“I don’t think any gay person is going to be happy and bring joy to themselves and other people unless they can be honest about their sexuality, and if other people don’t like that honestly, that’s a comment on them and not on the person who is being honest…That might seem a harsh thing to say to a young actor who is being advised by an agent to stay in the closet. There are no openly gay stars in Hollywood, so someone is telling them to shut up.”
Although there are now more openly gay people in the entertainment industry than ever before, I would argue that many of them are still restricted on how they can be gay. In …
… watching Ellen, she usually tries to stray away from the issue on a day to day basis. She does mention her wife, and has been an advocate of the anti-bullying movement, but her homosexuality is usually kept at a distance when she speaks about herself on her show. Occasionally when it is brought up, the audiences often laughs it off, as if they’ve been sly enough to catch her in an funny situation. I do believe she is doing good for the homosexual community, but I wait for the day when she can speak openly about her personal life without fearing a drop in ratings.
Other gay actors are restricted to gay roles- the funny, flamey gay who is quick witted and always inserts the right quip at the right time. There are of course a few exceptions to this rule – Neil Patrick Harris plays straight on TV – but I understand why many would be hesitant to come out in Hollywood, when stereotyping people for roles is the norm.
“If you’re going around telling a lie you may get by but you won’t be half as happy as you would be if you came out. If that means you have to give up hopes of being one of the three or four young sex symbols in Hollywood so be it. You probably weren’t going to be one of those anyway. That happens by chance and it doesn’t last for very long… There is a difference between living a private life and being in the closet. Being in the closet means you’re lying about your life but just because you come out doesn’t mean you have to talk about every affair you have. You don’t have to talk about what you do in bed anymore than I have to talk about the food I eat.”
Although one might think that Hollywood operates like any other workplace in that the private should remain private, the difference is in the change that gay actors in Hollywood could cause. Giving the average person an example of what a real gay man or woman can look like is integral to creating acceptance in society. How fantastic would it be to have an ultra-macho character like Jean Claude Van Damme kick ass and be gay at the same time? Or have the sexy action hero be an affectionate lesbian (for her own purposes – not to attract men to her films to see her make out with some other attractive woman). It is imperative to give society a greater sense of what it can mean to be gay – and it could mean anything. Homosexuality doesn’t have to dictate personality and ability, and until stereotypes of the obvious gay are broken down, people will still want to remain in the closet to protect their identities.
Besides being oh-so-awesome in general, McKellen makes an excellent point. Homosexuals working in Hollywood have a much greater responsibility to be themselves for the sake of others. I hope to see more people come out in the industry, and I hope to see the stereotype of the feminised male and masculinised female as gay disappear soon. I also look forward to the day where someone’s sexuality becomes an after thought, as opposed to an integral part of their introduction on Wikipedia.