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German Actors Say Now Is The Time. Stage Mass Coming Out

SACHA PFEIFFER, HOST:

We are here, and there are a whole lot of us. That's the first line of a public statement signed by 185 German actors and published last week. In it, the actors, all of whom identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community, are calling for more inclusion and diversity in the entertainment industry. Some of the actors have been out publicly for years. Others used this moment to come out. What they all have in common is fear of jeopardizing their careers by revealing their sexual orientation and gender identities. I spoke with German actor Jules Elting about why now is the right time to make a statement.

JULES ELTING: I would say, why not? We have been, for decades, repeating the same stories in media and on screen, onstage and where a lot of us just don't appear and are not part of the stories and the narratives. And we're just fed up. It's 2021. And everybody, especially the audience, is really ready for stories that include everybody and where everybody sees themselves.

PFEIFFER: Here in the United States, we have had our own issues with the entertainment industry trying to become more inclusive, more diverse. How would you describe the situation in Germany for more inclusion and more diversity?

ELTING: I think compared to the international picture, it's still really behind. The discussion until now had not been taken so openly. It hasn't been a loud voice. And that's really something that we change now.

PFEIFFER: When you signed this manifesto, were you simultaneously coming out publicly?

ELTING: I'm a nonbinary person. So in my case, yes. For me, that was the same week I had my personal public social media coming out. And then two days later, the manifesto was published. It's very overwhelming and at the same time very, very beautiful to live this moment in such a bigger context with such great support within our group, but also from so many who write us from all over the world who are interested.

PFEIFFER: There is certainly a sense of collective power, I think, for people who sign this manifesto. There's also a risk in coming out in such a public way. What's your level of concern that this could result in you losing out on future roles?

ELTING: Yeah, I fear that people will reduce me to my personal identity regarding roles, that people will doubt that I, as in the past, am able to play female roles. And that would be very sad. And it's also scary - or that they're afraid of not knowing how to deal with me, of misgendering me and that this fear kind of makes them not wanting to work with me.

PFEIFFER: I'm sure, in a way, this feels like a very euphoric moment for everyone who signed this manifesto, maybe a little scary. What do you hope it leads to?

ELTING: It's not about making a big thing now, and everybody talks about it, and then in three weeks, it's forgotten. That would be horrible. This was prepared for 1 1/2 years, and it's supposed to be something sustainable and something that changes things in the long run. So we are really hoping that a lot of different departments from the industry, from screenwriters to producers to casting directors to agents, there's an awareness being created. They are starting to take responsibility for their decisions, for their actions. So we are really hoping that a discussion is just starting. And this manifesto, it's really a very powerful tool, I hope - we all hope.

PFEIFFER: Jules Elting, thank you for talking with us about this.

ELTING: Thank you very much.

(SOUNDBITE OF SOULAR ORDER'S "BEHOLDER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.