Equity asks gay performers whether it is safe to be ‘out’
by Matthew Hemley
Gay performers’ experiences of working in the entertainment sector are being put under the spotlight, following concerns the industry may not be safe for artists who are open about their sexuality.
A new Equity survey will ask gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender members a series of questions about working in the profession, including whether or not they are ‘out’, what the positive or negative aspects of this have been and whether they have ever experienced homophobia in their careers.
Equity devised the survey after members of the union’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Committee raised concerns that, contrary to common assumption, the industry is not one in which it is easy for performers to be open about their sexuality.
In particular, the committee believes some performers may not feel comfortable to be open about their sexuality in case it damages their careers or denies them certain casting opportunities.
Martin Brown, assistant general secretary for communications and membership support, told The Stage the survey was the first part of a campaign being developed by the union, aimed at helping performers “feel strong enough to be out”.
He said he hoped the campaign would also raise awareness in an industry that “can be a bit complacent about how easy it is to be straightforward about sexuality”.
He added: “The LGBT Committee’s experience of working in the entertainment industry is not the one that is commonly assumed, which is that it’s easy to be straightforward about your sexuality. They have the opposite experience – that within training it’s difficult or feels difficult to reveal you may be gay or lesbian, or that, at the start of careers, people think [being out] might damage them. The obvious example is that if a young male actor reveals he is gay, he may fear that he will not be cast in the romantic leads.”
Brown said the survey would provide a “richer” picture about whether or not this was the case generally, with the results being used to spark discussion within the industry.
He added that it is hoped the survey might provide positive feedback about being out in the industry, which may encourage people to “be honest about a key element of their personality”.
Other questions performers are asked in the survey include whether or not they have ever been discouraged from coming out by an agent and whether or not they would encourage other members to be open about their sexuality.
The survey, which can be taken online through Equity’s website, will run until the end of this year, with the results being collated in early 2012.