Elliot Page comes out as a transgender man in a difficult year for trans rights

Elliot Page comes out as a transgender man in a difficult year for trans rights
Source: Mark Blinch, Reuters
Page, a Canadian actor best known for his ongoing role in the Netflix series “Umbrella Academy,” the X-Men movie series and an Oscar-nominated lead performance in the film “Juno,” wrote of both the joy and fear he felt in coming out as trans.

On Tuesday, December 1, the actor Elliot Page announced via his Twitter account that he is a transgender man. Page, a Canadian actor best known for his ongoing role in the Netflix series “Umbrella Academy,” the X-Men movie series and an Oscar-nominated lead performance in the film “Juno,” wrote of both the joy and fear he felt in coming out as trans.

Transgender people and trans rights have been in the spotlight throughout 2020, partly due to controversial statements made by J.K. Rowling, author of the Harry Potter book series. While right-wing commentators are often dismissive of trans identity, as are some in left-leaning circles, there has been a division between those who accept transgender identities and those who question their validity.

Elliot Page comes out

In addition to being a celebrated actor, Page has been known for his LGBTQ activism ever since coming out as gay at a public event in 2014. On Tuesday, Page’s announcement quickly garnered attention across Twitter.

In a letter that was at times hopeful, at other times, solemn, Page wrote, “I want to share with you that I am trans, my pronouns are he/they and my name is Elliot. I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life.” He added, “I can’t begin to express how remarkable it feels to finally love who I am enough to pursue my authentic self.”

Additionally, Page wrote of the inspiration he feels from the trans community and expressed gratitude for their courage, generosity and work “to make this world a more inclusive and compassionate place.”

Page then acknowledged that while it was joyful for him to come out as trans, he also felt fear: “I’m scared of the invasiveness, the hate, the ‘jokes’ and of violence.” He discussed the discrimination that trans people face along with their higher risks of being killed and suffering mental health issues.

Page references a statistic reported by the Human Rights Campaign: in 2020, “at least 40 transgender or gender non-conforming people [were] fatally shot or killed by other violent means, the majority of which were Black and Latinx transgender women.” The most recent reported death was Chae’Meshia Simms, a transgender woman shot to death in Richmond, Virginia on November 23.

At the same time, the Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization that provides crisis and suicide prevention assistance to LGBTQ youth, reports, “40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25.”

Though the letter delved into the stark realities for transgender people, Page ended the missive on a positive note:

“I love that I am trans. And I love that I am queer. And the more I hold myself close and fully embrace who I am, the more I dream, the more my heart grows and the more I thrive. To all trans people who deal with harassment, self-loathing, abuse and the threat of violence every day: I see you, I love you and I will do everything I can to change this world for the better.”

In response to his letter, Elliot received messages of support from some of his co-stars and fellow actors, including Sir Patrick Stewart, co-star of the X-Men films, who tweeted, “@TheElliotPage, I am proud to be your friend.”

Netflix, which is currently producing the third season of the superhero show, “The Umbrella Academy,” has already changed Page’s credit on the website so that it no longer uses his “dead name” (or the name a transgender person was formerly known as).

“Blood on your hands”

While Page’s letter focused on the trans community and what it means for him to come out, he did offer harsh words for both politicians and public figures who attack transgender people:

“To the political leaders who work to criminalize trans health care and deny our right to exist and to all of those with a massive platform who continue to spew hostility towards the trans community: you have blood on your hands. You unleash a fury of vile and demeaning rage that lands on the shoulders of the trans community.”

He adds, “Enough is enough. You aren’t being ‘cancelled,’ you are hurting people. I am one of those people and we won’t be silent in the face of your attacks.”

The reference to spewing hostility and being “cancelled” comes at the end of a year in which public discourse around trans identity has gotten increasingly heated.

The British author J.K. Rowling set off a firestorm early this year with multiple comments in which she maintained that trans women are not women and trans men are not men. While that view is fairly standard among conservatives and Republicans in the United States, Rowling has generally supported liberal causes, including regularly criticizing President Donald Trump.

Rowling hasn’t been the sole voice on the left to express skepticism about transgender rights. In fact, there is a term for feminists who deny the gender identities of transgender people: a trans-exclusionary radical feminist, or TERF. The acrimony between so-called TERFs and those who affirm the identities of transgender people represents a major schism in liberal feminism.

In July, a letter in Harper’s Magazine became another lightning rod in the debate. While it expressed support for leftist causes, including police reform, the letter also took aim at liberals who demand “swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought.”

Rowling was one of over 150 prominent writers, academics and activists who signed the letter. Her presence, along with a number of other noted signees, indicated to some that the “perceived transgressions of speech and thought” meant criticisms of transgender identity.

Emily VanDerWerff, a trans woman who writes for Vox, tweeted that the Harper’s letter contained “many dog whistles toward anti-trans positions” and was signed by “several prominent anti-trans voices.” After this criticism of the letter spread, some signees offered apologies, saying their intention was not to support trans identity erasure.

The Trump administration’s transgender policies

While the cultural debate still rages, the Republican Party, led by President Donald Trump, has been chipping away at trans rights that have been gained over the last decade. In 2016, then-candidate Trump campaigned by saying he was an ally and a “real friend” to the LGBT community. As president, though, Trump has consistently withdrawn government support for transgender people.

In his first year in office, Trump unexpectedly announced via his Twitter account that transgender individuals would no longer be allowed to serve in the US military, reversing an Obama-era policy. Trump’s reasoning was that the military “must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail.”

This year, the Trump administration rolled back two more Obama administration policies that were aimed at protecting the transgender community. In June, the current administration announced it would be eliminating health care protections that prohibit doctors, hospitals and health insurance companies from discriminating against transgender individuals.

The next month, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development announced a rule that would allow federally funded homeless shelters to deny housing to transgender individuals in single-sex shelters that correspond to their gender identity. This was a reversal of the 2012 Equal Access Rule passed by the Obama administration.

President-elect Joe Biden has vowed that he will reverse the course of his predecessor. On November 20, the Transgender Day of Remembrance, he stated, “My administration will see you, listen to you, and fight for not only your safety but also the dignity and justice you have been denied.”

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