Ellen Page, the badass who rocked the world with Juno, has made an announcement: she’s going to be in the next X-Men movie: X-Men: Days of Future Past.
Oh, and she’s gay.
“I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission,” she said to thunderous applause. “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 all that pain.”
Beautifully said, Ellen. Her words struck a chord in me, as they surely did with many. The closet is an oppressive place that can kill you.
Maybe not right away, but “lying by omission” will turn itself into stress, depression, anxiety, and dozens of other problems that will make you sick. I understand the emotional and psychological need to denounce it, to say the public, life-saving words: “I’m gay.”
Ellen joins the ranks of many young actors and celebrities that have recently come out. Not long ago, it was a rule of thumb that celebrities waited until after the most successful part of their careers had happened before coming out. Examples of this are Jodie Foster, Richard Chamberlain, Alan Cumming, Sean Hayes, Michael Stipe of R.E.M., Ricky Martin, Jim Nabors, Victor Garber, Nathan Lane and Maurice Sendak.
But that rule is going the way of DOMA. Celebrities are now coming out younger and younger. Jim Parsons, 39, from the Big Bang Theory came out two years ago. Zachary Quinto, Chris Colfer, and Johathan Groff are all out young celebs. Sean Maher, 36, came out in Entertainment Weekly in 2011.
Tom Daley came out recently in a self-made video that hit Tumblr like a wave of glory and cheering, and subsequently an explosion of funny fan-made gifs like this one. (Here is another one.) And, of course, there’s Neil Patrick Harris and Adam Lambert.
This movement of coming out younger was led by pioneers like Ellen DeGeneres, Lance Bass (who came out at 27, the same age as Ellen Page) and Sir Elton John, who, in one of the boldest moves in music history, came out in Rolling Stone magazine in 1976.
Why this shift towards younger and younger out celebrities? The times are changing. People in the spotlight are discovering more and more that they can come out without destroying their careers. Which is why we need to applaud stars like Ellen Page for announcing publicly and proudly their membership in a population that, in 2014, is still fighting for our rights.
By coming out, she says to the kids trapped in homophobic families that there is a place for them in this world, in pop culture, in media, to excel and flourish as an out LGBT person.
Watch the video of her speech. She talks about the harsh standards that Hollywood sets and debunks the somehow-still-alive myth that Hollywood stars live in endless glamour. The way she describes pressure from agents and studio execs to stay in the closet is not unlike the pressure queer kids get in their homes — to stay quiet, to live a lie, and to believe that your desires are ugly and not worth showing.
Ellen Page says: Don’t listen to them. Be yourself.