Many gay actors either told to stay in the closet or scared to come out –Even to other gays

Posted on 2012/01/26 by


Alan Carr after his NTA win

Last night at the National TV Awards the entertainment industry for once looked like a gay friendly and tolerant place.
With awards and nominations for Alan Carr and Graham Norton. Paul O’Grady presenting an award, gay stars showing off their partner and men unafraid to show their close bromance with one another.
This is how a ceremony should be. A place filled with enthusiasm and fun where people can be free, a place where people can be themselves rather then a stuffy ceremony where people seem to fall asleep the second they arrive –Baftas, I’m looking at you!!
It’s interesting how this atmos can be created by open minded, but straight, host Dermot O’Leary at the NTAs, but not at the Bafta’s that have been hosted by openly gay actor Stephen Fry and openly gay entertainer Graham Norton. This could very possibly be because the NTAs are awards voted for by the public and the Baftas decided on by are industry insiders. What has this got to do with the title of this piece? Well, after thinking about and comparing the Baftas to the NTAs I stumbled upon a new atrticle in the Stage, revealing there is troubling’ homophobia in entertainment industry. According to a survey by Equitymore than a third of gay actors and performers have experienced homophobia in the entertainment industry and only half are out to their agents. Almost half of all gay performers have not come out to their agents, with more than a third admitting they have experienced homophobia in the industry.

One gay actor, quoted in theatre trade paper the Stage, said: “A previous agent of mine once told me to keep quiet about my sexuality and though I am out, I do not broadcast it.”
Comments left by respondents highlight how actors feel that telling agents and casting directors will limit the parts they are offered, with most saying they worry roles offered to them might be restricted because they are openly gay. A third claim they have experienced homophobia in the industry.
However, 81% described themselves as out in their professional lives and 94% said they did not conceal their sexuality to fellow performers.
Over half of the gay actors who responded to the survey said that they feared being offered only stereotypical roles if they came out, while being denied romantic leads in particular. One said: “I have seen others sidelined due to their sexuality and I know that I have been sidelined too.” Another said: “It’s OK for a straight actor to play gay roles but harder, if not impossible, the other way round.”

Though the theatre is renowned as one of the most gay-friendly industries, a third of gay actors surveyed said that they had experienced homophobia within it, 57% saying it had come from other performers. Equity equalities officer, Max Beckmann, said: “This goes some way to explaining that many respondents, while not hiding their orientation often do not ‘broadcast it’.” She added that the nature of acting, in which people are continually working with strangers, meant that gay people continually felt they had to come out to new people. Many said they waited a few days before judging whether or not it was safe to disclose their sexuality.

When asked what they feel the “negative implications” are, more than half claim they fear roles available might be restricted, with 54% naming “stereotypical” casting as another and 42% saying “becoming the target of discrimination”. Some report on the negative experiences of being out to their agents, with one claiming: “A previous agent of mine once told me to keep quiet about my sexuality and, although I am out, I do not broadcast it.”

Actor and president of Equity, Malcolm Sinclair, said: “I have never felt that being gay has worked against me but the finding in Equity’s own survey that just under half of all gay performers are not out to their agent in the UK is worrying. But then work is scarce and, whether sexuality is a barrier or not, people may just err on the side of caution. They don’t want to test the water to see if it’s all right.”

Glee’s Jane Lynch recently said when asked: “there are a lot of gay actors getting work right now but what about the leading roles? When do you think we’ll see more of that?”
“I don’t know when or if that will ever happen. I think because since most of the world is straight — and maybe we’ll get to a place where this will happen — most of the world is straight and we want the audience to project their hopes and dreams for love and romance onto those actors. And if it’s not in some way possible, maybe never probably, in their mind that it could never happen, then they’re not going to do it. You know, most people are straight, and I think that’s probably why.”

What most articles fail to mention is that a lot of the homophobia in the industry in recent years seems to come from other gays as well. In the UK gay journalists Dan Wootton Johann Hari and Ian Hyland amongst others often speak about gay actors and performers in a way that would be deemed homophobic if the journalists themselves were not gay. They are especially critical of anyone that appears to be slightly effeminate. In America the most famous homophobic gay journalist is Ramin Setoodeh whom wrote the legendary “why openly gay men can’t play straight parts” for Newsweek. But they are not the only ones by a mile. Gay people seem to become more and more critical of each other, especially when discussing a performer that is deemed to be “camp”. Falling out is the worse thing the gay community can do at this moment where we are in need of a second gay revolution so the rest of the world can be like the NTAs as well.

Posted in: Gay Rights