3 Takeaways From Oprah's Interview With Elliot Page
Elliot Page and Oprah Winfrey sat down together on a special feature on Apple TV+ to catch up on the actor’s life experiences leading up to coming out, while coming out and now living as his authentic self.
For those who may not know, Netflix series “Umbrella Academy” actor Elliot Page came out through a letter posted on social media identifying himself as transgender and uses he/they pronouns (I will be using those pronouns interchangeably throughout this piece as per his request).
While the interview was affirming to someone like myself, a person a part of the transgender community by my nonbinary identity, there were three critical points made within the brief hour that I feel are necessary to highlight for those within the LGBTQ+ community and those who are not.
1. Putting yourself first is difficult, but life saving.
Elliot said that they were allotted the opportunity during this pandemic quarantine we all have found ourselves in to recognize just how uncomfortable they felt in their own body.
“I feel like I haven’t gotten to be myself since I was 10 years old,” Page said.
While every trans person’s experience is different, one key aspect of recognizing your identity is acknowledging how your gender presentation differs from others’ presentation.
Gender presentation is a blanket term for how an individual presents themselves to society and how they take up space in the world physically. It can include anything from how an individual dresses, how they cut and style their hair to how they walk and carry themselves.
Page told Oprah, “I just knew…I just didn’t have the language. I remember asking my mom can I be a boy when I grow up? Like, how could I picture that? I very much relate to this position that you find yourself in that, ‘No, I’m not a girl.’ I knew that immediately.”
Oprah also mentioned how the busyness of life often gets in the way of anyone’s self reflection. Sitting with oneself, analyzing what makes you who you are can be an intimidating venture and one that many will live and die without having done so in their lifetime. However, it’s this kind of introspection that allows some like Page to have found their inner identity and sense of self. And that can be a very powerful thing.
2. Knowing your identity allows you to live your life.
Elliot said that since their coming out, it’s allowed him to feel exactly the way he was intended to feel.
“It’s this interesting dichotomy, in a way, where on some level it feel just like the most miraculous amazing thing,” Page said. “It also is just sort of the experience of, ‘Oh, there I am!’ And a part of me was like ‘Oh my god, why was that so hard?’”
Not having a sense of feeling at home in one’s body is an often shared experience by many in the transgender community. For someone like Elliot, that sense of identity was significantly compounded by his career as a celebrity.
Oprah asked them, “The process of being paraded around, offered multiple gowns and outfits, etc. as part of the Oscar process…that must have been what for you?”
Page got emotional, gathered himself and said, “It wasn’t good. I remember it felt so impossible to communicate with people how unwell I was, because obviously there is so much excitement. The film [referring to Juno], unexpectedly, became a big hit, I became quite known. I felt like I almost couldn’t express just the degree of pain that I was in. I could not look at a photo from that red carpet.”
He went on to recount how his anxiety would skyrocket and how he would have panic attacks after award shows, premiers, after parties and other public appearances because he felt so distanced from his identity, even from a young age.
“It’s every experience you’ve had since you were a toddler saying, ‘The way you’re sitting, that’s not ladylike. The way you’re walking, you’re not a boy’….We’re put in a very binary system and that’s what it leads to,” Page said.
If you want to learn more about the gender binary and how it impacts you, whether you’re LGBTQ or heterosexual, check out this easy to understand cartoon here.
3. Transgender lives are in danger.
Toward the end of the interview, Oprah addressed the upswing in violence against the transgender community and anti-transgender legislation, asking why Page believed the reasoning behind it.
“Visibility brings good things while there’s also a big backlash from that. They don’t believe or want us to exist. Right now, the main tactic is to attack trans kids? It’s unfathomable to me,” Page said.
They added how important their top surgery experience has been in order for them to live a totally full life as a transgender person.
“I do believe it’s life saving, and it’s the case for so many people. What you are hearing from certain lawmakers are actual complete and utter lies in terms of what they’re saying about healthcare. If you are going to do this, and if you are also not gonna allow trans kids to play sports, children will die. It really is that simple,” Page said.
As of writing this, there are 82 pieces of anti-transgender legislation up for debate across twenty-four states in the United States. Many of these bills limit transgender individuals’ participation on sports teams, impact their access to receive basic healthcare, etc.
Page said he believes that the Republican party did not receive the response that they desired from the “bathroom bills” of recent years passed and consequently, they’re reaching further in order to limit trans individuals from having the same rights as others.
Today, individuals in the LGBTQ+ community still do not have full national protections. However, the proposed Equality Act would amend that by prohibiting discrimination against the community on many different levels. To learn more, watch this video by the Human Right Campaign here.
There is a long road to true acceptance for the LGBTQ+ community, but it’s thanks to actors like Elliot Page that more transgender individuals can see positive narratives on screen, showing them that they are loved and will be accepted.
Page concluded his interview with these words for any transgender individual watching, “I would tell them that I see them, that they exist, that they are real and I know looking at the attacks against trans kids right now and the rhetoric, I can’t imagine what it feels like on top of everything else. I just want kids to know that they’re loved. And I’m gonna continue to do what I can to try and help this society shift how it treats transgender people.”
To learn more about how you can educate yourself, your family and friends and your lawmakers about the transgender community and how you can be a political advocate in your community for the LGBTQ community, click here.
Image courtesy of Apple TV+