Theatrical Knight of the Realm and prominent Gay activist, Sir Ian McKellen paid a visit to Woodcote High School in support of Stonewall’s anti-homophobic bullying campaign. He enthralled an audience of over 600 students both with tales from his meteoric acting career and with a clear message that “coming out of the cupboard” – no Americanisms here – was the best thing that ever happened to both his personal and professional life.
He took the hushed audience through his experiences of coming out to family, friends and the media and his subsequent journey as a founder member of Stonewall, the LGBT rights charity who produced the highly successful “Some people are gay – Get over it!” campaign.
His talk charted the successes of the Gay Rights charity through the repealing of Section 28 to the Gay Marriage Bill. He told the students that unlike in his time facing prejudices, there was never a better moment to be accepted as a young Gay or Lesbian person and that all students should accept differences with interest rather than hostility.
Sir Ian then hosted a question and answer session with Sixth Form students and a lively discussion took place.
The students discussed the issues that are still outstanding in LGBT rights, such as the situation in Russia where Gay Pride marches are banned and the fact that out of more than 5000 professional footballers playing at the moment, none have felt able to discuss their sexuality publically.
Woodcote High School is a Stonewall School Champion, helping to challenge and eliminate homophobic and transphobic bullying in the classroom. We have been working with Stonewall over the past couple of years on tackling homophobic language and behaviour, delivering assemblies and becoming Stonewall Champions. The visit was arranged to reignite the campaign. An inspirational talk from Sir Ian McKellen left the students mesmerised and gave food for thought on how we as a school can move forward and become ambassadors for young Gay and Lesbian students of the future.