Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender actors face continued discrimination

A new report finds that Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender actors (LGBT) still lack opportunities in Hollywood.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) actors face continued discrimination, even as workplace opportunities and conditions improve, according to a report by UCLA’s The Williams Institute and the performers’ union SAG-AFTRA (Screen Actors Guild-American Federation of Television and Radio Artists).

The report entitled, “Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Diversity in Entertainment: Experiences and Perspectives of SAG-AFTRA Members,” found one-third of all survey respondents believed that casting directors, directors, and producers may be biased against LGBT performers, and more than half of LGB performers had heard anti-gay comments on set. While the study shows industry discrimination, respondents’ opinions indicate that SAG-AFTRA members provide a supportive environment for LGBT performers; and many lesbian and gay respondents said they would encourage others to come out.

The report was presented at a press conference during the inaugural SAG-AFTRA National Convention in Los Angeles.

“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 Chief Administrative 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.”

Findings suggest LGBT performers may have substantial barriers to overcome in their search for jobs. Almost half of lesbian and gay (LG) respondents and 27 percent of bisexual respondents, for example, strongly agreed that producers and studio executives think LG performers are less marketable. Nine percent of LG respondents and four percent of bisexual respondents reported that they had been turned down for a role due to their sexual orientation. Further, LGBT respondents were less likely than non-LGBT respondents to have an agent, which may put them at a disadvantage when looking for work.

The report finds that most heterosexual performers (29 percent) have never played an LG role over the course of their career, but 58 percent of LGB performers and 33 percent of bisexual performers have. Notably, respondents were less likely to have played a transgender role, with only 14 percent of LG performers and 8 percent of bisexual performers having played a transgender role; few non-LGBT performers (3 percent) have played a transgender role.

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