New Report Finds LGBT Actors Face Continued Workplace Discrimination


Despite the growing visibility of gay character roles on television and film, LGBT actors continue to face workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, according to a first-of-its kind report by UCLA's The Williams Institute. Variety breaks down the reports findings:

Screen Shot 2013-09-29 at 11.06.25 AM"Gay men were the most likely to report they have experienced some form of discrimination, with one in five reporting an experience," the union said. "Bisexual actors were about half as likely to report discrimination as gay or lesbian actors."

The report by SAG-AFTRA and UCLA's The Williams Institute found one-third of survey respondents believed that casting directors, directors, and producers may be biased against LGBT performers. The survey, released Friday at the first-ever SAG-AFTRA convention, also showed over half of LGBT performers had heard anti-gay comments on set.

Respondents also said SAG-AFTRA members provide a supportive environment for LGBT performers. Additionally, many lesbian and gay respondents said they would encourage others to come out.

"We were pleased to see that our membership is overwhelmingly supportive of LGBT actors, and that many LGBT actors found benefits in coming out," said Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, SAG-AFTRA's Cheif Administration Officer and General Counsel. "Nonetheless, coming out remains a significant and consequential decision for many performers and we are committed to supporting our members in living honest and authentic personal and professional lives."

Co-author M. V. Lee Badgett added, "The survey results show both progress and indications that more work will be necessary to make the workplace an equal and fully welcoming place for LGBT performers. The good news is that almost no one thought that opportunities for LGBT actors were getting worse."

You can read the full report HERE


  1. B6 says

    One step forward, three steps back. Gays are only popular on gay web sites. One would hope Hollywood would be immune, but they have to please the entire country, which is contrary to popular belief, anti-gay.

  2. jjose712 says

    People fear to come out for some reason. It’s obvious that if there were no harm to their careers more people will be open.

    But facing some kind of discrimination is something that happens in a lot of enviroments, i’m pretty sure a lot of black actors and specially latino actors are denied roles because the big studios want white straight actors to be the lead roles in their movies, because more people will indentified with the hero if he is straight and white.

    I think if an actor is talented and he is happy playing interesting character roles he will have a succesful career. The problem is people who are more limited, or are stuck in action movies, or have the hopes of becoming a big movie star, in those cases a coming out is not possible.

    In my opinion, acting is a profession where luck plays a major role, being in the right place at the right time makes a big big differences, and some actors don’t want to risk their oportunities.

    Of course, coming out on the public eye can be very dangerous if the actor is not ready to take that step. But the new generations don’t seem to like the closet at all, and the new generations of straights doesn’t seem to have such problems with people coming out, so probably the things will change with time

  3. Strepsi says

    I completely disagree with B6, and agree with LittleKiwi. The thing that will change is that finally the generation of self-loathing queens that run the casting business will be leaving. That generation grew up believing, and still inform their clients, that coming out is career SUICIDE. They also project their own insecurity when they never cast known gay actors as straight characters, because they believe they will be “found out”.

    Those self-loathing casting agents sand casting directors’ new assistants, the Eve Harringtons that will replace them, grew up with out gay friends, and don;t see the problem. This will change.

  4. says

    to Strepsi’s point – the number of times a gay role is played by a straight man who tickles the fancy of the type of casting directors who mentioned is just too damn high. like the rent in NYC.

    we’ve all met those types. to paraphrase: “they walk with the flat-footed yet hip-rolling gait of the queen who mistakenly believes that everyone thinks he’s straight”

    non-gay actors in gay roles also affects the way way too many gay men view themselves, and other gay men. look how many shows or films have had gay characters and the ones played by “the straight actor” are the ones the self-loathers insist is “the better portrayal.” yeah, sure thing, Blanche.

    there have been tremendous performances by non-gay actors in non-gay roles over the years. and yet, once an actor comes out they’re very often disregarded for straight roles…*And* gay ones.

    i once left a short-film i was cast in when the director/writer revealed the insecurities Strepsi mentioned: he cast two non-gay actors in two pivotal gay roles, and instructed them to “not do anything Gay” when playing the roles. his point?

