Leaders of the LGBTQ+ Writers Committee of the Writers Guild of America West (WGAW) have called on Hollywood to “dig deeper and do better” in terms of representation.
“It is present-day Hollywood’s responsibility to make right all the harm caused by Hollywood’s past,” the leaders said in an open letter.
According to the letter, WGAW survey last month said up to 25% of people who identify as LGBTQ claim “they have hidden their identity — or felt compelled to do so — in an industry environment.”
Though modern Hollywood has undoubtedly become more open to LGBTQ talent, the letter stressed that those people are often forced to comply with standard narratives and tropes.
“Even in a post-Hays Code landscape, the prevailing narrative has not allowed LGBTQ+ characters the full scope of our humanity,” the letter said. “Too often, we are reduced to our collective traumas — coming out, victimization, the AIDS crisis, being murdered for our identities. GLAAD’s 2021 ‘Where We Are in TV’ Report has shown progress, but in film, LGBTQ+ representation is lagging. Of the 118 films released by the major studios in 2019, a mere 22 — only 18.6% — included a single LGBTQ+ character. Of those, only nine featured an LGBTQ+ character for more than ten minutes of screen time. And, of course, the statistics are far more dire when looking at representation for queer BIPOC and queer disabled characters.”
“Last month, in a survey of 158 members of the WGAW’s LGBTQ+ Committee, a staggering 46% of writers reported that they have hidden their identity — or felt compelled to do so — in an industry environment,” it continued. “Even when narrowing focus to the past five years, that number remains at 25%. When asked why, the top three most cited reasons were: fear of discrimination; fear of not getting or losing a job; and not wanting to be stereotyped.”
Beyond that, the letter called on the industry to better serve the transgender community, lamenting that they are often left out of diversity seminars and not considered an underrepresented group.
“Although LGBTQ+ people share a culture, a psychology, and a history of political and religious oppression — we are, with rare exception, not considered an underrepresented or marginalized group among Hollywood circles,” it continued. “We are left out of diversity reports and fellowship opportunities. Our scripts are often not submitted in response to requests for “diverse voices” because our representatives are told that being LGBTQ+ ‘does not count.'”
The letter nearly echoed what transgender activist and “Orange Is The New Black” star Laverne Cox told Variety last week, who argued against “diversity” quotas and mandates that corporations hire transgender workers, saying they can reduce trans people to tokens in a corporation’s diversity campaign. To combat tokenism, Cox suggested a full overhaul of the whole “oppressive” corporate system.
“Checking all these boxes to maintain the same oppressive systems that are there in place doesn’t necessarily change the material conditions of working-class trans people. We are interested in real liberation. If we’re interested in real justice, this system needs to also change,” said Cox.