On February 14, aka St Valentines Day, Ellen Page told an LGBT audience at the first annual Time To Thrive conference that she was gay; Twitter has been full of supportive tweets saying how brave the Canadian actress was for coming out, but the question being asked by some is “just how brave is telling a LGBT audience that you are gay?” Which is just what Page did at the Human Rights Campaign sponsored event. It was created to support young LGBT people. The conference was held at Bally’s Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and Page was there to support the work done by the HRC in aid of youngster’s with issues.
After the 26 year-old actress’s announcement, which was actually the shortest portion of her speech, the media went into a frenzy covering this latest in a number of celebrities who have recently come out. While not everyone has gotten on the congratulatory train for Ellen, many have stated that they felt the Juno actress was very brave to come forward and tell the world that she is a lesbian. Several websites have posted the video of Page’s admission, including the Guardian Liberty Voice, and it is a highly emotional speech, but, not because the actress came out. The portion of the talk where Ellen got “choked up” and appeared to be getting all teary eyed dealt with the trials and tribulations of young people who were bullied to the extent that they either committed suicide or tried to. Not because Page admitted to being gay.
Regardless of just why Page got so emotional, the question of her bravery is up for debate; by some. The idea being that it is much easier for someone who is gay to announce the fact to a room of LGBT community members who will support that individual. One example of where bravery could be more of an overt factor was NFL candidate Michael Sam’s announcement. Especially since his admission could result in the end of a promising career before it even gets started. Ellen Page is an actress who works primarily in Hollywood; a town that accepts the LGBT community. The same community which heard Page’s “brave” declaration that she was gay.
Those that question the performer’s bravery also point out that a few years prior to Page’s announcement, the business was not so accepting. Case and point being another Ellen who “came out” and right after DeGeneres, that Ellen, made her statement, her award winning television show was cancelled. This sort of thing does not happen now that tinsel town has “grown up” and tries to accept the LGBT community at face value. In essence the feeling seems to be that Page was not that brave to stand in front of a primarily gay audience and “fess up.”
Unfortunately, this argument does not hold up to closer scrutiny. Take, for instance, an alcoholic or someone who abuses drugs. These people, who have reached rock bottom and want to stop their losing battle with addiction join support groups. One of these groups has been around for a long time. Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international support group started in the 1930s by the Oxford Group. The point of mentioning AA is not to give a history of the organization, but, it is used as a comparison. Active members of this substance misuse support group have to “stand up” and say their name, first name only, and then state that they are an alcoholic, or a fill-in-substance-here addict. A lot people who attend AA meetings speak of how difficult it is that first time and the room is full of folks just like them.
Just as Ellen Page stood up in front of a conference room full of LGBT community members and declared herself gay. How brave was telling the LGBT that she was gay? In a word? Very. Especially if those watching the video listen closely to Page’s entire speech. As mentioned before, the actress’s declaration was a tiny part of her overall address to the audience. For the first part, she spoke of how constrictive Hollywood was and how “weird” it felt to be standing in front of a group of young people supporting them. Her rationale for this feeling, which took up a fair amount of her speech, was that in her profession her job was not to represent reality as it is, but, as Hollywood perceives it. The bottom line on this issue is that Page was very brave despite being surrounded by a community who supported her. Because the truth is that society still struggles to accept that being gay is not a decision, or a disease, it just is.
By Michael Smith