Scottish actor who was awarded OBE for LGBTQ+ campaign hands award back as he blasts Royal Family's 'toxic' British Empire

Alan Cumming has handed back his OBE
Alan Cumming has handed back his OBE
Dominic Lipinski
George McMillan

By George McMillan

Published: 27/01/2023

- 18:10

Alan Cumming received his OBE for his acting and campaigning for LGBTQ+ rights

A Scottish actor has handed back his OBE and said that the Queen’s death has “opened his eyes” to the way that the British Empire “profited at the expense (and death) of indigenous peoples”.

Alan Cumming received an OBE during the Queen’s 2009 Birthday Honours for his acting work and campaigning for LGBTQ+ rights in the USA.

Alan Cumming arriving for The 18th annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Party to celebrate the 82nd Academy Awards at the Pacific Design Center in Los Angeles.
Alan Cumming said the death of the Queen had opened his eyes and changed the way he viewed the award.

At the time he shared his delight at receiving the award and said he was “shocked”.

Cumming was born in Aberfeldy, Perthshire and his most notable films appearances include Goldeneye, X-Men and Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut.

But now, Cumming has said the death of the Queen and following conversations around the future of the monarchy had opened his eyes and changed the way he viewed the award.

Writing on Instagram he said: “Today is my 58th birthday and I want to tell you about something I recently did for myself. I returned my OBE.

Actor Alan Cumming wears his OBE, which was awarded to him by the the Princess Royal, during an investiture ceremony at Buckingham Palace, London.
Dominic Lipinski

“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. (Incidentally both these policies were instituted by the Clinton administration).

He continued: “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.

“Also, 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!”

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