I found a recent blog post provocative. Its main question: “In what professions do gay people excel?”
There are really two answers to this question, the politically correct answer and the stereotypically-fed answer. So let’s take them one at a time and I’ll throw in my two cents:
Politically correct: “the glbt community is in every profession, and to suggest otherwise is insinuating that we are limited in some way.”
Stereotypically-fed: “the gays make really good hairdressers and florists, actors (especially broadway and stage) and interior and fashion designers, and the lesbians are very good professional golfers and tennis players, as well as medics, and police officers.”
May I submit that the real answer is a little bit of both, simply because the politically correct answer is true and affected by “the closet,” that infamous place where some in our community feel they must stay because of occupation or stigma (male professional sports, for example.) Those professions with no visible glbt representation cannot be assumed to have no true glbt representation. This unfortunately can be the source of unimaginable irony and consternation among our community. Paging Ken Mehlman??? On the other hand, the stereotypically-fed answer is also true simply because the more expressive and rigorous, “can’t leave this job at home” careers demand transparency and personal inspiration as well as sensitivity. This is what the glbt community can more readily provide because of our learned ability to master our self-expressive skills as a physically and emotionally-persecuted minority from a very early age. For example, gay men and women learn early on to “read” both verbal and non-verbal social cues and mimic those cues to avoid persecution; as a result, we learn how to master those cues and that gives us an advantage in the creative and dramatic arts that straight people do not have. Also, those same social mores that force the glbt community to find our own authenticity do not obstruct us at a later time when we decide we want to choose a profession (ie, women in the military or sports) because we have heard “our own drum” and we follow it regardless of the constant signals designed to modify behavior in a straight world. So, in a nutshell, I believe that some professions publicly highlight our strengths more as expressive and authentic people, and some professions don’t call such attention to individuals anyway (but rather straight or narrow ideals with which we do not identify) so it’s impossible to tell. But statistically speaking, we’re in all the professions just as we’re in all families and cultures and ethnic groups. Societies are doing the convulsing and adjusting around us as a community, while we continue to live and contribute, often in anonymity. One final example was brought to mind when I considered this topic. There was a recent brouhaha about a Newsweek journalist who reviewed Sean Hayes’ performance in the recent Broadway play “Promises Promises.” Sean Hayes, as you remember, played Jack McFarland on “Will and Grace” for many years as a very effeminate gay man, so his public persona was colored as “gay” although in interviews he was very demure about his personal life (ie, sexual orientation.) As part of the pre-play publicity sweeps, Sean DID in fact come out as a gay man before he played a straight husband to Kristin Chenowith’s character in the Broadway play. Well, the Newsweek reviewer Ramin Satoodeh panned Sean’s performance as “insincere” and used the article to caution against gay actors coming out of the closet, with the reasoning being that gay actors can’t play “straight” as well as straight actors can play “gay.” What Mr. Satoodeh fails to realize, however, is that CLOSETED gay actors have played very convincing straight roles for years, and will continue to do so as long as the straight majority considers gay actors as handicapped. If any actor procured success for any length of time in the closet, he basically did a fabulous acting job in the first place to stay in the closet and fooled all the Mr. Satoodehs of the world to begin with. Get it? It’s the general public’s discomfort with sexuality that’s under the microscope here, not the abilities of gay or straight actors. A good actor should make the audience forget EVERYTHING but the performance…that’s what makes suspension of disbelief possible. I feel like I’m beating my head against the wall here. Mr. Hayes’ only handicap may have been the typecasting that usually comes from a long successful run as an unforgettable character (think of “Barney Fife” or “Cliff” from “Cheers.”) Anyhoo, glbt’s certainly make damn good actors, to begin with! And we do kick butt in the arts, if I say so myself.