out, but he states the following:

I regret and always shall that I didn’t see the significance of coming out at a much earlier date because I think I would have been a different person and a happier one. Self-confidence is the most important thing that anybody can have. You don’t have that if part of you is ashamed or hiding something. I can reassure people who don’t feel they’re able to, the world will like you better because people like honesty and authenticity.

The interviewer asks McKellen what he speculates to be the next big challenge for the LGBT community. He says that if the US is at east with the idea of gay marriage, it will ‘serve as a beacon for many other countries.’ He wants to tell LGBT youths that they’re not alone. He states

(You) may feel very, very cut off. And the coming out journey may take a very long time — as it did for me — or it can all be done very, very quickly. But accept hat it’s a process. And it’s a progress.

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On the continuation of activism, Out Magazine released an interview with Andy Cohen in his partnership with the Human Rights Campaign’s marriage equality initiative, Turn It Up for Change. Sponsored by W Hotels, the initiative hosted an event for the release of Jennifer Hudson’s music video I Still Love You in support of same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

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The interview goes from name dropping, to desperate flirting, to near-white-noise chatter about ‘baby mama’ing Jennifer Hudson. The only substantial thing said throughout the whole interview is the following:

Do you have any advice for young gay writers who try to follow in your footsteps?

Just keep writing, and develop your voice. And make it unique, and make it feel like you, and be an individual and be yourself and find your humor. Don’t be afraid to keep writing.

What about advice for young gay comedians?

I’m the only gay talk show host in late night television, and I think that being gay is something that I happen to be. It’s not who I am — it doesn’t totally define everything that I am. I think that’s a good way to be, professionally. You don’t have to ghetto-ize yourself and say, ‘No, but I’m just a gay comedian.’ You’re a comedian who happens to be gay.

And speaking of LGBT rights activism, Dustin Lance Black cameo’ed in Neon Trees’ new video Songs I Can’t Listen To. Quite adorable.


Thoughts

Especially for this generation, Sir Ian McKellen will always be labeled as ‘one of the Greats.’ Substantially starting his filmography career in 1964, he himself stated his first notable work is God and Monsters in 1998. In 2000, he starred as Magneto in X-Men before taking on the infamous role of Gandalf in 2001, making him an American household name.

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McKellen is an example of what gay celebrities should strive to be. Some may say it’s easy for McKellen to pronounce his homosexuality, after being a distinguished actor and contributor to the arts, but he’s gone through the struggles that most, if not all LGBT persons have gone through. McKellen artfully states that LGBT persons should come out for themselves, which would set them free and make them authentic to themselves and everyone around them, but he would never say ‘come out for the good of society,’ as he shouldn’t encourage. As he said, the importance of coming out is personal, and it shouldn’t be for someone else’s sake, or should be pressured to out of someone, that one comes out. The issue has been raised in my previous post here.

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Nobody can say that McKellen shies from LGBT causes, or the LGBT lifestyle, but that’s all in his personal life. He pushes for international equality for homosexuals and to create a better atmosphere and accepting community for future LGBT persons. However, his professional career is not littered in gay-themed indie films that takes a philosophy major to decipher. Honestly, I love a gay short film as much as the next homo) and usually they’re not upsetting to the eyes to watch either), but it’s going into the stereotype that a gay actor takes a gay role and perhaps end up a one-hit wonder to perform subsequent subpar films due to the misconception of being a one-trick pony.

I have great respect for my elders, and even greater respect for Sir Ian McKellen for sharing his story and surviving in a time when it wasn’t easy being ‘queer’, or even alive.

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However, I have measurably less respect out of those who try to make a living off being gay. I somewhat do applaud what Andy Cohen is, which is “the only gay talk show host in late night television.” He has accomplished much in his career and has made a name for himself, which is quite admirable. But his statements are somewhat contradicting and the interview itself sounds idiotic.

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I admit, I have never seen his show personally and I don’t know if the interview truly reflects how he is, but the interview sounds like an excessively horny 21-year-old trying to jump on a somewhat older, ‘daddy’ WeHo snob’s rod. Other recent times I’ve seen his name mentioned haven’t been unsupportive of this portrayal, being when he’s stated “Lance Bass is the most famous person I ever slept with;” however, he was (to some opinions) positively seen as an advocate to gay rights when he sold his D&G suit in protest to the fashion designers’ anti-gay statements.

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Credit to most of the stupidity of the interview is given to the interviewer, ‘Hilton Dresden,’ for asking ridiculous shit that must’ve been written in cum on his index cards in excitement of meeting Andy Cohen. But honestly, Cohen didn’t need to name drop on a first-name basis (“Anderson [Cooper]”) nor had to refer to the Obergefell v Hodges case as “this thing.” It makes Cohen sound like an unreliable source and very pompous, especially followed by him ineloquently and arrogantly saying,

“I’ve been honored by HRC in the past. I’ve hosted things for them. And I’ve given money to them.”

He could have said that with a bit more humility. Dresden idiotically follows his statement with, “That’s important” before playfully hit on Cohen and flattering Cohen on his book and reading voice. Honestly, it’s starting to be consistent that Out Magazine interviewers must have a hard-on for the subject before, during and after the interview.

But at least my LGBT generation solely represented by the gaping interviewer from Out. Dustin Lance Black and Neon Trees’ Tyler Glenn made a positively cute music video that shows hardships that many other music videos have done, but with heterosexual couples. I remember when Christina Aguilera’s music video for Beautiful was such a big deal, but now music videos such as this one and Joey Graceffa’s Don’t Wait starts the commonality of homosexual seen in media.

Too bad TRL isn’t still around to see this.

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