UK survey: 81% of actors ‘open about sexuality’

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In a new survey of the acting industry, eight in ten actors said they were ‘out’ professionally and three quarters of respondents said the decision to come out had not hindered their career.

The poll of 326 actors was carried out by Equity, the union for actors, stage managers and models and published in The Stage today.

81% of respondents said they were openly gay in their professional life, and 94% were open to performers they are working with.

But 43% said they would not be so open talking to their agent.

Equity equalities officer Max Beckmann told The Stage: “The finding that 81% of survey respondents are out in their professional lives and that 73% found the decision to be out easy is hugely encouraging and suggests an industry in which it is safe to be out.

“What is troubling is the finding that only 57% of respondents are out to their agents and it’s particularly concerning 35% of respondents have experienced homophobia in their professional lives. This goes some way to explaining that many respondents say they weigh up whether or not to come out on a job by job basis, and while not hiding their orientation often do not ‘broadcast it’.

“Comments also suggest that actors remain fearful that coming out will hinder their prospects of being cast in certain roles such as romantic leads.”

More than half of the respondents said the negative implications of coming out which they feared included a narrower range of roles becoming available to them as gay actors.

Discussing his experience as a gay actor in a recent interview with, Simon Callow said: “The press wouldn’t let me come out. When they did interviews with me they’d ask, “Do you have a girlfriend?” and I would say, “No, I’m gay,” but they would never write it down.

“One woman from the Mail on Sunday, after a lot of meandering, said: “Now, I gather you’re bisexual?” I told her: “That’s an absolute calumny, I’m not bisexual, I’m entirely homosexual,” but it never appeared in the interview.”

Rupert Everett, who starred in My Best Friend’s Wedding, has suggested that his career was damaged by coming out in the 1990s.

In 2009, he told the Observer: “The fact is that you could not be, and still cannot be, a 25-year-old homosexual trying to make it in the British film business or the American film business or even the Italian film business.

“It just doesn’t work and you’re going to hit a brick wall at some point. You’re going to manage to make it roll for a certain amount of time, but at the first sign of failure they’ll cut you right off… Honestly, I would not advise any actor necessarily, if he was really thinking of his career, to come out.”

Other stars, including Cutting It’s Ben Daniels, have rejected Everett’s comments.

He told The Stage last year: “I would never advise anyone to stay in the closet to further their careers – I’m sure it leads to big fat gay ulcers.

“There are actors I know who won’t come out, and I can see it crippling them as human beings. It’s a great shame that people can’t be who they are in the 21st century, and people won’t let them be who they are.”

Malcolm Sinclair, actor and President of Equity, commented on the findings saying: “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 UK is worrying. But then work is scarce and, whether sexulaity 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.

“I think the great issue today is the nightmare problems facing gay teeenagers in coping with vicious bullying in schools.”