In a stunning speech made on Feb. 14 at the Human Rights Campaign Time To THRIVE conference, Oscar Nominated actress Ellen Page broke the silence surrounding her sexuality.
“And I am here today because I am gay. And because maybe I can make a difference to help others have an easier and more hopeful time,” said the 24-year-old Canadian actress. “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.”
Her speech acted as a call to action to help ease the pressure society places on those that are different.
“There are pervasive stereotypes about masculinity and femininity that define how we’re all supposed to act, dress, and speak, and they serve no one,” said Page. “Anyone who defies these so-called ‘norms’ becomes worthy of comment and scrutiny, and the LGBT community knows this all too well.”
With her admission, Page received a long standing ovation, bringing tears to the actress’ eyes.
Page continued with her call to action, one she said is simple, yet difficult at the same time.
“If we took just five minutes to recognize each other’s beauty instead of attacking each other for our differences—that’s not hard; it’s really an easier and better way to live. And ultimately, it saves lives,” said Page. “Then again, it can be the hardest thing—because loving other people starts with loving ourselves and accepting ourselves.”
While many activists are cheering Page on, some have taken this opportunity to point out society’s obsession with coming out.
Jane Czyzselska, an analyst for The Guardian stated, “It’s news and yet it shouldn’t be news. It’s news because we live in a culture that produces and supports heterosexual dominance. Things like law, media and language, enduring organizational structures that most of us, whether gay, bi, or straight, have absorbed into our collective consciousness and regurgitate whether we want to or not.”
“Let’s consider the opposite view,” Jane Czyzselska writes. “It shouldn’t really be news because all Page has done is to disclose her romantic preference for women. To contextualize this: under patriarchy, no one has to “come out” as a heterosexual. Gay people who come out publicly don’t want special treatment and a cake. We come out because we want to be ourselves and have people treat us with the same dignity they would accord a heterosexual person.”
However, in a society in which “there are too many kids out there suffering from bullying, rejection, or simply being mistreated because of who they are,” according to Page, Czyzselska responds saying that this high-profile visibility and reaction demonstrates homophobia at its finest.
“Page’s declaration shouldn’t be news, but when I read the spiteful remarks in response to the speech – made to people who work with LGBT teens, many of whom experience mental and physical abuse as a result of their sexuality – my heart sank,” said Czyzselska. “The comments ranged from the sneering ‘We don’t care – Don’t rub our noses in your sexuality – Get a life’ to the sinister ‘Send her to Uganda. That should sort her out.’ These words clearly demonstrate why Page’s act was so necessary. I wish coming out wasn’t a big deal. But it’s because of homophobia that it is.”
Page said in her speech that she hopes her words can continue to inspire those that are struggling, and continue to help the HRC make a positive impact in the lives of LGBT youth.