25 May 2006

Ian McKellen E-Posts

17 November 2002


From: Melanie

Q: I respect your talent as an actor. Your qualifications as a social commentator are another story. I do feel the need to pointedly disagree with you on the counsel you gave the 14 year old Christian. Since you are no more Christian than I am gay, your remark about the kid being able to stop being Catholic and still be himself was made in complete ignorance of what it means to be Christian. If I stopped being Christian, I wouldn't be me anymore. Being a Christian is more than just a belief it is an entire way, a reason for being, even, permeating every facet of life to one extent or another. Being gay is no excuse for not treating other people with the same respect and consideration for their sensibilities you would expect them to give you, especially impressionable 14 year olds who can do you no harm.

A: I think the basic distinction holds between what is inborn and what is not, and that it is unreasonable to expect a gay man to desist from being gay. You were not born with your faith, although I would quite appreciate that having discovered it, you might feel re-born. Incidentally your view numerically didn¹t register against the vast majority from whom I have selected the following representatives.

Q: When I was a teenager, I was also sort of homophobic - but then I read the comics of a (here, in Germany, well-known) gay artist (Ralf Koenig ) and saw, that they are people like any other - boring, exciting, hateful, loving, creative, dull. I am still a Roman Catholic and want to assure you, that statements like the one of the 14-years old child are not representative of my religion. Christ is Love, not Hate - but in condemning gay people as " wrong ", you let the devil into your heart. I start to sound like a preacher, so I better stop now.

A: Thank you for introducing me to Ralf Koenig his official site is terrific.

Q: I was recently horrified to read an attack on you and your sexuality in your e-post by a 14 year old. I must say that being a 15 year old gay teen, far from being disappointed by your sexuality I am amazed by your resiliance and the way you have acted as an inspiration to so many including me. On section 28 I heartily agree, although I feel that the law itself does little to affect the way I live and most pupils and staff discuss and promote homosexuality most freely. But I do agree that the law should be removed on grounds of principle. I am more than a little bit disappointed that you did not speak out more in favour of the adoption bill In Britain that would allow gay couples to adopt children. Although I give you the benefit of the doubt and put this down to your busy acting career. I am a member of the conservative party and realise that the right wing is occasionally critical of homosexuality and I disagree wholly with Iain Duncan Smith putting a three line whip on the adoption issue. Lastly, I wish you would return to Britain to do some more acting work here.

A: The adoption bill managed without me! Sorry your leader decided to oppose it but then he is only following the example of all his recent predecessors. On the issue I care most about the Tory party's policies are third-rate. I hope you can be some influence and get them improved.

If you do that, I'll think about acting in London again soon.

From: Dave

Q: Unfortunately, for many people, faith, in the religious sense, is a convenient excuse for bigotry. Bigotry of any kind only serves to hurt. No good comes of it. As far as acting goes, Frank Oz is not REALLY a small green Jedi master. Christopher Lee is not REALLY a blood sucking vampire. Men have played women (hello Shakespeare), women have played men, heterosexual have played homosexual and vice versa. All that matters is the quality of the acting in the portrayal of the character.

A: My sentiments entirely.

From: Ned Kelly

Q: I admire you for being "OUT" and I adore you for being "OUTSPOKEN". I've been a fan of yours for many years, ever since I attended a performance of Richard III in St. Paul, MN around ten years ago, at age 15. Over these last ten years, your career has grown tremendously, with mainstream roles like Magneto and Gandalf exposing you to a vast audience who wouldn't have been interested in your stage work or your smaller scale films such as Gods & Monsters. You could have tried to play-down your sexuality, refused to discuss it with the media, and make yourself as box-office friendly as possible. Instead, you have continued to be active in the gay community and continued to speak openly about the issue. Not many celebrities would use space on their own fan site to print what is essentially hate mail directed at themselves, but you have done so unflinchingly and used it as another opportunity to confront bigotry and homophobia and to let these people know that you aren't ashamed of who you are! I don't know if you have received a great deal of gay bashing email and so forth, but I just wanted to voice my support and remind you that you have fans, both gay and straight, who love your work as an actor and admire you greatly as a person. PS: Oh, and keep ripping out that page in Leviticus. In fact, tear out everything except for the sermons where Jesus teaches about compassion, forgiveness, non-violence, and charity...

A: No, I get very very little anti-gay e-mail. Having posted it, there has been a flood of friendly mail from straights and gays who evidently care. You included. Thank you.

