By announcing that he was transgender, Oscar nominee Elliot Page has increased the visibility of a community that has been calling for just that, as well as more accurate representation in movies, TV shows and other forms of entertainment.
The actor, known both for beloved indies like “Juno” and superhero franchises like “X-Men,” also said he was gender nonbinary, with he/they pronoun preferences, in an emotional Instagram post. The statement both celebrated his revelation and underscored the dangers trans people face around the world.
“The vast majority of Americans still believe they’ve never met someone in their family, workplace, or school, who is transgender,” said Nick Adams, director of transgender media at GLAAD. “When someone like Elliot Page tells the world that he is in fact transgender, an actor that people have respected and admired and loved for years, it allows them to feel as if they now know a trans person. It’s really important.”
The conversation that Page has sparked about gender identity mirrors ones that are taking place all over. In turn, that gives families and communities a greater sense of the struggles that many trans people face when it comes to unveiling their true self.
The hashtag #Elliot trended number one on Twitter across numerous countries, including the U.S., Canada, the U.K., France, Brazil, Australia, New Zealand and Korea. Page even rated as the number five trending topic in Russia, a country with an appalling human rights record when it comes to the LGBTQ community.
“It’s huge. He’s the highest-profile actor that I can think of that we didn’t know before the fact,” marveled trans film critic Danielle Solzman, adding that she wished a disclosure of this size was possible in the late ‘90s during her own journey.
Numerous show business players remarked that the news rivaled the announcement of Caitlyn Jenner, which captured international attention when the former Olympian revealed she had transitioned. But nearly six years after that watershed moment, Page’s revelation comes at a crucial time for accuracy in storytelling.
Adams sees a figure like Page, also a producer and director, as vital to that authenticity.
“Over the last several years, there have been loud conversations about trans actors playing trans roles. I have seen that conversation bring results. Now, the trans conversation is shifting to who is behind the camera telling those stories,” Adams said. “If the character isn’t written in a way that is true, it hasn’t moved as far forward as we need to go. As we look to power brokers in Hollywood — there are some, like Janet Mock — I know we need more people to champion hiring trans writers, producers and directors.”
Page has produced numerous films, including the human rights-centered “Freeheld,” as well as the LGBTQ travel series “Gaycation.”
Solzman agreed on the need for trans stories, but stressed that they should be “positive stories, letting us know it’s OK to be trans, as opposed to coming out stories where we may not know what will happen.”
The critic referred to tropes in media that often echo the bleakest trans experiences — ones marked by, death, violence and other consequences from life on the margins.
“The transgender community is as diverse as the world around us: all races, ethnicities and sexual orientations. The media has yet to fully represent the broad diversity of this community,” Adams said.
Stars and creatives came out in force to celebrate Page, including his talent agency UTA.
“We’ve long known what an incredible talent Elliot is, demonstrated by a tremendous body of work,” said his rep and UTA board member and partner Blair Kohan. “His courage solidifies just how special he is both on and off-screen. We are grateful and honored to know and work with him.”