Mark Harris
September 29, 2000 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Who’s not in EW’s Gay Hollywood Issue — and why

This week, Entertainment Weekly publishes its second special report on gay entertainment, ”Gay Hollywood 2000.” When I edited EW’s first gay issue in 1995, we had trouble finding a dozen people in the industry who were willing to be profiled. For the new issue, we found more than 100, in every area of the industry — there are production executives and novelists, actors and musicians, writers and editors, DJs, directors, and drag queens. Their openness should be celebrated as much as their accomplishments.

But I’d like to talk for a minute about the handful of people we had to leave off of this year’s Gay 101 list. Let’s step into the closet and meet them:

— There’s the gay producer of a recent Best Picture Oscar nominee who yelled ”No way! You’re not going to ghettoize me!” The word ”ghettoize” was also used by the head of a major publishing company. (Nice phrase, isn’t it? Why settle for being cowardly when you can also insult people who are braver than you?)

— There’s the director of one of this year’s blockbuster movies who, having taken a couple of tentative steps out of the closet in interviews earlier in his career, has now decided he’s going back in. (Isn’t that sort of like unlosing your virginity?) His representative was ”shocked and offended” — two feelings, by the way, of which most agents are technically incapable — when we asked if those earlier interviews were accurate.

— There’s the up and coming actor whose publicist informed us that ”just because he’s out in the gay press doesn’t mean he’s out to a mainstream magazine like EW.”

Five years ago, if you’d asked me to name the biggest threat to the continued acceptance of gay entertainers and gay entertainment, I would have had no shortage of suspects: An organized protest from the political or religious right, the predominantly heterosexual entertainment power structure, or even the volatile tastes of the American public. Forget all those — or at least put them aside. Boycotts haven’t materialized, gay friendly execs seem to speak with ever louder voices in the industry, and as for the public, well, it isn’t only gay people who turned ”Will and Grace” into must see TV. In fact, it isn’t even MOSTLY gay people.

No, I’m now convinced that the biggest threat to openly gay people in the industry is closeted gay people in the industry. You know who they are: The gay agent who won’t send his client out for gay roles because it might ”stigmatize” him. (You know, the way it ”stigmatized” Tom Hanks when he starred in ”Philadelphia.”) The gay network executive who’s afraid to speak up about homophobic jokes or slurs in his own shows. The gay publicist who trots out that tired old canard about how being openly gay will ”limit an actor’s ability to play romantic roles.” (Maybe it’s time to ask these people to produce, say, a SINGLE example of that happening in the last 30 years.) Is it too much to ask that if these people don’t get out of the closet, they at least get out of the way?

You can recognize these folks a mile away. They’re the ones who talk with practiced condescension about what ”America” or ”the public” is or isn’t ready to accept. They’re the ones who still believe that openly gay people like Elton John, Ian McKellen, David Geffen, Ellen DeGeneres, Rupert Everett, Kevin Williamson, Darren Star, and E. Lynn Harris live in a ”ghetto.” (Nice ghetto! I couldn’t afford the rent there.) They’re the ones who do damage not so much by their refusal to come out — which is and should remain a private matter — as by their insistent investment in the belief that being openly gay causes damage (Question: How would THEY know?) and by their ”I got mine” certainty that their professional success confers no personal responsibility on them whatsoever. They’re the ones who would rather insult their colleagues than stand up for themselves. And their ranks, to put it mildly, would fill up a Gay 101 list very easily.

Maybe next issue. Until then, I hope you’ll join our readers in tipping your hat to the many, and fascinating, entertainers in this issue — the ones who were willing to stand up and, by being counted, say that they count.

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