26 Jan 2012
A recent survey of gay British actors has revealed that 8 in 10 are ‘out’ professionally, and 7 in 10 said the decision to be open had not held back their career.
However, 43% of respondents admitted to being less open with their agents for fear of attracting less roles or being typecast.
Moreover, the situation is less positive for lesbians, with many respondents saying that the industry is less supportive towards gay women than gay men.
The poll of 326 actors was organised by Equity (the union for actors, stage managers and models), and has been published in The Stage.
Max Beckmann, equity equalities officer commented: “The finding that 81% of survey respondents are out in their professional lives and that 73% found the decision to be out easy is hugely encouraging and suggests an industry in which it is safe to be out.
“What is troubling is the finding that only 57% of respondents are out to their agents and it’s particularly concerning 35% of respondents have experienced homophobia in their professional lives.
“This goes some way to explaining that many respondents say they weigh up whether or not to come out on a job by job basis, and while not hiding their orientation often do not ‘broadcast it’.
“Comments also suggest that actors remain fearful that coming out will hinder their prospects of being cast in certain roles such as romantic leads.”
The openly gay actress Sophie Ward (left) recently spoke about the issue to When Sally Met Sally: “These days [being out] is not a big deal. It felt different 15 years ago when I first came out, and it took a while for my career to settle down after that. Personally, it is a relief to be able to be myself and not worry about it.”
She added: “I think it is different if you are a young lead actor and there would still be some issues with being out, particularly in populist projects. There is still pressure for stars to remain closeted.”
(Sophie has also shared her views on the subject with The Stage - you can read the article here.)
Malcolm Sinclair, actor and President of Equity, 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.”
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