Out gay actor and activist James Duke Mason, the son of pop star Belinda Carlisle and grandson of late film star James Mason, is on a one-man campaign to fight Hollywood homophobia. In the first of a series of exclusive columns for dot429, he explores how gay insiders are among the most homophobic.
I’ve experienced first hand the prejudice that so many LGBT entertainers have to face on a daily basis. The difference between me and many others, however, is that I choose not to let it control me. I choose not to be controlled by cynicism and fear, or by the oppressive and dictatorial influence that the Hollywood establishment seems to yield over so many in this town.
I know this may sound overly dramatic, but there’s a real conspiracy inside this industry to ensure that the walls that have built “the celluloid closet” do not come down, that the power players continue to tell performers how to live their lives.
When I first got back to L.A. in July 2010 to try and become successful as an openly gay actor, I met with different managers and agents about the possibility of them representing me; some were gay, some were straight.
One manager whom I met with, who was gay and considered quite successful among industry circles, went on a huge rant against me after I spoke about my idealistic views and called me all sorts of names, including “naive” and “out of touch.”
But the truth is that he’s the one who was out of touch. Soon after my meeting with him, I spoke to Oscar-winning screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, and Lance told me that the same manager had told him not to write Milk, the very film that won him an Oscar, for fear of its gay content.
It just goes to show that these managers, agents and studio execs really don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes to keeping people in the closet simply to maintain the status quo.
I also know gay actors who’ve have been told by their reps that they need to stay closeted and “butch up” in order to make it big. I was particularly disturbed by one case in which an actor, who’s now playing a leading character on a major TV show, was told that he had to go to a vocal coach in order to get rid of his “gay voice.” How much more offensive and twisted could that be?
What’s even more troubling is that some of the gay people in the industry are responsible for this as well; they’ve allowed their self-loathing and internalized homophobia to get in the way of their doing the right thing.
What they don’t see is that change is coming; if we all speak out on these issues, whether within Hollywood or not, and stand up for what’s right and what’s just, then the walls of oppression will fall.