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Gay Actors Still Worry That Coming Out Will Hurt Their Careers

A new British survey finds that performers are open about their sexuality with co-workers, but not their agents

There’s still a celluloid closet in Hollywood.

Gay actors are far more open about their sexuality with friends and co-workers, than their agents, according to a new survey by the British trade union Equity.

Only 57 percent say that they are openly gay with their agents. Despite the success of gay and lesbian actors like Neil Patrick Harris, Jane Lynch and Ian McKellen, the  indication seems to be that actors and actresses fear that their choice of roles will be affected if they come out of the closet publicly.

Also read: Rupert Everett Lashes Hollywood as Homophobic, Jennifer Aniston as Protected

Rupert Everett, once eager to become the next James Bond, has for years spoken frankly the price he's paid for being openly gay, lambasting Hollywood as "very, very conservative" in a late 2010 interview. 

He said that he didn't blame those who chose to remain in the closet, calling it "very sensible." 

McKellen, Lynch, Harris and others have made great strides for the gay community and frequently play straight people on television and in movies, but there are no A-list film stars who are openly gay. Rumors have swirled for years about the sexuality of major stars such as Jodie Foster, but so far the actress has avoided any explicit public declarations.

At this year's Golden Globe awards, host Ricky Gervais riffed on the those rumors, and the title of Foster's recent film, "The Beaver." 

"I haven't seen it myself," Gervais said. 'I've spoken to a lot of guys — they haven't seen it either, but that doesn't mean it's not good."

Beyond a reticence to broadcast their sexuality, 35 percent the actors surveyed said they have experienced homophobia in their professional lives.

"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 U.K. is worrying,” Malcolm Sinclair, actor and president of Equity, said in a statement. “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.”

The same anxiety does not appear to exist among co-workers. Ninety four percent of those polled said they are honest about their sexuality with their fellow performers and 81 percent were out in their professional lives.