The first of December is officially Elliot Page day – a moment for trans people everywhere
Where were you when Elliot Page came out as trans?
I was in my bedroom, having spent the day reporting on a British court ruling that effectively stops trans kids from getting vital healthcare, getting ready to go on a sort-of date. I will remember the moment. I called my sibling as I made my way outside, and they said: “Happy Elliot Page day!”
Growing up, I didn’t have Elliot Page to help me understand why, aged nine, I cut all my hair off and briefly insisted I was a boy.
Without the vocabulary to describe what I meant, or the people in popular culture to point to and say, “Like them!”, I was soon swept up into secondary school, puberty, and doing absolutely everything I could to fit in. To hide. I knew I was different, but I didn’t have the words.
I was miserable as a teenager, which is not unusual, but it took my whole twenties to unpick why, and finally understand and be brave and unapologetic in who I am: a transgender person.
When Elliot Page came out as trans, I thought about the hidden, sad, frightened trans kid that I was. So many of us had that experience. There was no one to point to who was like us, who could help us make sense of ourselves. But there is now.
And then I thought about all the trans kids whose healthcare just got taken away. Tuesday (December 1) was a brutal day, and I know many parents are yet to break the news to their trans children. Those are the trans kids who are out – to themselves, to their parents – and able to vocalise what they need, who they are. They are out and trying to be proud, or at least trying to be OK with being trans, while everything is stacked against them: the courts, the media, most institutions, famous authors, politicians.
There will be many more trans children who are not out yet. This doesn’t mean they are not trans – but it might be that, like me, it takes a long, painful time for them to work it out.
That’s partly because it’s tough to be a trans kid. They are more likely to be bullied, to have poor mental health, to become homeless, to be rejected by their families, to be unemployed, to try to die by suicide, to be treated as a disposable pawn in the Conservative government and media’s despicable culture wars.
Adult trans people, like me, understand this. It’s why Munroe Bergdorf has “Protect trans kids” tattooed on her. It’s why charities like Gendered Intelligence and Mermaids exist. We want trans kids to have an easier time of it than we did. We want trans kids to grow up not being treated any differently from cis kids, rather than being so much more at risk of violence and rejection and abuse.
Having a bona fide Hollywood A-Lister on Team Trans isn’t going to solve the problems trans kids face overnight. But it is going to ease the experience of being trans for so many young people.
Seeing Elliot Page come out as trans, at the height of his career, with a message of love and hope and defiance: it is going to give strength to the closeted trans kids; understanding to those who haven’t worked themselves out yet; positive representation to so many children who are out as trans and who can now see someone like them. Elliot Page coming out reminds us that being trans is a joyful, beautiful thing.
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I often come back to the words of trans A&E doctor Dr Ronx: “You cannot be what you do not see.” Trans kids now will see a successful, happy, loved, famous trans person. A trans person who came out and said: “My joy is real.”
Elliot Page really said it: “I love that I am trans.”
And Netflix changed the credits on all their work to reflect their new name. Elliot’s wife shut down the inevitable trolls. Tech giant Sony corrected a fan who misgendered Elliot. Trans people everywhere joked that we need to start coming up with new names (Elliot is very popular among non-binary and trans masc people). And the world kept turning.
We’ve never had an Oscar-nominated trans actor before. And while there are some trans people we can look to in Hollywood – Laverne Cox, Asia Kate Dillon, Danielle Vega and Brian Michael Smith spring to mind, as well as the younger crop of trans actors that includes Theo Germaine, Ian Alexander and Chella Man – none of them are near to Elliot Page levels of fame.
To even be able to write these names out brings me joy. Imagine a trans kid being able to see themselves on a Netflix show or in a Hollywood movie. Imagine being able to watch Juno with your parents and hear them say: “That actor is trans. He was nominated for an Oscar for this role.”
Elliot Page day was a moment for trans people everywhere. In coming out, they reminded us that being trans is a gift; being trans is powerful. And it was a win for trans kids on a day when so much else was lost. Elliot Page coming out can’t overturn the court ruling, and he won’t single-handedly stop British transphobia in its tracks. But it doesn’t hurt to have him on side.