At the Oscars last weekend, openly gay musical artist Sam Smith congratulated himself on being a trailblazer for the LGBT community in the Academy Awards, and for taking home the first Oscar given to an openly gay person.
The facts, however, say Smith is not the first openly gay person to win an Academy Award.
In his acceptance speech for Best Original Song for the movie “Spectre,” Smith incorrectly cited an article in which Ian McKellan said no openly gay actors have won an Oscar before.
McKellan is right in that no openly gay actors have won, but acting isn’t the only category at the Oscars. Several openly gay people have taken home the gold on Oscar night before in other categories.
According to Vox, Elton John, Stephen Sondheim, Howard Ashman and Melissa Etheridge have all won the Oscar for Best Original Song — and they are all openly gay. An openly gay screenwriter, Dustin Lance Black, also won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.
Smith’s inaccurate comment in his acceptance speech is frustrating. It reflects the inability to understand history, and it fails to recognize the work of people who have previously made great strides in the LGBT community.
We have to pay tribute to those who were brave enough to be open about their sexuality in an industry that, more often than not, makes it difficult for them to have a successful career and be open about their lives.
Brent Lang of Variety said Hollywood stars can face difficulty coming out because movie studios depend on box office grosses from many countries internationally to boost their movies’ profits.
China and Russia are just two countries that are major players in the international box office market and rely on the star power of actors to attract an audience.
Both of these countries have anti-gay laws and having an openly gay actor in a movie may detract from the movie’s box office potential for this reason.
Every time someone in Hollywood comes out as a member of the LGBT community, it makes major headlines.
When Ellen Page came out as gay in 2014, she immediately criticized Hollywood for creating a ‘double standard’ in which gay actors can only play gay roles and not straight ones, said Ben Child of The Guardian.
By Smith claiming he was the first member of the LGBT community to win an Oscar, he detracted from the work of people like Page and others who are out of the closet and are doing as much as they can to ensure LGBT people can and will have successful careers in Hollywood.
He also did not acknowledge how other people in Hollywood have previously struggled in their efforts to ensure LGBT individuals are given the respect they deserve in Tinseltown.
I encourage Smith and others to carefully research the achievements of others in the LGBT community. It’s only when LGBT advocates acknowledge each other that they can move forward together in a struggle towards greater equality.
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