On Feb. 14, Ellen Page delivered the Duh Heard Round The World: She officially came out as gay while speaking at the Human Rights Campaign’s inaugural Time To THRIVE conference, which promotes “safety, inclusion and well-being for LGBTQ youth,” in Las Vegas.
I am here today because I am gay and because … (and then paused while she got a standing ovation for 35 seconds.)
…and because maybe I can make a difference. To help others have an easier and more hopeful time. Regardless, for me, I feel a personal obligation and a social responsibility. I also do it selfishly because I’m tired of hiding and I’m tired of lying by omission. 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 here today with all of you on the other side of that pain and I am young, yes, but what I have larned is that love, the beauty of it, the joy if it, 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 love fully, equally, without shame and without compromise.
There are too many kids out there suffering from bullying, rejection or simply being mistreated because of who they are. Too many dropouts, too much abuse, too many homeless, too many sucides. You can change that and you are changing it. You never needed me to tell you that and that’s why this was a little bit weird.
The only thing I can really say is what I’ve been building up to for the past five minutes. Thank you. Thank for inspiring me. Thank you for giving me hope, and please keep changing the world for people like me.
Whenever a celebrity openly reveals their sexual orientation, they are readily called “brave”, which is invariably countered by people saying shit like, “How does being gay make someone brave? Like, big deal. Here’s a cookie.” Here’s how: Being gay doesn’t automatically make you brave. It just makes you gay. But being in a position where openly declaring your identity can very likely put you at a professional disadvantage, and doing it anyway, that makes you incredibly fucking brave.
And when you’re in a public position, that bravery does a great deal of good; by coming out, Ellen Page – and every other celebrity who proudly declares their sexuality – is not only making a statement about their personal lives (that’s really the least of it.) They are challenging the idea that anyone’s personal life should create limitations on their ability to do their jobs. They are generously opening up the private details of their off-camera lives in order to inspire young people who might not have much else to give them hope for their future. Is Ellen Page risking being typecast as a lesbian for the rest of her career? Is she alienating herself from possible roles as part of a heterosexual narrative? Is she going to find herself stuck as the adorable, platonic sidekick to the hetero male lead? Maybe. Yes, I mean, she is risking that, undoubtedly.
Which is why she’s a badass for coming out – because there isn’t a lot for her to gain professionally, other than getting her name in the news for the next few days – because she, like many other out celebs, understand that seeing public, successful people who aren’t of a white, heterosexual, cisgender identity is powerful for young people. Because being young and “different” is a bullshit experience, mostly because we still live in a culture where even things as common as being gay, bi, trans, or a person of color is considered “different”. 78% of gay teens are bullied or teased in school. A lot of them skip school to avoid it. Some drop out. Some turn to drugs to dull the pain of their heinous peers’ abuse. Some of them commit suicide, or are killed. It’s a fucking mess.
So how does Ellen Page coming out affect any of that? By giving kids who feel ridiculed and ostracized during a time when no one feels awesome about themselves anyway something empowering and hopeful to look to: A grown up gay person who is successful, smart, celebrated, and confident enough to stand on stage and talk about being gay.
As much as all like to think we’re special snowflakes of self-determination, as children and teens, most of us unconsciously build our ideas about what our lives should and could be like based on examples we see modeled for us. Some of that comes from our parents (but who cares), but a great deal comes from pop culture; The lives we see lived on TV, in movies, and in celebrity culture construct the templates by which we frame our goals and expectations.
When those models are vastly disproportionate in their sexual, gender, and racial makeup, a tragic number of young people feel themselves automatically excluded from the range of “acceptable” lives to live. Like, if you’re a gay kid, in your developing, malleable, insecure young mind, not seeing examples in pop culture of what awesome future might lie ahead can not only leave you feeling out of place and unaccepted, it robs you of the one thing that makes adolescence bearable: the hope of a better adulthood to come. And considering that teenage years tend to be a special kind of hell if you’re gay, not having the bright future ideal to see and hold onto is an even more brutal thing to go without.
So props to Ellen Page.
Superficial addenda: Does she have a girlfriend? Did we get that far? I wanna take that lil empanada out on some dates. Also, how does she not age? Ugh, we’re the same age and I look elderly compared to her.