Sir Ian McKellen (Pic: Stefan Servos)

In an article in the UK’s The Times, Lord of the Rings actor Sir Ian Mckellen has urged closeted gays and lesbians to ‘come out’.

“For me, coming out made me unburdened and more self-confident. It made me a better actor. It opened me up emotionally,” said the openly-gay star.

“It’s amazing that it’s an experience that people who you’ll never meet, in places in the world you’ll never go to, can relate to. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done,” he wrote.

Mckellen, who came out in 1988 when he was 49, said his decision came in response to the introduction of the Section 28 amendment in the UK.

The law, which has since been rescinded, stated that schools and local authorities were not allowed to “promote homosexuality” or teach “the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship”.

“Section 28 made gay people second class and it felt right to stand up and say so, to say: ‘I’m not ashamed’. I feel the same way today: come out, it’s got to be done,” said Mckellen in the article.

Mckellen is a stage and film star, best known for his role as Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and Magneto in the X-Men films, and is an active gay rights activist.

“Gay actors tell me that they’re worried about how the audience will perceive them, but that’s just nonsense. The audience would just perceive them in character — and I should know,” he said.

“Hollywood is still scared of gay characters and projects because of conservative advertisers. I’ve no sympathy with it, but no one has ever looked to Hollywood for pioneering social advances — it’s a fantasy factory.

“We need more role models in the public eye, and I know that some of those people are fearful about how people would perceive them if they came out. Everyone should feel that they have the right and opportunity to live openly.”

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