Ellen DeGeneres did it. Grey’s Anatomy actor T.R. Knight did it. Neil Patrick Harris did it and ended up hosting this year’s Tony awards – and next year’s Emmys.
Public declarations of homosexuality are becoming noticeably more common in the entertainment industry, and with them comes a new hope that the last great social taboo in Hollywood and beyond may be about to fall.
“In recent years, we’ve not only seen celebrities continue to enjoy success in their careers, but in fact have that success grow after coming out and sharing their stories," GLAAD’s senior director of media programs, Rashad Robinson, told TheWrap. “As our culture has moved toward greater acceptance and understanding of the LGBT [lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender] community, we are seeing that change reflected in Hollywood as well.”
There is, however, another side to the story. While nobody is minimizing the impact of, say, Neil Patrick Harris’ experience, few industry insiders see much day-to-day change in the atmosphere of fear and hostility surrounding homosexuality.
“Trust me, it is a bigger issue now than ever,” one gay actor, who has enjoyed regular work on television for the past 20 years, told TheWrap. “It’s an unspoken code … If you are known to be gay, you will not work. You won’t get the auditions, you won’t get called in and you won’t get the job. Period.”
The actor said he had survived because he gets cast in alpha-male roles where his sexuality does not generally get questioned. He has, though, been dropped by casting directors after they found out he was gay — including some who were gay themselves.
And he said that if he was quoted by name in this piece it would almost certainly kill his prospects in Hollywood.
Performers speaking on condition of anonymity painted a horrific picture of life for a gay jobbing actor. Among the stories they told:
* A casting director who learned at a party that one of his regulars was gay called him at home and told him: “I will never bring you in again. You fooled me, you tricked me. You made me think you were something you are not.”
* When a pretty-boy extra playing a defendant on a legal show on television was late returning to set after a break, the assistant director ranted: “Where’s the faggot? Probably sucking somebody’s c— in the bathroom. Go get him.”
* Another extra on the same show started ranting against homosexuality, Bible in hand, right next to the set. He told some of his fellow performers that God hates homosexuals and that they will all burn in hell. The assistant director eventually broke up this impromptu gathering, but did not fire the instigator or take any other disciplinary action.
“This is a very politically correct town,” the television actor said. “It’s never okay to use the ‘n’ word, or disparage anyone for their race or religion. It’s unacceptable to insult anyone, in fact, unless you are talking about a gay person. Then it’s open season.
“I hope people will become more tolerant. Personally, I see no evidence of it yet.”