How many gay people of color in the spotlight can you name? One, two, maybe three tops? Diversity expert Jimmy Nguyen says that in the 21st century the number of famous lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) minorities remains few and far between. In an opinion piece for the Huffington Post he argues that gay minority role models are desperately needed.
"Today we live in a time when LGBT people have rising prominence in media, the arts, politics, business and other fields," Nguyen states. "But most gay and lesbian celebrities are white: Ellen DeGeneres, Elton John, Suze Orman, Neil Patrick Harris and Anderson Cooper. Fictional gay characters also tend to be Caucasian: The entire main cast of gays and lesbians from Queer as Folk, Will and Jack on Will & Grace, and couple Cameron and Mitchell on Modern Family."
The reasons for this are complex. It's not that famous people of color aren't gay. George Takei, Wanda Sykes and Ricky Martin have all made headlines in recent years after coming out as gay. But these public figures don't wield as much influence as their whites counterparts do. While Ellen DeGeneres has had her own television show since 2003, "The Wanda Sykes Show" was canceled after just one season. Until entertainers of color have the same power in the business that whites do, famous gay minorities will continue to garner less media attention than whites. The same goes for fictional gay characters of color. Sara Ramirez has played a lesbian character on "Grey's Anatomy" for years. Before that Valerie Rae Miller played a lesbian on "Dark Angel." And, of course, there have been TV shows such as "Noah's Arc" that mostly featured gay people of color. But because minorities remain marginalized in the media, these characters and television shows remain marginalized as well.
That being said, the more of a spotlight the media shines on LGBT role models of color the less alone ordinary gay minorities feel. As Nguyen put it: "Visibility of LGBT racial minorities matters. ...Two young gay Asian men tracked me down across email cyberspace because they saw me on The Huffington Post list. While they could have sought advice from anyone, I could speak to them with added credibility because I share their Asian background. ...And how many LGBT people from other racial groups want role models who look like them?"