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Can Gay Play Straight? What Sexuality Has to Do With Winning Roles and Academy Awards

If gay actors can’t play straight convincingly, and are losing gay roles to straight actors, what parts are left?

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"I understand being up-in-arms about that [ Newsweek] article, but it was so bizarre to me, and not true,” Vangsness said. "I'm the only character on 'Criminal Minds' that's had sex. You see her come out of the shower with a guy. I shamelessly, obviously flirt, and I enjoy all of that, and I'm as queer as a purple unicorn singing Madonna. You wouldn't do that with a straight woman playing a gay character. Ninety percent of the women on 'The L Word' were straight and no one was walking around saying 'This is somehow unbelievable.' I can look at men [on the show] and say 'I want to go there!' As an actor, you can find those things. I think it's really silly."

Ironically, some of the actors who have come out long after they established careers have found more parts being offered to them once they’ve been honest about their sexuality. Both Kelly McGillis and Meredith Baxter have received more press, roles and even a book deal for Baxter. Coming out doesn’t have to be the career-ender it used to be, but it also won’t guarantee you get first dibs on all of the lesbian roles written for film and TV.

Though we now know that ingenues like Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich had romantic and sexual relationships with women, it would have been a huge scandal for the movie-going public to know that at the time. But being privy to that information now doesn’t affect their performances, just as Cynthia Nixon’s Miranda Hobbes is just as neurotic about men and sex as she was before we knew the actress was involved with a woman. And when it comes to the “great gay roles” being written, it might not be the challenge they are looking for -- as actors, not as gay women.

Trish Bendix is the managing editor for AfterEllen.com. Visit her Web site at trishbendix.com or follow her on Twitter @trishbendix.