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Study: LGBT Actors Continue to Experience Discrimination

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) performers still face bias in the industry despite better improved conditions, according to a study released Friday by UCLA's The Williams Institute and SAG-AFTRA.

The findings, which were presented during the SAG-AFTRA National Convention in Los Angeles, showed that nearly one-third of those surveyed felt that LGBT actors were prejudiced against by casting directors, directors and producers. But at the same time, respondents suggested that LGBT actors work in a supportive field.

“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, chief administrative officer and general counsel, SAG-AFTRA. “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.”

“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,” said co-author M. V. Lee Badgett, Williams Distinguished Scholar. “The good news is that almost no one thought that opportunities for LGBT actors were getting worse.”

Among the study's key findings are:

  • Nearly half of lesbian and gay participants and 27% of bisexual participants felt that lesbian and gay actors are not as marketable.
  • 9% of lesbian and gay participants and 4% of bisexual participants said they had been turned down for a part based on their sexual orientation.
  • LGBT performers are less likely to have an agent than non-LGBT performers.
  • More than 1/3 of LGBT performers reported discriminatory treatment with non-LGBT performers present.

The report also dove into perceptions of actors who play LGBT roles, finding that heterosexual actors were less likely to play a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender character than LGBT actors.

“Some study respondents felt that choosing to play an LGBT character limited future casting opportunities,” said Jody L. Herman, Peter J. Cooper Fellow and manager of transgender research at the Williams Institute. “Given LGBT actors are significantly more likely to play LGBT characters, these actors are disproportionately impacted by any casting bias based on prior LGBT roles.”

The was conducted from September through December 2012, surveying 5,692 SAG-AFTRA members across a variety of areas.

You can view the full study here.

Jessika is content engagement director of Broadcasting + Cable, Multichannel News and NextTV. She has been with the brands in various roles since 2013. In her current role, she works primarily behind the screen, keeping an eye on the website and fixing any site bugs. A graduate of USC Annenberg, Jessika has edited and reported on a variety of subjects for NextTV, including profiles on industry leaders and breaking news.