“There was no question of being out of the closet,” says Sir Ian McKellen of his childhood growing up Great Britain, “because you would invite the police to arrest you. You want to go to prison? No you don’t. Keep quiet.”
In a powerful four-minute film was directed by filmmaker Joe Stephenson for Tate Britain’s new Queer British Art exhibit, McKellen tells about the heartbreaking plight of gay men in the pre-Stonewall era.
“The word homosexuality had hardly been invented. It certainly wasn’t ever USED. You couldn’t read about it anywhere, you couldn’t see images of it anywhere.
“Gay people, homosexuals, conducted their lives as secretly as possible. There was nobody who was out. Nobody.”
“Part of the reason I proselytize, talk about being gay, is because I don’t want today’s children not to enjoy their sexuality,” McKellen says. “Be aware of it, think about it, puzzle about it, discuss it, have it out in the open, because of course it’s central to what you are.”