While McKellen had made his sexual orientation known to his fellow actors early on in his stage career, it was not until 1988 that he came out to the general public, in a programme on BBC Radio. The context that prompted McKellen’s decision — overriding any concerns about a possible negative effect on his career — was that the controversial Section 28 of the Local Government Bill, simply known as Section 28, was under consideration in the British Parliament.
In 1988 Ian McKellen visited Michael Howard, Environment Secretary, to lobby against Section 28. Howard refused to change his position, but did ask him to leave an autograph for his children. McKellen agreed, but wrote, “Fuck off, I’m gay.”