Sir Ian Mckellen visited Liverpool University yesterday

“Here lies Gandalf, I came out.”

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Sir Ian Mckellen was  spotted having lunch in the Guild yesterday, and later gave a talk on LGBT+ issues, having been invited by vet student Joe Simon. The event took place in the Central Teaching Hub on campus at 5pm.

The talk was organised by Joe, LUVS (Liverpool University Veterinary Society) LGBT+ president, in collaboration with the national society; British Vets LGBT+ Society. Joe told the Tab:

This talk with Sir Ian McKellen has been six months in the making and having it finally happen is the most amazing thing. We also had as a speaker Mat Hennessey, President of the newly formed British Veterinary LGBT+ society. LUVS LGBT+ (Liverpool University Veterinary Society Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender+) society put it together as a way of informing about LGBT+ history and issues.

“Present were both vets and non-vets and we managed to witness one of the most incredible talks I think most of us have experienced. They conveyed history and insight with such care, passion and humour, everyone was on the edge of their seats. I’m not sure anyone wanted Sir Ian to stop talking! I hope everyone left more aware and prepared to spread the words shared with us.

“On entry, we collected donations for the Michael Causer Foundation, a local Merseyside charity working towards LGBT+ inclusion and support, for which we raised over £780! Thank you so much to all the people who came, it was truly a night to remember.”

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The talk was opened by a short word from Joe, followed by Mat Hennessey, the president of BVLGBT+, who spoke about mental health statistics of LGBT+ people and other issues within the community.

Sir Ian began his talk discussing homosexual tendencies in animals and how this proved that homosexuality could not be labelled ‘unnatural’. Throughout the talk he discussed hardships he had faced as a young gay man, including seeing three friends jailed because they were gay. He mentioned his time working with Stonewall, as a founding member of the UK’s LGBT+ organisation.

He also discussed labelling, saying he only began to call himself gay because others called him ‘queer’. He questioned the purpose of labels, saying why was he labelled gay, and not old, or an actor? Sir Ian discussed the notion of ‘coming out’, explaining that he came out in a radio interview and then realised he had two days before it was aired to tell his family.

He explained that people in the LGBT+ community are constantly having to come out, and told an anecdote of a taxi man asking him if he had any grandchildren, to which he had to explain that he was gay, to his surprise the taxi man said he was also gay. Sir Ian then said, “It’s my fault for assuming all taxi drivers are gay!”

 

Sir Ian stressed the joy of coming out to people, explaining that he often anticipated bad reactions but usually received positive and unsurprised ones. He explained how other LGBT+ people he was friends with described their coming outs as feeling amazing. He said his coming out was so important that he’d like written on his gravestone, “Here lies Gandalf, I came out.”

Sir Ian told the audience that young people today were encouraging in being more open about LGBT+ identities, he spoke of visiting schools where children were openly coming out and being welcomed.

Throughout the talk, Sir Ian made the audience both laugh and cry.

Ben Chadwick, an Mres Biology student said:

Sir Ian McKellan spoke with such conviction and gravitas about his life as a gay man! He was truly inspirational and it’s easy to see why he’s such a motivational figure for the LGBT community. I honestly wish that I’d seem him speak when I was gay teen struggling with my own sexuality, I imagine it would have helped me come to terms with it a lot quicker.”