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Jeffery Self

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The Gay Carla

Posted: 10/19/11 07:33 PM ET

If I were bitten by a supersonic, toxic bug and given superpowers like Spider-Man, my number-one choice would be the power to find out every single Hollywood celebrity who is a closeted homosexual.

Not really. Obviously. I'm not a complete idiot. That'd be a pretty ridiculous thing to waste my one shot at power on. Obviously I'd choose to find out what Oprah's Montecito estate smells like.

However, the idea of finding out the truth behind so many closeted gay celebrities does fascinate me. I'm not one of those people who think every closeted gay guy who has ever been in a romantic comedy should be forced to come out. No one is immune to fear, even if they have worked with Renee Zellweger, but the act of keeping that kind of thing secret does create a pointless sense of loneliness for gay kids watching and wondering if they're the only ones besides Neil Patrick Harris and that assistant on The Rachel Zoe Project.

Moving to Hollywood and attempting to make my way into the world of television acting has been a real wake-up call to just how gay-fearing Hollywood can still be. It was easy for me to think that everyone and their drag queen brother is gay, groovy and not giving a crap when I was palling around in the world of downtown performance in New York, a world populated by gender-queer, outside-the-box, revolutionary, kick-ass weirdos like Cole Escola, Erin Markey, Max Steele, Justin Vivian Bond, Dan Fishback and Bridget Everett.

A year into my newest chapter in Hollywood, I am finding myself more and more shocked at the gay stigma that still somehow exists in the underbelly of casting offices and studio board rooms. I've had numerous friends tell me horror stories of being told they're "too gay" for gay roles, "not gay enough" for gay hairstylist roles, or that because they've played gay characters on other shows, they couldn't play straight characters on a different show. There's something wrong with a world where I, as a very comfortable gay actor, feel the need to "butch it up" in an audition for a gay character because the casting notice says "straight-acting gay guy" and I know what they want and need the job. It's 2011 and there's simply no such thing anymore. So let's all catch up.

In my first year here in Hollywood, I've been very lucky to book a lot of amazing jobs on some amazing shows with some amazing directors, producers, actors and casting folk. I am in no way the sad little gay drummer boy drumming his tune of a post-modern "celluloid closet" on the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard (but that is what I was for Halloween last year).

Let's give credit where credit is due: Hollywood has come a long way. The very idea that Glee's Chris Cofler is America's sweetheart as a high-voiced gay teenager with a boyfriend on one of the most popular comedies on TV is beautiful and inspiring. The gay guy on Happy Endings is a real, genuine depiction of gay people I actually know. Not to mention Modern Family, Torchwood, 90210 and the fact that essentially every single daytime talk show is hosted by a lesbian or Anderson Cooper.

We should celebrate these gay story lines and characters as much as possible, not tear them down as so many gay folks tend to do -- but we should also demand more. With Glee, Modern Family, Happy Endings, etc., we've proven that America is ready for more. America is ready for more than just gay best friends, gay assistants, gay relatives and gay hairstylists (all of which I've played, by the way, so in the meantime I'll gladly ask you to keep those roles coming so that I can keep paying my rent and eating the Raisin Bran muffin I'm eating as I type this).

America is ready to root for us. So Hollywood should let them.

I consider myself exceptionally lucky to live in this generation where gay characters are slowly becoming mainstream. I understand how far we've come but also how far we have to go. Twenty years ago we never could have had a Chris Cofler or a Jesse Tyler Ferguson or a Jane Lynch, and that's a huge deal. However, my point is this: we're at a point where our gay characters are important enough that they're today's version of Carla on Cheers, and that's an awesome place to be (because who doesn't love Carla on Cheers?), but it's time for a world where we're more than the Carlas; it's time for us to be the Sams and the Dianes, or even the Rebeccas. And I happen to think the first step to that beautiful place is for a few more movie stars to let the world, and most importantly Hollywood, know they're gay and always have been and always will be and that it doesn't change a single thing.

 

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