IF INTERVIEW subjects were football players John Barrowman would be a classy winger: loves to be on the ball, teasing, provocative, and a great deliverer.

But when he’s delivering on the subject of whether top gay actors and footballers should shout their same-sex preference out to the terraces, we’re not wearing the same team scarf.

This week the musical theatre star recalled a Celebrity Jungle conversation with Harry Redknapp about how the ex-manager had never met a gay footballer. Barrowman said he knew several, and developed the story by maintaining it was every high-profile gay man’s duty to come out, to be a poster boy for traumatised, closeted schoolboys out there.

Well, there was a time I was with you on that one, John. But events produced a rethink, such as when a young, vulnerable soap actor asked me if he should come out. I said no.

Why? Well, I’d seen the press diver Tom Daley attracted. I’d read the Variety Magazine article on the survey which revealed that “producers and studio execs believe that lesbian and gay performers are less marketable.”

Now, if John Travolta’s lawyers are reading this, I have to maintain the actor is most certainly not inclined to favour the company of gentlemen. Heterosexuality screams out of every pore of his body. That said, if he had come out as gay, what are the chances he’d have been allowed to play alongside Olivia in Grease, or Uma in Pulp Fiction?As much chance as me landing the lead in Priscilla.

Hollywood hasn’t changed its mind. Indeed, Sir Ian McKellen said recently: “Hollywood has mistreated women in every possible way throughout its history. Gay men don’t exist.”

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Despite living in more liberal times, when was the last time you saw a gay actor play an action hero, or a hetero lover in a Hollywood rom-com? Answer: not since the day Doris threw roses onto Rock Hudson’s coffin, an actor who managed to land straight parts only because his sexuality was a better kept secret than Frank Sinatra’s hairpiece.

Yes, there are successful gay actors who land very good roles, but they tend to be the Best Friend of the female lead, the wicked uncle, the camp chum, or a wizard. Recently, Irish actor Andrew Scott, who is openly gay, played Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s lover in Fleabag, but his part was that of priest, hardly a role we attach to machismo. And he was thoroughly wicked – and fey – as Moriarty in Sherlock. Ben Whishaw is hailed as the star of this generation but his Q in Bond was also fey, and his best TV role was as Hugh Grant’s lover in the Jeremy Thorpe bio-series.

Even John Barrowman claims he “lost out on big movie roles” in the past because of his sexuality. And he hasn’t played a Captain Jack hero since his character faded into infinity. (Barrowman also added that gay producers often won’t cast gay men in the straight roles.)

That’s why when interviewing a young gay actor recently (who hasn’t come out publicly) – who pulled up the drawbridge when asked about his personal life – I reckoned he was right. Why risk losing out on the widest range of roles?

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As for footballers? Any thought they may entertain of announcing a boyfriend should be kicked out of the park. Verbal queer bashing hasn’t gone away since the 1970s when Elton was abused every week by Watford opposition. Just last week he was the subject of an internet joke (reflecting Watford’s huge cup final loss) with the picture caption reading, “The last time I saw 11 men humped was at one of my parties”). And Football Association chairman Greg has admitted, “It remains impossible for a gay Premier League footballer to come out “because of the vile abuse he would receive.”

In weeks to come, Coronation Street is set to introduce a gay footballer who’s been living the lie to family and clubmates. It’s great that soap is playing out this storyline but we have to remember TV wouldn’t be writing it up if gay footballers were accepted in the game.

We can’t deny we’re still part of a society that is endemically homophobic. Last week I heard of two well-brought up schoolgirls being reprimanded for using the phrase, “That’s so gay,” as a condemnation of an action that had nothing to do with sexuality.

It’s OK for John Barrowman. He can play happily in the world of showtunes or panto but he’s wrong to cast fearful gays as “stupid”, adding, “there are so many ways and people around to protect them now and if they come out, whether they’re a sportsman or in Hollywood.”

What protection, John? Legal rights? How can you prise open the blinkered eyes of a casting director, or a marketing director?

Yes, we’re making great strides. It was great to hear Morrissey’s new single (even though I’m not a fan of the miserablist) Wedding Bell Blues (“Oh Bill, I love you so . . .”) But we’ve not come that far.

Writer Havelock Ellis once proclaimed, “Not to be gay is not to be.” He’s right. To hide sexuality is to deny oneself. But there’s a difference being out to family and friends than to those who can make your life in the dressing room or the terraces absolute hell.