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Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Barbra Talks To MatthewsPlace.com

In the fight for equality, sometimes we can get so wrapped up in the present that we forget that this struggle has been going on for decades --- and that those who have been speaking out on our behalf for many years have made possible the current level of societal acceptance of LGBT people.

There are few other individuals who have been such unabashed advocates for equality as Ms. Barbra Streisand, who has been at the forefront of the fight for her entire career. Recently Ms. Streisand was gracious enough to give a bit of her time to answer some questions for MatthewsPlace.com. We send her our sincere thanks for her compassion, generosity and candor. The world is a safer place because of her voice.

MP: In our work with young people, we often encounter folks who are consistently bullied in school and don't feel that anyone cares or even acknowledges what they are going through. Have you ever been picked on for something that made you different, and if so, what impact did those experiences have in making you the person you are today?

BS: When I was about 13 years old, I had my own style and kids made fun of me for the makeup I wore and the way I colored my hair. And when I was older and had established a career as a successful actress, I wasn't allowed to live in a particular apartment building in New York because I was either Jewish or in the entertainment industry. It was a horrible feeling. I could finally afford to buy an apartment in New York and I had recommendation letters from the mayor of [New York City] and the governor of [New York], but they still wouldn't let me purchase property in the building. I think those experiences made me sensitive to people who aren't always included in the mainstream. I am always conscious to recognize and empathize with those who have been marginalized, ignored, discriminated against, or bullied for being different. ?

MP: You've had such a remarkable career over many decades in film and music. Have you seen changes over that time period in the role LGBT people play in the entertainment industry, or in their ability to be open about themselves in the workplace?

BS: I think some of the most creative, talented and innovative people in our industry come from the LGBT community. But we do have a long way to go in terms of making it comfortable and safe for gays and lesbians in the industry to be open and honest about who they are. There is still fear that being "out" in Hollywood could compromise an actor's career by affecting the kinds of roles or opportunities he or she is offered. But in acknowledging that reality, I do believe that we are moving forward and starting to break through the stereotypes and stigmas that once really inhibited actors from being true to themselves and having a successful career in the business. I look forward to the day when people are hired because they are the best person for the job and are not excluded from opportunities because of their sexual preference, gender, or ethnicity.

MP: You have been a consistent advocate for equality throughout your career. In our work at the Foundation we are beginning to see a rise in the ally voice among young people. What role do you see their voice playing in the equality movement?

BS: I don't think many people would argue that LGBT equality is the civil rights fight of this generation. Young people today are far more open-minded about the issue than the older generation. The notion that gay people deserve the same rights as heterosexual people in marriage, the military, the workplace, etc., seems to be so obvious, yet the struggle continues. But this generation believes and understands that these rights should be available to all people, not just a privileged few. It's one of the major issues today where young people have found a common voice to rally behind, just as the civil rights movement was a unifying cause for my generation. This push for equality has created a new generation of activists, and I think that's wonderful.

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