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Oct 23 2017
Former Actor's #MeToo Story Leads To Gay Agent's Firing, Powerful Essay On Sexual Abuse In Hollywood Comments (0)

22538970_10211535476315894_7489862666599325816_oIn the same way that everybody knew about Bill Cosby for decades before a comic's off-color joke on the topic became the tipping point in the public perception of the man, the New York Times detailing Harvey Weinstein's alleged abuses as a movie mogul seems to have become the tipping point for sexual harassment in showbiz in general.

Amid a flurry of one-off stories and accusations targeting various individuals, some big-shot entertainment figures have sustained a steadier flow of complaints, one of the most high-profile being talent agent Tyler Grasham, who after multiple accusations of sexual impropriety with his young male clients has been canned at APA ...

The APA agent was fired, EW confirms, offering a statement from APA's head of comms, Manfred Westphal:

Tyler Grasham’s employment with APA has been terminated, effective immediately.

Finn Wolfhard (Stranger Things), 14, and Cameron Boyce (Descendants), 18, had already fired Grasham, after gay former actor Blaise Godbe Lipman aka Blaise Embry (Weeds), now in his 20s, accused Grasham of sexually assaulting him.

At first, Lipman posted his #MeToo sexual assault story on Facebook, only going so far as to claim an agent from APA had assaulted him at 17. Incredibly, Grasham apparently poked his alleged victim on the social media network. This so incensed Lipman he went on to name Grasham in a series of posts, the most recent ending with:

All I have left to say is, Tyler, if you’re reading this, careful who you poke, and best of luck on the job hunt sweetie.

Lipman's summary of the events surrounding his decision to go public is required reading. It is thoughtful and calls out the aggressive homophobia in the entertainment biz — including that practiced by powerful gay men in the industry, who are not on our side:

The industry protects it’s own. That is an undeniable fact.

Like Harvey, everyone knew about Tyler’s reputation. If you claim you didn’t, I lovingly ask you to pull your head out of your ass because your faux surprise serves no purpose except to ease your own embarrassment for standing in silence.

But please don’t worry, many of us were silent with you.

We shrugged and we kept going because we all want to get our movies green-lit, or to get hired for that next show, or for our clients to book that next the job.

It’s only when these incidents are made public, outside of the system that protects itself, that these predators see repercussions. I want to specifically highlight the frequency in which these scenarios play out among young actors and representation, and more specifically within the cross section of the entertainment industry and the gay community.

I added my voice to the chorus to represent those who held no power. My incident with Tyler Grasham occurred when I was a young teenage actor, doing bit guest-star roles and Disney shows. In that environment, kids are trained by representation, coaches, by network and studio, to give up their power. Young talent is literally dispensable, a fact they are made well aware of. Although this is the reality of a having a bigger supply than demand, it reinforces a power dynamic that gives young actors little recourse when abuse occurs. As horrible as specific incidents of assault are, the threat of being blacklisted if one were to speak out, is long lasting and psychological.

In this regard, we must not limit the conversation to gender based violence.

In the case of gay men abusing their power over other gay men and boys, there is a long history of silencing and shaming by using the threat of ‘outing’. Progress has been made in recent years with LGBT acceptance in front of the camera, but many young actors are still forcefully kept closeted, and the threat of ‘outing' is a threat to their livelihood. It’s still very uncommon to see young, openly gay, leading men getting cast in non-gay roles. Even Colton Haynes, a 2017 exception, was forcefully kept closeted for years by his then manager Eric Podwall, (also gay.)

My experience as a young gay actor was filled with a myriad of situations of internalized homophobia amongst gay managers and agents, all of whom preyed (some exclusively) on young, gay, aspiring actors who they forced in the closet and subsequently abused. These are not isolated situations. This is a calculated effort by men in these positions, not unlike the common workplace abuse that many undocumented immigrants face, who also have little to no recourse because of what their abusers can hold over them.

This internalized homophobia and self-loathing projection of what kind of masculinity America wants, continues to fuel this toxic culture. The irony is, is that it’s the gay men who are doing the most damage.

If I was still an actor, I would not have had the courage to speak up. Don’t bite the hand that feeds, even if that hand just shoved itself in your pants with no warning or consent.

It wasn’t until I found success in this industry outside of being a teen actor that I had enough perspective on how pervasive and fucked this system of gay on gay oppression was. However, I see imminent change and I must give credit and gratitude to those taking active steps to change the system. As a filmmaker, I’ve had the gift of working with Ryan Murphy through his incredible Half Foundation. As a director, through these initiatives and working on shows like Ryan’s I’ve witnessed the ways in which gay men in power can utilize their sphere of influence in positive ways.

Personal accountability to those who abuse their power is crucial, however holding these people accountable cannot solely rest on the shoulders of the victims. Creating spaces for people to come forward cannot be relegated to hashtags and social media. Agencies, studios and networks need to step up and create a meaningful system of checks and balances. I look forward to seeing how these systems progress, and applaud everyone who is moving us into a new era in which this behavior is no longer normalized.

Remember, the Grashams and Weinsteins are a small component of the problem. Don’t forget for one moment who we have in the White House.

Other Grasham accusers:

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