Lucas Grabeel, who played Ryan in "High School Musical," says he would steer clear from the gay character role nowadays ... so as not to take a job away from a gay actor.
Lucas tells TMZ ... the last thing he would want to do is take an opportunity away from another actor, and as a straight, white man he feels he's already taken plenty of opportunities away from others without even trying. Guy owns his white privilege.
As you know ... the director behind 'HSM' recently revealed Ryan was gay all along, but he says Ryan wasn't openly gay in the movies, because back in 2006 he didn't think Disney was ready for such a character.
Lots have changed since Lucas played Ryan in the Disney Channel Movie 14 years ago ... and he thinks a gay actor would be cast for the role if the movie was being made today, and he hopes the character would not have to hide his identity.
Lucas' thinking is similar to that of Mike Henry, the white actor who voiced Cleveland on "Family Guy" for 20 years. Mike recently stepped down from the role, saying the black character should be voiced by a black actor.
As for gay characters like Ryan, Lucas says it's finally time for Disney and others in the industry to start educating children about gay people at the youngest age possible.