Hollywood, you’ve created a monster.
Donald Trump would not be where he is today — poised to become the leader of the free world — if it weren’t for the platform you gave him.
You thought Jimmy Kimmel was kidding at the Emmy Awards when he blamed reality TV producer Mark Burnett for Trump's improbable rise in the election. But seriously. The Apprentice launched Trump to global stardom, allowing him to grow his business empire as well as his reach through both traditional and social media. You helped give him his voter base. You have blood on your hands.
The megaphone was handed to him, despite many of you bearing witness to his hateful, misogynistic behavior. The leaked Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump tells Billy Bush how he likes to “grab them by the pussy,” is only the tip of the iceberg. Who knows how many unreleased recordings there are, held under lock and key for fear of lawsuits, that give evidence of his deplorable nature. How many producers bore witness to his depravity for years and remained silent, even in the crucial hours leading up to the election?
As Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Well, good men, evil — and I know no other word to describe his hateful, xenophobic campaign and the white nationalist forces that have rallied around him — has triumphed.
Many of you have despaired in the aftermath of his victory. Many of you feel helpless. However, there is something you can do.
Destroy the glass closet. Obliterate it. Explode it. Cover it with gasoline, light a match, and watch it burn to the ground.
It’s easy, really. All you have to do is hire LGBT actors. Cast a transgender woman as a superhero. Make a gay or bisexual man an action hero. Let a lesbian be a leading lady.
While you’re at it, give members of every marginalized community the opportunity to be beautiful and brilliant on-screen. Give them the same megaphone that you gave to Donald Trump. If you do, then maybe next election, we’ll have a President Laverne Cox instead of the mess we’re in right now. Wouldn’t that be nice?
But beyond the bright future of a Cox presidency, there are very important reasons the glass closet must be destroyed. Throughout the election, and in the days following, there has been a spike in reported hate crimes. People are being targeted for their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, culture, and immigration status. Lives are at stake.
You have the power to fight this. But you’re not really giving it your all. For a long time, you’ve been broadcasting a mixed message to America. When Transparent creator Jill Soloway declared "Topple the patriarchy!" at the same awards ceremony where Kimmel admonished Burnett, she was speaking directly to your industry.
"Propaganda protects and perpetuates privilege, and that’s what TV is, it’s propaganda," Soloway explained in October at the TransNation Festival, adding, "If you’re a straight, white, cis[gender] guy who is overweight, you’ve been watching propaganda for years that you deserve a super perfect, slender girlfriend. But we need to create our own propaganda with queer people at the center."
Moreover, many LGBT actors are still afraid — in 2016 — to come out of the closet, because they worry you won’t hire them. You’re causing a lot of people a great deal of pain. Colton Haynes had panic attacks at the thought that one of you might find out. The Real O’Neals’ Noah Galvin apologized — seemingly out of duress — when he spoke out against discriminatory casting agents.
Are you discriminating? If you habitually give gay roles to straight actors, if you cite “China” as a reason why you can’t give Matt Bomer a leading part, if your movies or television shows erase or kill queer lives, if you pass over the plethora of amazing transgender actors in order to commit “transface” by casting a white, straight person, then the answer is self-evident.
Perhaps you have more in common with Trump voters than you might think.
And closeted actors, you’re also a part of this problem. Change will not happen unless you come out and call out discrimination when you see it. You have a responsibility to your community before your Netflix series. We need your voice now more than ever. Those scared LGBT kids who are flooding suicide hotlines need you to let them know that who they are or love is not something shameful that should be hidden. It’s beautiful. It's worthy of light and a mention in red-carpet interviews. Shout it from the rooftops.
Casting directors and producers, reward out actors. Make sure insanely talented people like Mya Taylor, Drew Droege, Clea DuVall, Charlie Carver, Patricia Velasquez, Conrad Ricamora, Trace Lysette, and anyone else who has the courage to be themselves will never want for work again. (Here's lists of trans actresses and out actors of color, for reference.) Give them parts — and not out of obligation. They’re sexy, funny, and skilled. They can even play straight — that’s their job — just like it was Eddie Redmayne’s job to play a trans pioneer and it was Cate Blanchett’s job to play a heroine in a Patricia Highsmith story and it was Tom Hanks’s job to play a gay lawyer dying of an AIDS-related illness.
LGBT actors can also play queer roles too. They know it. They’ve lived it. They have a lot of experience. So, writers and producers, green-light as many queer stories and characters as possible. It doesn’t even need to be part of the plot. Cast gay extras to hold hands at the next table. Cast a trans woman as a doctor, a bartender, a nosy neighbor, a president. Commit to having at least one queer character in every film you make, instead of the nearly nonexistent representation that is currently at the box office.
I haven’t given up on you, Hollywood. I’ve seen the magic you can do. Be a leader in diversity. Use your influence to fight against the racist, xenophobic, homophobic, and sexist forces that are threatening to tear this country apart. Change as many hearts and minds as you can. Join The Resistance. But before you can do this, you must first conquer the demons within your own industry.
DANIEL REYNOLDS is an editor at The Advocate. Follow him on Twitter @dnlreynolds.