Why Ellen Page's Coming Out Speech Is Everything
On Valentine's Day, speaking at a Time to THRIVE event supporting LGBTQ+ outreach, actress Ellen Page came out to the audience, declaring that she was tired of hiding a crucial part of her identity. "I am here today because I am gay," she said to a hooting and sustained ovation. If only everyone who needs to "come out" could experience that roar of support.
Page isn't the first celebrity humanoid to announce that their sexual and/or gender identity varies from the hetero binary prescribed by narrow-minded society—internet archeologists like myself can recall dinosaurs like the historic moment Ellen Degeneres publicly revealed her personal orientation in her show, Ellen, to the delight and surprise of television spectators—but this is an important speech for a few different reasons.
In the American psyche, Page is someone who fits the mold of "petite beauty," to quote the media. She is the actor who can hide in plain sight, contained within one of their beloved characters, like Juno. So what did it mean to bother asserting a piece of herself to an indifferent media? Page understands the personal toll that keeping a lock on her private life has taken:
Trying to create that mental picture of your life, of what on earth is going to happen to you, can crush you a little bit every day... It's deeply unfair.
She touched on the engrained desire to ascribe various human behaviors to "masculine" and "feminine" stereotypes. And whether you're gay, straight, asexual, lesbian, bisexual, unsure, like wearing pants, like wearing skirts, like walking around with a parrot on your shoulder, or like to wear chaps, feeling like you fall outside of society's norms can be very damaging. Page spoke about the personal cost eloquently, and universally, in terms that virtually any teenager should be able to recognize:
I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered, and my relationships suffered. And I'm standing today with all of you on the other side of that pain. And I am young, yes, but what I have learned is that love, the beauty of it, the joy of it, and yes, even the pain of it, is the most incredible gift to give and to receive as a human being, and we deserve to experience it fully, equally, without shame and without compromise. There are too many kids suffering from bullying, rejection, or simply being mistreated because of who they are. Too many dropouts, too many homeless, too many suicides. You can change that, and you are changing it. But you never needed me to tell you that. And that's why this was a little bit weird.
I don't want to equate the trauma of identifying as "other" in a culture that prizes heteronormative behavior with feeling like an odd sock during your teen years, but emphasize the fact that we can all recognize the alienation that Page is describing. And for an LGBTQ+ kid, it's so much tougher.
If everyone takes a moment to try generating a bit of empathy, she argues, the world becomes a slightly better place.
We just made an effort to be less horrible to each other.
There has been a lot of commentary about whether "coming out" is even necessary any more. In liberal enclaves like Berkeley, the cliche goes, parents find out their child's strengths, weaknesses, eye color, hair color, and gender and sexual identity like a kid finds out the name of their Cabbage Patch doll. It's written there somewhere, and it's a fun surprise with no downside. But norms in Western society are deep-set enough that no one has to ever come out as straight. Straight kids don't suffer depression and self-harm in nearly the same numbers as kids with different orientations. Page's speech reminded us all of that, and compelled us all to question our assumptions as a matter of fairness.
That she did it on Valentine's Day is such a good reminder of what this day is really about: caring.
Here's the speech:
What did you think of Ellen Page's speech?