While hosting an LGBT event over the weekend, actor and activist Sir Ian McKellen spoke of the damaging effect hate speech can have on the lives of vulnerable people and said “cruel” religious leaders should feel responsible for gay teens living on the streets.
Sir Ian hosted the InterLaw Diversity Forum’s Winter Carnival fundraiser on Sunday 24 March – in support of the Albert Kennedy Trust.
The Albert Kennedy Trust is a service that supports young LGBT people who have been forced from their homes because of their sexuality, offering shelter, mentoring, and care.
A patron of the Trust since 2007, Sir Ian spoke of the “huge privilege” he felt as a backer of the charity.
He condemned public figures for making anti-gay statements, pointing out that the young people who rely on the Albert Kennedy Trust are often forced to do so because their parents have bought into the ideas of religious and political leaders.
“Every cruel religious leader, every religious politician or bigot who says something anti-gay should be ashamed,” he said. “They are turning our kids onto the street when their parents listen to the ridiculous remarks that they make.”
He said he had supported the Trust since it formed following the death of Albert Kennedy, a gay teen who died in 1989 after being made homeless, and added that despite progress towards gay rights since that time there was still a huge need for the Trust.
“You think that in the last 24 years everything has improved, you know,” he said. “The Queen has had her jubilee celebration, other queens have been able to get married, Cardinals have been exposed.”
“Everything seems to be going well. And so confident are the government that we don’t need to help homeless people anymore, that in the recent cuts to social services they removed the safety net which would catch those people.
“That’s why, in the last year, there are 40% more clients coming to the Albert Kennedy Trust, leaving their home. Needing their guidance, needing their love,needing their support, needing somewhere to sleep, needing training to get back into the real world. That’s why, in the next couple of months, the Albert Kennedy Trust is going to open its first safe house in London.”
“There, of course, should be a safe house in every city in the country,” he added.
In contrast to Sir Ian’s words, a speaker at the anti-marriage equality rally in Trafalgar Square on Sunday claimed that discouraging anti-gay speech was an attack on liberty, and would lead to the state taking over as “the regulator of all behaviour”.
In February, Sir Ian received an honorary doctorate from the University of Ulster, and gave a lecture on the contrast between progress and the areas in which life for LGBT people is “worse than ever”.