Ian McKellen is an incredible actor. With a vast career that includes high profile roles like X-Men’s Magneto and The Hobbit’s Gandolf, his ability to inhabit his roles is unmatched. I don’t ever think about Magneto while watching Lord of the Rings and vice versa. Both characters are epic! While on screen McKellen has your full attention in whatever character he’s portraying.

He takes a similar approach in real life, with McKellen what you see is what you get. The actor has been unapologetic about who he is and what he believes in. Whether he’s mooning people or leading an army of Nobel Laureates speaking out against discrimination at the Russian Olympics, he’s fully himself.

That characteristic was on display when he recently spoke with Buzzfeed about the importance of coming out.

In the interview McKellen talks about his experience living in the UK in the 1970s as a gay man. While he had several partners over the years he admits that he never thought about gay rights because he’d always been left alone:

I’m afraid I rather went along with that because I was having a good time being an actor.

Once he saw anti-gay laws being discussed in the UK he realized the importance of coming out and speaking out.

In another video segment he compares the “mutant” experience with that of all minority experience. He talks about the relief that comes with coming out and says he’s never met a gay person who came out and regretted it.

During that segment he commended Ellen Page — who plays the character Kitty Pryde in the X-Men series — for coming out at a recent dinner for The Human Rights Campaign.

Even though Arizona’s governor vetoed an anti-gay “religious freedom” law, there’s still a lot of work to be done normalizing the gay experience. So much of the discrimination and the pain that results is based on “otherness” and misunderstanding. If Magneto/ Gandolf can be played by a gay actor who’s not defined by his orientation that sends the message to the young kid who is afraid of coming out for fear of being ostracized. The same goes for Michael Sam and Jason Collins — simply being who you are is a powerful political statement.

It may not be the magic of the Shire or enough to be inducted into The X-Men, but owning who we are and being ourselves out loud is a power in itself.