Sir Ian McKellen: We should be allies to trans people

Alistair Mason, PA

Sir Ian McKellen has called on gay people to stand in support of the trans community.

In a wide-ranging chat with It’s A Sin star Olly Alexander hosted by TikTok to mark LGBTQ+ History Month, Sir Ian compared the hardships faced by trans people today to those experienced by gay people when he was younger.

But despite these similarities, the actor expressed disappointment that support is not universal among gay people.

Sir Ian McKellen and Olly Alexander on a TikTok LIVE chat
Sir Ian McKellen talked to Olly Alexander in a chat hosted by TikTok (TikTok)

Lord Of The Rings star Sir Ian said: “I do hear people – gay people – talk about transgender people in very much the same terms as people used to talk about your common or garden gay.

“The connection between us all is we come under the queer umbrella – we are queer. I quite like being queer actually.

“The problems that transgender people have with the law are not dissimilar from what used to be the case for us, so I think we should all be allies really.

“But you say that and the wrath of god comes down on you from certain quarters.”

It’s A Sin, the Russell T Davies drama in which Alexander starred, depicted life among London’s gay scene as the Aids pandemic hit in the 1980s.

Sir Ian, 81, praised the show saying: “I got very involved – it was wonderful.”

He remembered living through the period and the panic that was caused by the spread of the virus.

Russell T Davies
Olly Alexander starred in It’s A Sin, written by Russell T Davies (Jane Barlow/PA)

“I can remember first hearing about Aids when I was in New York,” he said.

“The rumour was that it was Ronald Reagan, the president of the United States who was famously indifferent to gay people, that his agents were putting poison through the air conditioning into gay clubs – talk about conspiracy theories.

“But we didn’t know – we didn’t know what it was. It was all so confusing.”

Sir Ian said “the one good thing that came out of Aids” was that it led to a “growing awareness of gay people” among the general public.

He spoke of the strides made since the 1980s, telling Alexander: “My experience was so different from yours with regard to sex and being gay.

“I do envy your generation.”

One change in that period has been the reclamation of the word “queer”, which is now used self-descriptively by the LGBTQ+ people after decades of having been a slur.

Sir Ian said: “It doesn’t come easy for me to say ‘queer’ about myself because for so long it was the hate word.

“Of course if you grab it to yourself and own it, the meaning changes.”