Alan Cumming Returns OBE, Citing 'Toxicity' in the British Empire

Cumming received the OBE, which stands for Officer of the British Empire, in 2009, due in part to his activism for the LGBTQ+ community in America.

By: Jan. 27, 2023
Alan Cumming Returns OBE, Citing 'Toxicity' in the British Empire
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Alan Cumming has taken to Instagram to reveal that he has returned his OBE, due to his feelings about the "toxicity" of the British Empire.

Cumming received the OBE, which stands for Officer of the British Empire, in 2009, in recognition of his acting career on stage and screen, as well as his activism for equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community in America.

"Fourteen years ago, I was incredibly grateful to receive it in the 2009 Queen's birthday honours list," Cumming wrote in his caption.

"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," he writes, and later goes on to say, "Thankfully, times and laws in the US have changed."

"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," the actor explained as his reasoning for no longer wanting to associate with the OBE title. "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."

Read the full post below:

Alan Cumming's most recent projects include creating a dance theatre piece about the Scottish bard Robert Burns, lip-synching the protagonist in a documentary, directing a podcast series about a sperm bank heist, playing a gangster opposite Liam Neason in a Neil Jordan film, curating a cabaret festival in Australia and recording a duet with a Gaelic rapper. Perhaps not surprisingly, Time Magazine called him one of the three most fun people in show business (the others were Cher and Stanley Tucci!)

Thirty years ago his Hamlet stormed the West End and he was hailed as 'an actor knocking at the door of greatness'. A quarter of a century ago he was a sensation as Cabaret's Master of Ceremonies in a production that forever changed the Broadway landscape . A decade ago his visceral, virtually one man Macbeth was a stunning, transatlantic coup de theatre.

His screen work ranges from art house to blockbuster, cult to mainstream, but his performances are always indelible and some immortal: Mr Floop in Spy Kids, Eli in The Good Wife, Nightcrawler in X2: X Men United, Sebastian in The High Life, 'O' in Sex and the City, Boris in Goldeneye, King James in Doctor Who, Sandy Frink in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion, Mayor Menlove in Schmigadoon and himself on Broad City.

He is the author of six books including a New York Times #1 bestselling memoir, performs in concert regularly in halls around the world and co-owns his own, eponymous cabaret bar Club Cumming, a home for 'all ages, all genders, all colours, all sexualities, where kindness is all and anything could happen!'

The list of his collaborators over the years includes Liza Minnelli, Jeremy O. Harris, Jackie Chan, the Smurfs, David Bowie, The Simpsons, Robert Wilson, Stanley Kubrick, Jay Z, Bianca Del Rio, the Spice Girls, George Lucas, Terence Blanchard, KT Tunstall and not forgetting Dora the Explorer, Arthur and Elmo.

He had a photo exhibition named Alan Cumming Snaps! and an award-winning fragrance named Cumming. He has played Dionysus, the Devil, God, the Pope and was shot by Herb Ritts for Vanity Fair as Pan. He recently played a 70 year old woman. He has been a Lee Jeans model and on a stamp. He is a Tony and Olivier award winning theatre actor. He hosted the Tonys and was nominated for an Emmy for doing so. In fact he has been nominated for five Emmys, won a New York Emmy, a Scottish BAFTA and a British Comedy Award. He is an Independent Spirit award-winning producer and National Board of Review winning director. He is a Grammy and multiple Golden Globe nominee. His portrait was hung in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery in the spot previously occupied by the Queen, who made him an O.B.E. (Officer of the British Empire) in her 2009 Honours List for his commitment to LGBT rights. He has four honourary doctorates and over forty awards for being a humanitarian, but as he says, 'awards mean nothing'!




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