Entertainment

Alan Cumming gives back OBE over links to ‘toxic’ Empire

Alan Cumming has given back his OBE, expressing concern over its links to what he describes as the “toxicity” of the British Empire.

The actor said he had made the decision to return the award after listening to conversations about the future of the Royal Family after the Queen’s death.

Cumming was made an OBE in 2009 as part of the Queen’s birthday honours, being recognised for acting, as well as the work he does to campaign for LGBTQ+ rights in the US.

He said at the time that he was “shocked and delighted” to be given the honour.

Writing on Instagram on his 58th birthday, he said: “The Queen’s death and the ensuing conversations about the role of monarchy and especially the way the British Empire profited at the expense (and death) of indigenous peoples across the world really opened my eyes.

“Fourteen years ago, I was incredibly grateful to receive it in the 2009 Queen’s birthday honours list, for it was awarded not just for my job as an actor but ‘for activism for equal rights for the gay and lesbian community, USA’.

“Back then the Defence of Marriage Act ensured that same-sex couples couldn’t get married or enjoy the same basic legal rights as straight people, and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell ensured that openly gay, lesbian or bisexual people were barred from serving in the military.”

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He added: “Thankfully, times and laws in the US have changed, and the great good the award brought to the LGBTQ+ cause back in 2009 is now less potent than the misgivings I have being associated with the toxicity of empire (OBE stands for Officer of the British Empire).

“So, I returned my award, explained my reasons and reiterated my great gratitude for being given it in the first place. I’m now back to being plain old Alan Cumming again. Happy birthday to me!”

Cumming is best known for his roles in Goldeneye and the Spy Kids trilogy, as well as for his stage work, with his credits including Cabaret, for which he won a Tony Award, and Endgame.

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