As many of you would’ve heard, Ellen Page came out this week. It’s all that everyone has been talking about. I first heard because my friend on Facebook got quite excited, before going to my favourite gay news site to double check. It was true and I was amazed. I don’t particularly know why I was so joyous about the news. Confession time; I had never seen a movie in which she featured. I’d heard the name through friends who were obsessed with her and because of Juno, but I had never found the time to sit down and watch one of her films.
Now, this is the odd coincidence. The Monday before Ellen Page came out; I was at Cash Converters and running short on DVDs. You needed ten for $20 or something and I just couldn’t find this tenth one. But then I saw Juno sitting there and thought I might give it a go. It’s a film I’d wanted to see for a fair while and it came home with me. There it sat for the rest of the week until I heard the incredible news. I watched it that night. It’s now one of the best films I’ve seen in a fairly long while.
But that’s not why I’m posting here today. A few days after the news hit, one of my friends posted that he didn’t see why her coming out was necessary and that as a society we’d progressed against this point. It wasn’t meant in terms of spite or anger, more a reference to the fact of how far society has come over the last twenty or thirty years or so in terms of gay rights. And it was a good point and one that I’ve heard elsewhere since the news broke. Why should a star coming out of the closet be big news? Why does it matter?
Well, most of what I’m going to put forward here has already been said before but I thought it might be good to refresh some memories.
Coming out is a long, painful and nerve-wracking experience. There is literally nothing I can compare it to for straight readers. It’s like if you had this big, big secret that you’ve been told all your life (either actively by those around you or through films and television) is something that’s different from the norm and wrong. The secret grows within you, eating you up from the inside. And sometimes, you try and gauge their reactions. Before I came out, I asked my mum how she would react if my (very straight) brother were to come out. She said to me that she didn’t know, she’d have to decide in the situation. This wasn’t helpful. One other time, she said that I’d have to learn to do the cooking if I was with a girlfriend or a ‘manfriend’, which made my little heart swell with joy. Had she worked it out? The very next day, the whole gay thing came up again and she said I couldn’t be gay because my room was too messy (and all gay people are so, so neat).
So, because your parents aren’t being incredibly helpful, you look elsewhere for support and understanding. And this is where celebrities come in. When Ellen Page came out, the number of people stating their support for her was overwhelming. A young gay person looks at this and sees that being gay isn’t so different, it’s not weird, it’s not a phase and there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s inspiring to see that. But more than that, when a celebrity comes out, the young gay community gets a new role model, someone to look up to when they may not have that in their life. I didn’t and so turned to Glee (but that’s another story).
When a person that you admire comes out, it feels that even if your family reject you, there is a place where you will be accepted unconditionally. Because not all people are as narrow-minded or as confusing as the people you’re closest to.
Watching Ellen Page’s coming out speech brought out tears in me. It’s inspiring and beautifully and painfully explains what it means to be young and gay, hiding who you are but being inspired by all those around you. It’s destined to become one of the best gay speeches ever (up there with Anne Hathaway’s 2008 HRC speech about being an ally and any of Harvey Milk’s truly inspirational speeches). If you haven’t seen it, look it up now and watch it. I’ll wait for you.
Ultimately, I think it’s up to a celebrity to decide when it’s their time to come out. You have to feel comfortable with who you are to do that, especially in the face of whatever criticism may come forward, and I admire their bravery. The other problem with celebrities coming out is that it can tend to define them. Ellen Page is now that lesbian, as opposed to that brilliantly talented actress, but that will hopefully change in time. But sometimes I do wonder if I allow being gay to define myself too much, but that’s a post for another time.
For the moment, I want to end on the words of the late, great Harvey Milk, a true hero of the gay community, whose words I think really explain my feelings towards major stars coming out, as gay or an ally. “I know that you cannot live on hope alone, but without it, life is not worth living. And you...And you...And you... Gotta give em hope.”
Keep giving ‘em hope. See you next week.
The Playlist Of 12 Feb – 18 Feb
Everything Is Awesome (Tegan & Sara, The Lonely Island)
Invisible (Hunter Hayes)
The Cigarette Duet (Princess Chelsea)
2046 Main Theme (Shigeru Umebayashi)
The Top 10 Films Of 12 Feb – 18 Feb
The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas
One Direction: This Is Us
Young And Innocent
Kiss Of The Spider Woman
(500) Days Of Summer
My Bloody Valentine (1981)