Q: I read your post on bits and bobs about tearing the pages out of the Bible. I think it is the same thing as those who would burn Mark Twain because of his descriptions of the slaves. Where would Tolkien's books be if those who believe his books were against Christianity? The list of authors goes on and on. My advice to anyone who does not like what an author has to say is invoke your right to not look at the book. Leave it on the shelf...or in the drawer.

A: Of course you are right but as there are many people who base their loathing of gay people on the verses I excise and as they are not the last thing I want to be reminded of as I try and sleep, I commit the offence.

Q: Don't worry this is not an abusive letter. I am a Christian and though I'm not gay I do not like the phrase in Leviticus, one of the few in the bible I have difficulty agreeing with. I can't help but feel it was written by someone who at the time was living in a culture that was intolerant of such things (not that these times are always that tolerant) and let it affect what he wrote.

A: Yes, and as a historical document it is of interest. As a law to be obeyed in another place and another time it is unhelpful.

From: Sarah

Q: I was disgusted by the comment concerning tearing pages out of the Bible. I was not disgusted by the fact that you do this, but rather the cruel and hurtful words that were directed at you. While I am a Christian, I do agree with you on this particular matter. Gay or straight, Christian or atheist, I think everyone could stand to learn a little tolerance. And I think if removing intolerant passages from the Bible helps you sleep better, then more power to you...after all, the Bible was not written by God himself. It is God's word, interpreted by Man, and as we all know, Man is an imperfect being. Perhaps Christians should learn to love they neighbor as thyself, no matter whom he or she happens to love. Because that after all is what makes humanity great- love. P.S. I am a huge fan, and I think that you are every bit as much of an inspiration to the heterosexual community as you are to the gay community.

A: Thank you for your support and for your definition of the Bible as God's word interpreted by Man, imperfect man. I also think of the Bible as great literature rather than great history; great imagination rather than reliable witness. Whatever, it is not as a law book that I respect the Bible.

Q: I teach in an American School outside of London. To grow up gay is to grow up with a deep feeling of being different, disenfranchised and isolated, never really feeling a part of the life and daily things most young men take for granted. Particularly in American society, to grow up gay is to grow up feeling secretly ashamed and worried, worthless and unworthy, always on guard and mindful of the real possibilities of exposure, attack, and possibly even death. The feelings of entitlement and belonging, so taken for granted by my friends, were feelings I never experienced as I grew up. Such is the rite of passage for so many gay men and women. Books were the main source of comfort, escape, and ultimately, strength in those days, and the Lord of the Rings was a benchmark and major influence. The nobility of the themes seared themselves into my young heart: redemption, perseverance in the face of impossible odds, the worthiness of sacrifice for the good of others, love and fidelity. They are all there, set in the complex mythical invention. Now in my middle age, I am overjoyed to see the books given the faithful, lavish and artistic treatment they are getting in the Jackson films, and that in itself would be deeply satisfying; what has taken it all to a much higher level for me is what you have brought to the films, and to our lives. How many (other) middle-aged, half-in-the-closet, still-fearful gay teachers have you helped? For last week, I filed a formal complaint against another teacher who is harassing a gay student. I would not have the balls to do this a year ago. And what did I say to myself, smiling, as I handed in the complaint?

"You shall not pass!"

A: One of the many joyous effects of coming out is to make contact with other gay people, most of whom I shall never meet. Making connections with strangers who confide their stories, like you and others do in these E-posts, confirms that there is such a thing as a gay community.

I hope your stand helped the gay student, whom I suppose you could befriend. Gandalf's words indeed. (Actually not Gandalf's or even Tolkien's my misreading of the correct command "You cannot pass!"). Just so long as there isn't some fiery creature lurking with a whip outside the teachers' common-room.

Q: Hmmmmm... Leviticus 18:22 you say? Can't wait for my next trip(s) out of town! Those suckers are outta there! With great admiration - Bonnie McMillian, Houston, TX

A: Let's ride sister Clyde McKellen, Victoria BC

From: Mike

A: I just read the letter from the 14 year old catholic girl. I'm gay myself have been all my 20 years and I just wanted to thank you for providing a cool-headed response to this young girl's question. Often when I'm confronted with something like this I get so angry I can't make a single good point and I usually just walk off in a huff rather than saying anything... though it's doubtful perhaps the things you said made this young girl review her beliefs and maybe show her that there's more than one side to every story.

