UCLA / SAG-AFTRA Study Shows Challenges for LGBT Actors

SAG AFTRA One Union Logo - H 2012

SAG AFTRA One Union Logo - H 2012

Much has changed but bias still remains a problem, with more than half of LGBT performers reporting having heard anti-LGBT comments on set.

“How do you change an entire culture?” asked openly gay actor Jason Stuart at a SAG-AFTRA press conference held during the union’s inaugural convention.

The answer, perhaps, is to start by studying that culture and collecting analytical data to supplement what LGBT performers already know: their career opportunities – and even, it turns out, their salaries – are constricted by lingering bias among producers, executives and casting directors.

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The study, four years in the making and performed by UCLA Law School’s Williams Institute on behalf of SAG-AFTRA, producer a blizzard of statistics reflecting working conditions and professional outcomes for LGBT performers. Among the findings:

* 53 percent of LGBT respondents believed that directors and producers are biased against LGBT performers in hiring.

* More than half of LGBT performers had heard anti-LGBT comments on set.

* … and yet, 72 percent said that coming out had no effect on their careers. Of course, that means that 28 percent had a different, most likely negative experience.

The study was performed M. V. Lee Badgett and Jody L. Herman, both of the Williams Institute. Badgett said that about 5,700 surveys were returned, of which 834 were from LGBT performers. LGBT perfomers are less likely to have an agent and had lower average daily earnings than non-LGBT performers.

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SAG-AFTRA chief administrative officer and general counsel Duncan Crabtree-Ireland, who quipped that he wasn’t an actor but was married to one thanks to the cases that legalized same-sex marriage in California, said that the union will now develop an action plan based on the findings from the study.

Newly elected SAG-AFTRA executive vp Gabrielle Carteris (90210) said she planned to introduce a resolution at Saturday’s convention session supporting LGBT performers.

All in all, it’s a far cry from the days in the mid-2000’s when Stuart was founding the SAG LGBT committee. “We didn’t just have to dig the ditch,” he said, “we had to buy the shovel.”

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