    “to represent the type of gay characters that aren’t represented, the ones you can’t tell are gay”

    but..WHO can’t tell these hypothetical people are gay? non-savvy straight people? that’s nonsense. The secret of The Crying Game was only a secret to non-savvy non-queer audiences: when “family” saw that movie we knew the deal from Frame One.

    and that director i talked about, well i tried to talk to him, to no avail: he wants to represent a type of gay man he insists exists, yet had to have two straight guys play the role to “make his point” . i asked why he didn’t cast two gay guys. his answer? “because every gay guy that read for the role i could tell was gay”

    yeah, no S**t.

  5. Francis #1 says

    Actually, I don’t see this issue ending until we as a society move beyond the attitude that gay men aren’t real men which is somewhat what Kiwi touched on above. Hollywood often is a reflection of society and the reality is, the idea that masculine heterosexual men represent the ideal “man” is still very much a pervasive attitude. Until that changes, there will be issues because although acceptance is much better with people 30 and under, has that idea of what it means to be a man changed? That’s what’s blocking gay actors from coming out, that’s why 20% of gay actors are discriminated against.

  6. B6 says

    Strepsi: All this “self-loathing” language. What makes you think all
    gays have to be self-loathing? It’s the gay loathing straights that are holding things up.

  7. Robbie Horn says

    Coming out will impact a small-time actor more than a big star. Nathan Lane came out too early in his career but where is he now?

    Sean Hayes kept quiet and only came out after making enough money to secure his future.

  8. GregV says

    I am certain there is discrimination on the part of some casting agents, but I find this study’s questions too general and open to interpretation.
    For example, more than 7 out of 10 gay actors who had played gay roles said that having played those roles did not seem to have affected their future opportunities.
    As for the approximately 1 in 4 who thought that playing those roles DID affect their future opportunities, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
    Rupert Everett might argue (perhaps without justification) that being gay and playing gay ruined him for other roles.
    But Sean Hayes knows that the gay role he played on Billy’s Hollywood Screen Kiss DID affect his future roles… by getting him noticed and cast in his Emmy-winning (gay) role on Will and Grace and then in (non-gay) roles playing Jerry Lewis, Larry the stooge, etc.
    That role affected him by setting him up for an amazing career.

    It could be argued that EVERY role any actor plays becomes a part of his resume and affects every future role he will get, more often than not in his favor.

    Another question asks if responsdents have ever heard the higher-ups making negative remarks about their orientation or gender expression.
    Well, a lot of us in a lot of professions have heard such remarks. But the “yes” category here would cover a very broad range of experiences, from a 20-year-old tomboy who might be told at every audition that she ‘s not right as the fairy princess to someone Ian McKellan’s age who might have heard a casting director use a homophobic slur once in 1962 and shrugged it off.
    This kind of survey is very general and it doesn’t necessarily mean that being out and honest wasn’t the best decision that every out gay, bi or trans actor or actress ever made.

  9. David From Canada says

    I can’t even remember the last time I saw a gay character in a big, mainstream movie.
    Hollywood is supposedly liberal, but how can an actor safely come out of the closet when almost no gay characters, period, are in movies?
    Homophobia is still deeply entrenched in Hollywood.

  10. z says

    Remember that “Hollywood” is an international business – the movies make more money outside of the US than inside.

    As long as movies are dependent on box office from places like Russia, the middle east, etc. (as well as filming in those locations, or the promotional trips) and those places are homophobic, then Hollywood will be as well.

    As much as I admire the actors who have come out, if I am responsible for making money on a budget of $100 million I am not going to write off significant revenue streams by casting an out actor/actress, because then I will be out of a job.

