Sir Ian McKellen has admitted he wouldn't have accepted his knighthood if he wasn't open about his sexuality.

The 78-year-old actor was recognised in the 1994 New Year's Honours list, but insisted if he hadn't ''come out'' as gay three years earlier he would have found it difficult to embrace it.

In an interview with Attitude magazine, he said: ''I will always be glad that I didn't accept the knighthood until I'd come out of the closet.

''If you're lying about that central part of your nature, can you be trusted? I think that's why when people come out the reception is usually positive. People like honesty.''

Although he thinks it's good that people are honest about who they are, the legendary thespian is adamant that someone's sexuality shouldn't be an issue in wider society.

He said: ''They think if gay people don't talk about being gay that they have something to be ashamed of and it's a secret. Why should it matter? Once you say I'm gay, then you know where you are with a person.''

However, Sir Ian has defended his decision to keep his sexuality away from his parents, Denis and Margery, although he thinks they would have accepted that he was a gay man.

He added: ''What my parents believed in was a Christian view of the world, a non-conformist view of the world in which people cared about each other, whether they knew them or not. They believed that people should always be treated with respect and sympathy, which is why I think if I had come out to my parents it might've been a surprise and a shock to them, but they would have accepted it. That's what I like to think.''