In an interview with Vulture, British actor Ian McKellen was asked whether any actors had thanked him for coming out gay.

McKellen, who came out in 1988, is best known for roles in the Lord of the Rings and X-Men franchises. In his latest film, Mr. Holmes, McKellen plays a retired Sherlock Holmes.

“Have any actors who've since come out thanked you for it?” Vulture asked.

“Well, younger actors, yes,” McKellen answered. “I think actors of my generation just think, 'Oh, McKellen is bellyaching on again about gay rights. Shut up!' What they don't realize is that there are people who need to hear that message.”

McKellen went on to credit coming out for making him a better person and actor.

“I don't know about you, but it seemed to me that coming out makes one receptive to other people's problems. You are aware that your own problems with being gay, visited on you by society, make you sympathetic to people who you'll never meet in other countries where even worse conditions prevail. I mean, I've just had to turn down a lifetime achievement award at the Dubai Film Festival because it is the law of the land that you must not be gay. And a visiting gay person who makes a fuss – and by 'fuss' I mean, be themselves – will be thrown in jail or deported. That's not the happy environment in which you want to receive a present,” McKellen said.

Later in the interview, he added: “When there was nobody in the world I minded knowing I was gay, everything made sense. Relationships made sense, family made sense and acting became not about disguise, but about revelation.”