Alan Cumming, a Scottish actor, ignited an internet discussion when he disclosed that he had returned his Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE), which he received in 2009. On January 27, the 58-year-old actor turned to Instagram to make a long message about how he had lately “opened his eyes” to the “poison” of the British Empire.
“Fourteen years ago, I was really delighted to get it in the 2009 Queen’s birthday honours list, since it was bestowed not only for my work as an actor, but also for ‘activist for equal rights for the gay and lesbian population in the United States.'”
He went on to say:
“Thankfully, circumstances and legislation in the United States have changed, and the immense benefit the award brought to the LGBTQ+ movement back in 2009 is now less powerful than the reservations I feel about being connected with empire’s poison.”
Alan Cumming, who became a US citizen in 2008, said some of the country’s anti-gay legislation at the time and had battled against. The Defense of Marriage Act and the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which barred openly homosexual individuals from serving in the military, are among others on the list.
Alan Cumming’s perspective shifted After Queen Elizabeth II died.
Cumming remembered the message he sent after being awarded the OBE in the same piece. He expressed his “astonishment” and “pleasure” at the accolade, saying:
“I am extremely enthusiastic about the battle for equality for the LGBT community in the United States, and I view this honor as motivation to continue fighting for what I feel is right and for what I take for granted as a UK citizen. Thank you to the Queen and individuals on her Birthday Honours List for drawing attention to the US government’s inactivity on this matter. It makes me glad to be British and energizes me as an American.”
However, he said that his thinking altered once Queen Elizabeth II died, and arguments about the British Empire took over numerous discussions.
He went on to say:
“The Queen’s death and the subsequent discussions on the role of the monarchy, particularly the way the British Empire benefited at the cost (and murder) of indigenous peoples all over the globe, truly opened my eyes.”
Twitter responds to Alan Cumming’s decision to return the OBE.
After Alan Cumming’s Instagram post about the “poison” of the British Empire went viral, netizens were split. Several commenters chastised the actor for acting for attention, with one labeling him a “traitor.” Others pointed out that in order to become a US citizen, one must give up all titles and honors, thus calling the British Empire “poison” is a falsehood. Others praised Cumming’s brave decision to return the OBE, calling him an “absolute legend.” Cumming told The Hollywood Reporter on January 29 that he did not anticipate such an “international” response to his choice and that he “broke the internet.”
This awful Scottish Nationalist, Alan Cumming, has just handed back his OBE. An insult to our Queen. Perhaps he will also hand back all the £ he’s been paid, by the BBC. From British license payers. After all, he hates the British! pic.twitter.com/Z8U2679whJ
— Sergeant Shutup (@sergeantshutup) January 27, 2023
Alan Cumming on why he returned his OBE ✊
I agree with him. pic.twitter.com/4xPdIhAGNV
— Joe MacReany (@JMacreany) January 28, 2023