  11. alex says

    I think it’s important to note that for actors, the job doesn’t end when filming is completed. All lead actors and some supporting actors are required to do interviews and promote the film/show. So, whether you like it or not, the personal life of an actor is a major factor in the hiring process.

    If an actor comes across as a complete tool, producers will be less likely to hire that person. Similarly, if an actor connected to a controversial subject, producers will be concerned that their movie/TV show will take a backseat to discussions of that subject.

  12. Bill Perdue says

    Little Kiwi,

    What a joke that you come here to lecture us all about the acting profession! It’s like having George W Bush come on to explain to us how to be a successful President.

    You are a failed actor. Your wealthy parents spent a lot of money to send you to a performing arts school, but you have had zero success. Your acting career has consisted mostly of gopher jobs and stage hand jobs. I hear that you do a great job fetching coffee for the real actors.

    So instead of going back to square one and figuring out what you are doing wrong and fixing it, you blame straight actors for your failures. What was this short film that you were supposedly cast in? What is the name? I for one think you are full of it and that you were never cast in any short, but if I am wrong, tell us the name and we can go see those straight actors ourselves and see how well they did.

    Bottom line: You don’t get acting jobs because 1) you can’t act well, 2) you have a toxic personality that makes you difficult to work with, 3) you can’t accept criticism and guidance, which makes you difficult to direct, and 4) you audition for male roles, where the casting directors expects to see actors who conduct themselves like normal human males. You don’t fit that bill. You are obsessed with gender. You are obsessed with validating male effeminacy. If that is your life’s crusade, then go for it. But don’t expect a casting director to take on your weird baggage when there are thousands of normal men, gay and straight, who arrive baggage free.

  13. Chrissypoo says

    The saddest part of this story is that some of the discrimination is happening because of gays. I know of openly gay agents at CAA advising clients never to come out; or a top director not casting guys because of rumors that they are gay . Even GLAAD acquired another non-profit group that was created to stop discrimination against gays at the studios and networks (and the reason why the studios put non-discrimination hiring rules in their human resources), only to dismantle the organization.

  14. litper says

    LittleKiwianna is propaganding heterosexuality too by worshipping effeminacy. Tell me what sane gay man would find effeminacy attractive? It’s against homosexual orientation, which means MEN who like MEN.

  15. litper says

    Seriously, people like Little Kiwi are the ones who infect the gay community and do everything to stop actors like Wentworth Miller come out. I guess he’s not gay enough for her?

  16. Billy Crytical says

    Am I the only person that looks at IMDB? It is obvious there is discrimination across the board against LGBT actors even in getting LGBT roles. Heterosexuals have their pick of whatever roles they want. That is how it’s always been. There has never been discrimination against heterosexual actors who played gay roles. LGBT actors get secondary LGBT roles, characters with no stated sexuality, or rarely heterosexual characters with no sex life.

    Look on IMDB and see for yourself the career trajectories of gay actors vs. straight actors from the same project. You will notice that heterosexual actors get more roles and more often leading roles after they played a gay character. Look at heterosexual actor Stephen Amell who played characters on gay shows Queer as Folk and Dante’s Cove who is now the lead on Arrow. The gay actors from those shows have not gotten lead roles.

  17. Rowan says

    Billy, asking people on a website to have actually done a little research that takes 2 secs is just crazy business!

    Hollywood is about making money, I don’t understand why this concept is so alien to Americans especially when the country is built on the ideology of Darwinism and Capitalism? It’s like everyone GETS that the financial industry is corrupt but why do they think differently on such a risky industry like the movie business? A business built by self loathing Jews who created the blue eyed blonde bombshell image?

    It’s still so damn hard but the reaction fans have had to Matt Bomer playing Christian Grey is very telling about what viewers will ignore if the actor fits physically the role they want for a movie.

    Matt Bomer could really affect change-the looks, his educated, middle class, was into sports, southern and eloquent but he’s up his publicist husbands ass who is a control freak who refuses for Bomer to say anything against his precious industry. Bomer IS the system now. Sad.

