While openly gay and Emmy-winning director Todd Holland released an apology yesterday afternoon for telling an Outfest panel on July 12 that he advises up-and-coming, gay male actors to “stay in the closet,” Queer Town asked Outfest Executive Director Kirsten Schaffer what she thought of the director's remark.

Through her publicist, Guido Gotz, Schaffer issued this statement: “Coming out is a personal choice. It has become easier for many people, but for some, especially those in high-profile professions, it is still a challenge. Our mission at Outfest is to promote cultural and social change through film and media arts and to encourage dialogue. Outfest will continue to shed light on LGBT issues and, eventually, I know we will live in a world of equality.”

The quote sounded kind of wish-washy, so Queer Town asked Gotz if Schaffer had anything else to say. The publicist replied via email that the executive director “was only in the room at the beginning (of the panel) but had left by the time (Holland) had made the comment. That's why we don't really have anything to add to the statement.”

But standing in the same room as Holland hasn't stopped Robin McGehee, main organizer of this summer's “Meet in the Middle” and a leading California gay rights activist, from taking a strong stand in this controversy that's been brewing in Hollywood for decades.

McGehee told Queer Town that the gay community as a whole — and that includes gay filmmakers — should be “challenging the machine” that promotes gay actors to stay in the closet. She said Holland's remarks are a form of “internalized homophobia,” which then “creates more” homophobia in both the straight and gay worlds.

“If we're going to fight someone who called an actor a 'faggot' on set,” said McGehee, referring to the incident where straight actor Isaiah Washington called gay actor T.R. Knight that slur on the set of Grey's Anatomy, “we should have those same groups fighting this one.”

McGehee said ending the gay closet in Hollywood was just as important as any other gay rights struggle, adding that anti-gay legislation, violent attacks against gays and lesbians, and people remaining in the closet are issues that are “inter-connected.”

“That stuff doesn't exist if we don't have homophobia,” said the activist, who received death threats when she organized the statewide gay rights rally “Meet in the Middle” in Fresno, California.

At the July 12 panel, though, filmmaker Kirby Dick, a straight man and director of Outrage, a documentary about closeted, gay politicians, said that “there is an argument to be made that the Hollywood gay community is not doing enough in this area.”  He added, “There's an unwillingness to take this on.”

Contact Patrick Range McDonald at pmcdonald@laweekly.com.

LA Weekly