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Chiwetel Eijofor: Being Gay Is Harder Than Being Black in Hollywood

chiwetel eijofor

The 12 Years a Slave star says sexuality is still marginalized in a "pretty open" way. 

In an interview with British newspaper The Times, Oscar-nominated actor Chiwetel Eijofor discussed diversity in Hollywood, an issue which has been brought to the forefront after actors and filmmakers of color were left out of this year's Academy Award nominations.

"I hope this changes (but) I think it's probably harder to be gay," Eijofor said. "I think sexuality is still marginalised in a way that is pretty open. I think it's tough. I think for one's own piece of mind, for one's own sense of self and psychological health, I feel like that's the horrible thing about 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and all that fucked-up shit, because it produces a sense of shame, and therefore this sense of being 'less than', you know? And I hate that. I hate that for anybody."

The 38-year-old actor's sentiments mirror those of another Oscar-nominated British actor, Sir Ian McKellen.

Related | Ian McKellen: Gay People Are Also 'Disregarded' by Hollywood

"It's not only black people who've been disregarded by the film industry, it used to be women, it's certainly gay people to this day," McKellen said last month, adding, "No openly gay man has ever won the Oscar. I wonder if that is prejudice or chance."

Eijofor argued that a person's sexuality is no one else's business, but that someone should be able to to come out without any negative repercussions to their career.

The critically-acclaimed actor scored a Best Actor nomination for 2013's 12 Years a Slave, which went on to win Best Picture at the Oscars, making director Steve McQueen the first black filmmaker to take home that prize. In the two years since that historic win the Academy has failed to acknowledge any black filmmakers or actors, despite a number of standout performances and films.

For Eijofor, however, race has never held him back from achieveing success as an actor, though he admits it's "more nuanced" than that.

"If I hadn't had the opportunities and the fortune that I have had," he said, "of course I would have a very different perspective to that, but I can't be completely intellectually dishonest about what has happened in my life."

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