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In her Twitter bio, Ellen Page describes herself as “a tiny Canadian,” which is an accurate literal description for a woman who stands about 5 feet tall.
But tiny is also something Page has felt as an actress amidst the overwhelmingly narrow paradigms of the entertainment industry.
As you’ve probably heard, Page came out on Friday while speaking at Time To Thrive, a LGBTQ youth event sponsored by the gay advocacy group Human Rights Campaign.
“Here I am, an actress, representing, at least in some sense, an industry that places crushing standards on all of us,” she said to the crowd. “Standards of beauty, of a good life, of success. Standards that I hate to admit have affected me. I have been trying to push back, to be authentic, to follow my heart, but it can be hard.”
Most of us who live in and engage with modern society also feel the weight of the standards Page is speaking about. Sometimes I am shocked by the ticker tape of “you’re not quite good enough” self-talk that races through my mind as I inadvertently compare myself to famous people I don’t know and probably wouldn't like.
I feel pressure to look a certain way, to do certain things, and to achieve some semblance of a traditional family before it’s “too late” because, as much as I try to fight it, I am terrified of veering from that pervasive norm. And I am a straight woman.
Just thinking about the pain LGBTQ youths and adults can experience because they don’t fit the mold our culture propagates makes my heart ache. Teenagers, especially, are some of the most fragile and impressionable among us. I barely made it out of my teen years in one piece, and while doing so, I clung to those influential musicians and actors I saw as role models.
While their influence is undeniable, many, many actors and celebrities don’t own their “role model” status in any real way. Ellen Page is not one of them.
An inspiring actress, the late Roger Ebert said of Page, “I have only seen her in two films, she is only 20, and I think she will be one of the great actors of her time.” Apart from her acting ability, one need only examine her career choices, her advocacy, and her witty social commentary on Twitter to see that Page is also undeniably real, funny, intelligent, refreshing, and good.
She’s now also “officially,” outspokenly, gay.
"I’m here today because I am gay," Page said to the crowd at Time To Thrive, which was comprised mainly of LGBTQ youth counselors. “I feel a personal obligation and a social responsibility. I also do it selfishly, because I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission. 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."
Offering a glimpse into her struggle with coming out, and the pain she has experienced because of it, was not only moving, it was also a tremendous act of empathy. She was there for the youths, to support them, to relate to them, to tell them she was, and is, just like them. I’m happy these kids glad get to grow up in a world where Ellen Page is a role model; we need more like her.
During her speech, Page also called out an E! writer who recently mocked her going-to-the-gym outfit. In his article, which has since been taken down, he wrote: “Why does this petite beauty insist upon dressing like a massive man?” Page’s response: “Because I like to be comfortable.”
As much as I wanted her to verbally kick his ass, Page didn’t have to stoop to that writer’s level to make the point that comfort -- in life, in dress, in sexuality -- is more important than how one is perceived through Hollywood’s narrow lens.
I feel like I watched Ellen Page grow up -- her face was recognizable from some of the Canadian TV shows of my youth, including “Trailer Park Boys.” And Page was an inspiration long before she made the Friday speech that is now serving as a beacon of support and hope for tons of people everywhere.
I hope for the day when we’ll all be fighting for LGBTQ rights as a part of the same army. Until that day, I’m really glad for the Ellen Pages of the world. She might be a tiny Canadian, but she’s a mighty one.