The creative and performing arts industry has long been regarded as a safe haven for the LGBT community. However, a recent survey of 5,700 members of the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists has uncovered some shocking findings:
•More than 50% of lesbian, gay and bisexual performers “have heard directors and producers make anti-gay comments about actors” and “53 percent of LGBT respondents believed that directors and producers are biased against LGBT performers.”
•More than a third of respondents reported that they had witnessed “disrespectful treatment” to LGBT performers on the set. Almost one in eight of non-LGBT performers reported witnessing discrimination against LGBT performers, including anti-gay comments by crew, directors and producers.
•According to the survey, “gay men were the most likely to report they have experienced some form of discrimination, with one in five reporting an experience.”
•Gender nonconforming gay and bisexual men were more likely to experience discrimination, as were men who were out professionally.
•Twenty percent of gay men and 13 percent of lesbians who responded to the survey reported that they had experienced discrimination in the workplace.
•“While 53 percent of lesbian and gay actors were out to all or most of their fellow actors, only 36 percent are out to all or most agents they know, and only 13 percent of actors are out to all or most industry executives.”
Perhaps even more shocking were the first-hand experiences of homophobia relayed by the respondents:
•“I’ve seen gay men read for straight roles and when they left the room, the casting director indicated that they would not be taken seriously in the straight role because they were gay.”
•“A director told me to recast a role after he found out the lead was a gay male.”
•“An openly gay extra was fired because the lead character felt uncomfortable having him around. In fact, two were fired a week apart for the same reason.”
•“I’ve witnessed actors discarded following an audition as being ‘wrong’ for a role because of perceived sexual image. As in ‘he’s too fey to play it,’ or ‘she’s too butch to play it.’”
•“A friend almost cast a transgender actress and then found out and reconsidered because there would be a kiss with an actor and he did not know how the actor would feel.”
•“People referred to the [transgender] performer as a ‘tranny’ and made references to using prostitution to pay for the procedures, all behind the performer’s back.”
•“Female actress making a disgusted face and saying ‘he’s so gay’ towards a cast member. A general feeling of ‘I can’t talk too much to this guy’ from a TV crew towards an actor. All this needs to stop.”
•“A transgender person …[was] told not to use the changing room to change in, but given no alternative except the bathroom to change in. Most people from background to crew members treated them like an outcast.”
•“I was told by my agent that the casting director was afraid that I would come off as uncomfortable when put into a scene in the actual production with a female love interest. I wasn’t even given the opportunity to read opposite an actress at the callback for the part.”
“Although our industry is heading in the right direction, there is clearly work left to do as certain attitudes and behaviors persist and continue to put pressure on actors to stay in the closet,” said Traci Godfrey and Jason Stuart, national co-chairs of the SAG-AFTRA LGBT Committee. “We are confident that this unprecedented study will have profound ramifications for the entertainment industry as a whole… By utilizing the data it contains as it reflects the realities performers face, we can identify the obstacles to equal employment opportunities and full inclusion.”