A: Debating can be learnt. You should have a few good phrases ready for emergencies.

From: Nick Corporon

Q: I'm a gay college student and have forever had trouble dealing with The Bible's espousal on homosexuality. I recently took a literature class in which a wise professor gave us an interesting interpretation on homosexuality in The Bible. According to him, verses like Leviticus 18:22, refer not to homosexuality, but to instances of men having sex AS IF THEY WERE WOMEN - much like prison sex, in which men have sex with other men out of necessity, but not as homosexuals, gays like you and I. This notion helps me to look at The Bible with a stronger stomach. This is just an interpretation and I hope that it might help some.

A: Yes and no. Your explanation is still predicated on the notion that nothing in the Bible is wrong and that all its outdated parts have to be explained and excused rather than acknowledged and regretted. I don't mind that there are a (very) few disparaging references to homosexuality in the Old Testament: it's just when some folks still give them credence that I get concerned.

From: Iain MacDonald

I am a 16 year old heterosexual male from western Canada. It bothers me that I felt it necessary to begin my letter like that. Your E-Post and the topic of many of your interviews and conversations are about homosexuality. You are a champion of gay rights, but considering that, you still seem to spend an awful lot of time talking about homosexuality. Sexuality is a part of all human beings but is not the defining factor of our lives. So my question to you is this: Do you wish people would just accept it, and move on? Don't you get tired of discussing it in EVERY interview? OR do you thrive on this kind of thing? I wish that for every time I heard you discussing sexuality I was instead learning an insight into the life of a world class actor, or some interesting tidbit about how you played Gandalf.

A: Point taken but like so much else on this site these occasional clusters of "gay e-posts" (n.b. there are many more on acting and of course on Gandalf) are in response to the mail I get.

If you read all the correspondence you will get a sense of how important for some of us it is to keep this topic in the public arena. For so long gay people have been encouraged to keep quiet and stay hidden in the closet, e.g. "Don't ask, don't tell" is still official policy regarding gays in the US military.

From: Wednesday

Q: Last week I saw a bumper sticker, "Truth over tolerance." Oh, goody, back to the Inquisition we go. You love men; so what, so do I. Your honesty, wisdom and forthright honesty on the Web makes me think about the issues you address long after I've turned off the computer. Who you sleep with is your own private concern, and I wish you only love and contentment from such encounters. To those who carp and are horrified by such things, up their collective fjord.

A: You put it clearly.

From: siddalrising@aol.com Siddal

Q: I just read your most recent page of e-posts. As an adult daughter of a lesbian, and a mother myself, I applaud you dear man. Be well and thank you for having the courage and depth of conviction to speak out about topics that are so often publicly shunned by those in a position to make a positive change in the status quo.

A: And you never can tell where a word or point of view will land where it is needed. You just tell the truth as you see and hope for the best.

From: Christine

Q: How does one become a gay rights activist and do you have to be gay to be an activist?

A: You have started by reading this page and then asking the question. All gay movements I have been involved with have depended on supporters and volunteers who were not gay, although they all preferred people to be open about their sexuality. If you have any expertise (like your computer) you will be welcomed by your local Gay/Lesbian/Bisexual/Transgendered organisations. Go to their meetings if they are open to the public and see if you like what is being planned.

The net has been crucial to many advances in pro-gay legislation by identifying the arguments and the numbers of those affected. But even so, an individual can make a vital difference by making clear his/her views to the local legislators who need votes. Straight people are very effective in encouraging straight politicians to listen. Gays are often accused of over-stating their case and running propaganda pages like this one!

Q: I pray for the day when every gay/bisexual/transexual/straight person can be as out and as public about their love lives as they want to be. As a lifelong church-going Christian (who has a Masters degree in theology) I believe God created us as we are, and rejoices in our ability to love and give each other pleasure. As for the passage in Leviticus, it's a historically bound command, right up there with don't wear clothes made of two different kinds of fabric (also called an abomination). And I think Paul was homophobic (in the true sense of suppressing his own sexuality by attacking others). The church I attend is full of openly gay people, as well as families with children. I'm thrilled to have my children go to church with all sorts. They know you are gay (at least when I remind them; it's not very important to them) and they love you and your Gandalf.

A: Your church sounds fun. So do your kids. Tell them I say hi.


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