Yesterday, the star of The Umbrella Academy and Juno posted a heartfelt letter on social media in which he announced a name change and the pronouns that he goes by now: he/they. Elliot Page had come out as transgender.
With such a huge fanbase and a career that seems to span forever, it's no surprise that the announcement took hold of the social media world almost entirely. Elliot had arrived; I just wish the world he arrived into was better for transgender people.
Because at the same time as my congratulating Elliot on his journey of self-discovery and finding the strength to come out, I have to apologise. Whereas most in the LGBTQIA+ community and beyond have been extremely positive and supportive, there are some who have taken this moment, his moment, to rain on his big transgender pride parade.
He had even mentioned in his letter that this was one of his greatest fears about coming out: “My joy is real but it is also fragile … I am also scared, scared of the invasiveness, the hate, the ‘jokes’ and of the violence.” Yet still they couldn’t even give him a day to be happy and for that, Elliot, I’m truly sorry. This isn’t the world any trans person should have to exist in and we all deserve better.
The hateful comments aren’t difficult to find. One of the most common themes is the idea that the world has lost a lesbian. Other posts sound mournful, as though Elliot has died. It’s a special kind of sickening to watch these people treat such a joyous moment for Elliot in this way. He’s not dead; he’s alive and well. Perhaps more well than he’s ever felt before – getting to be yourself on your own terms tends to do that to you.
At one point, Elaine Page was trending in the UK as transphobes tried to “dead name” (use his birth name rather than name he has chosen) Elliot but confused him with Elaine Paige, the English singer and actor best known for her work in theatre and Cats, not in fact the Nova Scotian who played Kitty Pryde in the X-Men movie series. So potent is the bigotry of these British transphobes that they don’t even care to hit the right target in their supposed battle to protect cisgender women from the big bad trans. They shoot first and ask questions like “Is this the right person?” later.
Another weird problem that people have is that Elliot currently plays Vanya, a woman, in Netflix’s hit superhero series The Umbrella Academy. It’s been suggested that there’s no way the writers could incorporate this change into the show. I’m honestly astounded at such a take. They are aware this is the same programme that has a talking monkey butler and a 58-year-old accidentally stuck in his own 13-year-old body, right? Honestly, a character doing a gender transition on screen would be the least weird thing going on.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Elliot is, and has always been, a loud and proud LGBTQIA+ voice in the media and Hollywood. He has already repeatedly and specifically spoken up in support of transgender rights and acceptance and I don’t expect we are going to see any of that change. The only thing that changes is that he gets to be more comfortable while doing it all, which surely everyone should be all for.
So welcome, Elliot, and I’m sorry. I’m sorry that people couldn’t even give you a single day to enjoy taking such a big step. I’m sorry that one of your biggest fears about coming out was almost immediately realised, and I’m sorry that I don’t have a good answer to make it all feel better or go away. What I do have is hope, love, support and warmth. I know that we’ll improve the world for all LGBTQIA+ people and I don’t think our team could have asked for a better member than yourself. Thank you for all that you do.