The greatest thing you could ever do for yourself is discover your truth and claim it. As I was winding down my relaxing, snow-infested, wine-infused evening on Valentine’s Day with a best friend, I decided to check Twitter. The first tweet and essentially every one thereafter rattled off congratulations among other things to talented actress and all around articulate individual Ellen Page for coming out at the HRC Time to Thrive Conference. Needless to say my little lesbian heart stopped and began to fill with love and happiness for her. I don’t think I could have asked for a more appropriate and warm ending to Valentine’s Day (unless maybe… if I had like an actual girlfriend).
Standing tall and proud at 5′ 1″ with a fiery passion in her voice, Ellen Page’s presence engulfed the room and touched my soul through my laptop. While she was visibly nervous (appropriately so), the mission and purpose of her speech rose above it. She so eloquently narrated the struggle that countless people are experiencing day in and day out. She took a community of people and hoisted them upon her shoulders while simultaneously standing beside them. Not only did Page reassure the LGBTQ community that she hears them and has too crawled through the dark spaces in the closet, but she reminded the entire world of how simply being less horrible to one another could make a significant difference; a seemingly easy task that so many people cannot master or even practice. Prefacing her coming out with 5’30” of poetic prose describing poisonous Hollywood standards and stereotypes, the importance of finding community, and the significance of everyone’s story demonstrates that she is honorably taking on the behemoth monster that is equality. She said it herself:
“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.”
Oftentimes when spotlight figures come out, those who have no grounds to make comment tend to do so in the most careless ways. High atop pedestals, there are some heterosexuals who feel as though what they have to say is valuable and warranted when it fact the opposite is true. Comments such as “it’s about time she came out” or “this is news because…” or “I knew she was gay” or my favorite from heterosexual men: “what a shame, she’s good looking.” I say this to them: until you’ve carried the burden of being closeted, the fear, the hopelessness… there is nothing you can say to that individual that can take away their truth and journey. Commenting on someone else’s truth and experience is meaningless especially when you’ve never experienced anything resembling it. Hell, even if in your mind you think you’ve experienced something resembling their experience, I can assure you it is not the same.
Ellen Page coming out is important for endless reasons because there are still an endless number of human beings struggling in silence, on the receiving end of abuse, and a plethora of other byproducts leftover from living your truth when it does not fit into societal standards. When I was younger and still in the closet the only examples of gay women near my age were fictional characters. While I found support from those fictional characters, I’m confident that the impact would have been far greater if I had had a significant, real life example. I can guarantee that hundreds if not thousands of young teens and beyond gained some courage and confidence last night after hearing Page’s speech (the same can be said when Michael Sam came out). So yes those questioning, every time an important figurehead discloses their sexuality to the public, it is important and it does make a difference. In addition, Page is showing her immense bravery as a member of Hollywood, an industry where image and reputation is the most important factor (mind you she is in the upcoming X-Men film).
“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 love fully, equally, without shame and without compromise. There are too many kids out there suffering from bullying, rejection, or simply being mistreated for who they are. Too many drops outs, too much abuse, too many homeless, too many suicides. You can change that and you are changing that; but you didn’t need me to tell you that…”
The closing statements of Ellen Page’s speech that left me teary eyed said it all. Coming out matters because love is one of the most incredible experiences we can have as human beings. It matters because you help pave the path to equality a little bit further. It matters because one day we won’t have to come out anymore.