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Gay actors are still good but not masculine, scientists find

Gay actors are still good but not masculine, scientists find

People think gay actors are less masculine – but they are still just as good at acting, scientists have proved.

The US research asked ‘Can a gay man play it straight?’ and looked at perceptions of an actor’s masculinity and performance.

College students were given biographical information on a male actor, including sexual orientation, and shown a video of the actor’s performance.

They were then asked to rate the actor’s performance and the likelihood of casting the actor in their own productions.

The study found knowing an actor is gay has no significant effect on ratings of his acting performance.

This challenges dominant thinking in many articles that an out gay actor cannot convincingly play straight because audiences who know their sexuality find them less believable.

‘These new findings indicate that knowledge of an actor’s sexual orientation doesn’t necessarily cause their performance to be perceived in light of stereotypes about gays,’ said Professor Merritt who led the research.

But the study also found that audiences who know an actor is gay give him a lower rating for masculinity.

Equity, the actors’ union, published a survey last year looking at whether it was safe to be open about your sexuality in the entertainment industry.

It found almost half of LGBT actors had not come out to their agents. While 81% were out in their professional lives, and 94% were honest about their sexuality to their fellow performers, only 57% were open about their sexuality to their agents.

They kept it a secret from their agents because they feared coming out would harm their career prospects of being cast in certain roles, especially romantic leads, and would restrict the jobs open to them.

The new survey, finding actor’s masculinity is brought into question when people know they are gay, may bear these fears out.

But many actors do make a success of ‘gay’ and ‘straight’ roles like US TV star Neil Patrick Harris who plays a womanizer in How I Met Your Mother despite being openly gay.

The researchers believe the reduced masculinity ratings are important to fully understand how being openly out influences how an actor is perceived and are planning to further explore these issues in future research, Merritt told Gay Star News.

The new research was led by Paul Merritt, a Psychology Professor at Clemson University in South Carolina, and published in the journal Psychology of Popular Culture.

Unlike incorrect reports in other media, Merritt’s research only looked at responses to gay men, not lesbians.