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Heath and Jake deserve their Oscar noms, but where are the kudos for gay actors playing straight roles?

As the momentum for Brokeback Mountain continues to build with eight Oscar nominations, I keep thinking about the gay and lesbian actors who have without fanfare convincingly played heterosexual men and women on television and in film.

Who can forget the heterosexual devil-may-care cad Rock Hudson, a gay man, played in the film Pillow Talk? As Hudson set up Doris Day on their shared party telephone line in the 1950s, he turned in one of his best performances.

Where are the newspaper and magazine articles bestowing major kudos on Portia de Rossi and Cynthia Nixon for playing heterosexual women with complete abandon? Where was the clamor for John Wesley Shipp playing a heterosexual dad on TV's Dawson's Creek or a heterosexual comic book hero in The Flash?

Who can forget the riveting 1983 TV miniseries The Thorn Birds, in which Richard Chamberlain played a straight Roman Catholic priest, Ralph de Bricassart, who constantly struggled between his calling and his carnal desire for women? Or the famous straight TV lawyer Perry Mason, played by an extremely closeted Raymond Burr? Or even Dick Sargent playing Darrin Stephens on TV's Bewitched?

Why are actors touted again and again for being straight men playing demanding gay roles? Why should it seem harder for a heterosexual man to play a gay role than for a gay man to play a heterosexual role?

Why are we told again and again that Heath Ledger, whose Ennis character is married in the film to actress Michelle Williams, is also involved romantically with Williams in real life? Why are the facts that they became pregnant and that she just had their baby in almost every press release and article about the film? Is this to convince us all that Ledger is still definitely straight and just "acting" gay in this film?

Gays and lesbians have been toeing the line in straight roles for decades, but the media and public has no keen interest in asking them: "How do you do it? It must be so difficult for you to hug, kiss, and make love to a heterosexual on camera when you are not straight."

Well, I believe it's because no one really cares. For some reason gays and lesbians have to be the stoic actors, portraying heterosexual characters without any real acknowledgement or excitement from the public.

As nonheterosexuals, we are supposed to just butch up and shut up. Magazines do not want to put us on covers, and newspapers don't care to feature us in articles as artists stretching ourselves in a whole new heterosexual direction.

The rest of the world is probably thinking it doesn't take any real craft for homosexuals to play demanding heterosexual roles.

Don't get me wrong: I think Ang Lee is a brilliant director, and I think Brokeback Mountain is a great film. But watching the Golden Globes and reading all the press on this film, you would think that Heath and Jake, in their Brokeback Mountain roles, had reinvented the wheel.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

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Jerome Cleary