On Friday night when I saw that Ellen Page had come out during an HRC conference, I was driving to Seattle from my house in Portland. I was already late for dinner plans with friends so I couldn’t watch the speech until later that night, but I thought about Ellen a lot before I could see what she’d said. Since I watched her eight minute speech, I have not been able to get her out of my head.
It doesn’t matter if we knew, or thought so, or even if we never saw it coming. We’ve been through enough public coming outs now to discuss the idea of coming out or being outed, and we know why it’s important for anyone who identifies as LGBTQ to come out, for their own psychological well-being as well as for the safety and progression of our community as a whole. But what Ellen Page did, like others have before her, is make us think not about the fact that she said she is gay, but that she is gay and she said it. It does not matter to me if Ellen Page is gay. It does not matter to me if she dates a man. What matters to me is that people like Ellen Page — the person, not the actress — is a happier, well-adjusted, successful person and being out about being gay is only going to make her more so. It matters to me that she says, “You know what publicists, managers, directors, Hollywood? Fuck you for making me think I need to be closeted to make you money. Fuck you for providing me with inner-turmoil and straining my relationship, and making me into a liar.”
(Sidenote: One time at TCA I was interviewing an actress whose rep said she knew AfterEllen because we always write about “her client, Ellen Page.” I told her if Ellen ever was available to do an interview to give me a call. She just smirked at me.)
She’s taken responsibility for her part in it, yes, but she’s also defying the “advice” of her industry and decided to live by the principles she seems to otherwise live her life with. A feminist, an activist, a person who chooses roles with merit and puts her own money and time into a feature that nobody wants to finance because it’s about two lesbians fighting for their rights as partners as one of them is dying and served her community as a police officer for decades, Ellen Page decided that she should be open about part of her she’d denied for as long as she’s been in the entertainment business and known who she was.
Because she’s always been so open about her strong feelings on feminism and equality, films and otherwise, I would wonder if I was wrong. Surely someone with such strong feelings on those kinds of issues would be out and proud if she truly were gay. But her coming out speech, her beautiful, eloquent, inspired, tear-inducing coming out speech, satisfied that part of me that wondered how she could reconcile those two parts of herself: The staunch activist and the closeted gay woman.
Ellen Page didn’t owe me anything, but she gave me a lot to think about. She’s only 26 and there are people who are twice her age that wouldn’t have the courage to say the things she did, to take that kind of stand and to ask for the same in everyone else. When it comes to the artists and artists you give your own attention to, your box office dollars or your Twitter accolades or your purchase of memorabilia or to a charity in their name, there’s so much more to consider. Do they stand for what you stand for? Do they vote for you or against you? Do they take on the kinds of parts in movies or TV shows that move us forward as people, versus setting us back because they prefer to dissuade rumors or unwarranted attention? They ever have every right to do any one of those things. Ellen Page has every right to do any one of those things. And she just so happened to become more than just an actress whose work I consistently find incredible — from Hard Candy to An American Crime to The East — but a human being we should be so lucky to have speaking on our behalves.
Because that’s what actors do. That’s what public figures do. Even the ones we can’t elect, we’re provided. It feels so good to have people like Ellen Page in that position, like Ellen DeGeneres in hers, or Tammy Baldwin in hers, Billie Jean King in hers. It just feels really fucking good.
And that’s why I couldn’t stop thinking about Ellen Page all week, before I even guessed why. I guess something inside of me just knew. Maybe something inside of you too. None of it really matters. We’re all just trying to live and do that as honestly and happily as humanly possible.