Elliot Page has announced he’s transgender. In a coming-out social post, the Canadian actor who played Juno and the terrifying victim/predator in Hard Candy reflected on his fears— “the invasiveness, the hate, the ‘jokes’” and threats of “violence.”
All of us gays have a coming-out story, a public declaration that we don’t color within the lines of heteronormativity. It’s always a binding experience when we share our tale with others who’ve stepped away from the Hollywood boy-meets-girl narrative, some of whom are redefining the very notions of “boy” and “girl.” I don’t ever want to conflate being gay or lesbian or bi with being trans, and yet all of us come out at some point. We’re all vulnerable, we humans, and some of the traditional boxes that have been drawn for us over millennia don’t square with today’s lived experiences.
Years after my own coming out, it’s easy to forget how much it takes to de-Narnia your true self. Whether we like it or not, it’s still brave to re-identify, or at least fully explain your identity to people around you. Let us not pretend that coming out is always the right decision, either, or assume it’s an easy route of saying certain words to lighten your load and away you go into a fearless life. It’s not always safer out the closet, and though I want for a world where coming out is a mere steppingstone en route to a more settled life, it can often be a choice that invites genuine personal danger. I know I’ve forgotten how hard it was, how many hours I spent unwishing it. Nowadays my coming out story is more of a quip; it doesn’t dwell on the fear and adrenalin of a teenager in the closet, it plays for laughs. This, of course, is its own privilege.
To be completely honest, despite a few instances of deadnaming, Elliot’s announcement has felt ever so slightly un-dramatic. I too, caught myself thinking “good for him,” and wanting to scroll on. This, I think, typifies our collective desire for intense tales at the extremities of society; we’ve all been slowly conditioned by the internet to sniff out the most alarming of altercations. With a media dominated by violent social injustices, the dogged criticism of the trans experience, the viciousness lobbied by and against TERFs, we’ve become desensitized to smaller acts of self-identification. I am in danger of finding these coming-outs old hat. In this climate of hate-bait, it’s easy to overlook the hugeness of Elliot’s announcement.
It feels almost nuts to have to say it out loud, but trans people should not have to live in fear of becoming an early obituary, to have their gender-conformation mean they’re more likely to be murdered. It’s impossible to fully protect a community if it’s forced into the shadows, and only paraded into the spotlight as a danger to “impressionable minds.” We need to see the myriad life choices trans men and women can make regardless of their transition. We need to let trans people live without fear, because it’s the only way we can ever see them flourish. We need to see them living well, and living into old age.
I know Page came out for himself, and I applaud that, but this is also an act of global visibility for our age. You can’t be what you can’t see, goes the adage, and it still holds true. Elliot’s coming out fills spaces we can’t see: bedrooms where young people privately grapple with their identity, their disconnection between body and mind and public perception. It’s here that the real work is done. Elliot’s trans-visibility offers an option of how to be, it unstitches the tired Hollywood narrative and offers another dish on the great buffet of life. So let’s take a moment to fully acknowledge the huge, invisible ripples of Elliot’s small act of self-honesty. Like many before him, Elliot is out, another color in the great spectrum of the trans experience.