Sir Ian McKellen, promotes gay tolerance
Publish Date: 26/09/2008
The Burnley born star, best known to youngsters as Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, hopes to end bullying of gay pupils.
Sir Ian, who is one of the cover stars of last month's youth issue of Attitude magazine, famously came out in 1998 on BBC Radio 4 while discussing 'section 28'. He has tirelessly campaigned for gay rights ever since.
He told Attitude: "I've been to talk at quite a few schools recently. I went to a wonderful co-ed faith school in Harpenden. They were Christians and absolutely determined that their pupils did not discriminate.They invited me to come and give prizes to 13-year-olds in front of the parents and to talk, partly, about being gay."
Sir Ian promoted understanding by celebrating individuality: "I said that we are all part of a minority group - be it for being short, or tall or fat or thin, or having red hair or whatever. I said hands up who thinks they are part of a minority group and all the hands went up."
The Lord of the Rings star wowed the young audience with his Gandalf sword: "I had the sword with me and I knighted a pair of children Sir Minority and Dame Minority and it went down very well.
The star stressed the importance of getting into schools and raising awareness of LGBT issues: "It is essential to talk to 12 and 13-year-olds because they absorb what's thrown at them, whether it be homophobia or tolerance - and we have to make sure it's the positive stuff."
Sir Ian told the magazine he hopes his campaign will inspire other gay people to go back to their old schools to speak about homophobia: "I think this campaign is right - any openly gay person should consider whether they have a duty of contacting their old school and saying: 'You may not know, but I am gay and I was when I was at school and what is your policy with regard to homophobic bullying?' There is a need to make it clear that there are gay kids in school."
For more information about tackling homophobia in schools go to www.stonewall.org.uk.