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Alan Cumming hands back his OBE over 'toxicity' of British Empire

The actor marked his birthday by telling fans he had returned the honour

Alan Cumming attends The Good Fight series finale event at the Museum of Art and Design Theater in New York, NY, on November 2, 2022. (Photo by Efren Landaos/Sipa USA)
Alan Cumming has given back his OBE. (Sipa USA)

Alan Cumming has said he has handed back his OBE over the “toxicity” in the British Empire.

The Scottish actor marked his 58th birthday (27 January) with a post on Instagram explaining why he returned the honour, which he was given in 2009 for both his acting and his activism.

He told his followers that conversations about the monarchy after the Queen's death had opened his eyes.

"Today is my 58th birthday and I want to tell you about something I recently did for myself," he wrote.

"I returned my OBE.

Read more: Alan Cumming finally felt his Scottishness was valued in New York

"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)."

Cumming shared his statement from that time, in which he thanked the Queen and said he was "delighted" to receive the honour.

Actor Alan Cumming is made an OBE by the Princess Royal for services to film, theatre, the arts and to activism for equal rights for the gay and lesbian community, inside Buckingham Palace in central London.
Alan Cumming was made an OBE in 2009. (PA Images/Alamy)

He told his 479,000 followers: "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).

The star said he's just Alan Cumming again. (AFP via Getty Images)
The star said he's just Alan Cumming again. (AFP via Getty Images)

Read more: Alan Cumming was 'devastated' when his first marriage failed

"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!" added the actor.

Watch: Alan Cumming on Scotland, sex and fearing Madonna