    It seems that these actors that come out are always painfully publicity shy or/and not intelligent vocal activists. But not sure which came first? Were they like this or did they become like this? And how much influence do their team have in what they say? Zachary Quinto said he came out without telling his team.

    He is now on Broadway and has only a small indie film in the horizon. He is saying in interviews now that he isn’t interested in Hollywood;that it was a means to an end and that theatre is where his heart lies. That he will easily quit Hollywood. I think a part of him is very sincere; he has chosen to be personally happy in his private life BUT it’s rubbish that his team hasn’t told him the word on the street.

    Zoe Saldana, Chris Pine, Benedict etc etc all have more then 5 major movies and reputable indies in the pipeline.

  18. Rowan says

    I should mention that they were all in Star Trek.

    You must be seriously naive and deluded if you don’t think that if it was a straight actor in the role of the iconic Spock, he would not have at least 5 projects in the pipeline.

    Anyway, at least he seems happy which is what matters in the end.

  19. oncemorewithfeeling says

    Nathan Lane came out too early? Sean Hayes waited and cashed in? The things some people will believe.

    Nathan Lane is an identifiably gay Broadway superstar, and, just like almost every single other Broadway superstar before and after him (hi, Kristin Chenowith!), failed to find as much success in any other medium. Nathan Lane could have revealed he was secretly from Mars and still nobody would have watched his sitcom.

    Sean Hayes was a screaming queen playing a screaming queen and agreeing not to say he was a screaming queen because it was the ’90s and he was on a hit show and the wisdom was that his confirming the obvious might hurt the careers of everyone associated with the show. Being on a hit show — not lying about a sexuality everyone knew he had! — is what made him rich.

    Seriously, people — this is what it’s come down to now? Just admit that in 2013, almost nobody outside of a scared, insular Hollywood elite cares about the sexual orientation of actors. Because that’s the obvious truth.

  20. oncemorewithfeeling says

    Too much of the biz is anti-gay, but Stephen Amell is working so that proves straight actors on gay shows work and gay actors don’t? Tell that to Hal Sparks. And, while you’re at it, please point out which of the gay actors on QAF has Amell’s looks and raw charisma? Or even minimal acting talent?

    Yes, Hollywood is too anti-gay (while the viewing public is largely not), but these individual examples are ludicrous.

  21. oncemorewithfeeling says

    And Zachary Quinto? The wildly popular star of a mega-successful franchise playing a world-famous character? The one who seems to be in a new film every five seconds? And now Broadway isn’t good enough to be deemed success? That Zachary Quinto? He’s a failure?

    Yes, Hollywood is too anti-gay while the public is largely not. No, none of these examples prove it. It’s still true, though.

  22. oncemorewithfeeling says

    Lest I forget and before I sign off: Matt Bomer’s unqualified success in having a crazy successful career balanced with a private life with his family (just like almost everyone else in his position) all while being openly gay is the perfect example of how we’ve lost? Seriously, you could show some people a pot of gold and all they would see is a filthy toilet.

  23. Hagatha says

    It’s complicated.

    Tweens girls fall in love with sexless pretty boys. Then the hormones kick in and they want sexy men. Few sexless boys transition well to leading men, because they tend to be short and girlish and sexually nonthreatening but leading men are supposed to be sexually reachable.

    Straight adult women want the fantasy of being with the leading man, and that excludes those they know for a fact are gay.

    Gay power brokers in Hollywood like trade, ie gay for pay. It’s part of their power trip.

  24. Hagatha says

    The truth is that black people tried and largely failed to have general appeal. Now there are black shows that are largely only watched by black people. They made their own niche market.

    Gay people can be our own niche market… if we will indulge our creativity and stop playing to stereotypes. Will and Grace was great. Where are the gay Golden Girls?

    I think a 50’s style TV show of George Takei and his husband and friends would probably be hilarious.

Leave A Reply