Ellen Page coming out is news – and so long as gossip websites try and police the way women look and live, these public statements should be celebrated

This will make it harder for young people to bully their LGBTQ peers

Share

On Friday, Ellen Page came out publicly at the Human Rights Campaign’s Time to Thrive conference in Las Vegas. The star of Juno's eight-minute long speech contained a critique of Hollywood’s repressive standards and a mention of her own struggle and the suffering she underwent while keeping her sexuality a secret.

Her strength and bravery in coming out is not, for me at least, in question. It’s inspiring to have high profile actors, musicians, sports stars and entrepreneurs come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered. It makes being part of the LGBTQ community feel less lonely, and not something that should be hidden because you’re afraid of mockery, of not being selected for jobs or of losing friends, contacts and status. The normalization of homosexuality by famous names even makes it harder for young people to bully their LGBTQ peers. I wish Ellen Page had been out when I was a scared twelve-year-old who knew she had to get a boyfriend to fit in and stop the taunts of ‘ugly lesbian bitch’.

Jane Czyzselska writing for the Guardian yesterday is of the opinion that Page’s disclosure “shouldn’t really be news”. I fear that commentators who wish to deny the importance of Page’s speech are rather missing the point. Page’s coming out should be news, as long as we live in a world where homophobia still exists. It should be news because she is giving hope to all of those who are still in the closet, still “lying by omission” and still too afraid to embrace who they are. If we skip over Page’s speech as unimportant, as an irrelevant disclosure, we are downgrading her bravery and failing to recognise how valuable it is for the LGBTQ community when high profile persons decide to be publicly out.

One of the most interesting parts of Page’s declaration was when she addressed the “crushing standards” that Hollywood places on all of us in terms of beauty and success. She mentioned a recent E! article where she was criticised for wearing sweatpants. The writer asked “why does this petite beauty insist upon dressing like a massive man?” and Page answered “because I like to be comfortable”. Why was the E! piece written and published in the first place? It is, of course, irrelevant celebrity gossip. Who cares what Page wears when she’s off to the gym? But it’s also an example of the pernicious and nasty way that magazines, newspapers (you know who you are) and blogs penalise female celebrities for their appearance, twenty four hours, seven days a week. This is a highly gendered form of criticism. E! shamed Page for ‘looking like a man’, as if femininity is something you can measure by the kind of trousers someone is wearing, as if there are concrete rules for how you should look and behave when you belong to a particular gender.

The front page of The Sun today shows a picture of Angelina Jolie wearing a tuxedo. The headline? ‘Brad and Mangelina’. The headline is crass and insulting, as if Angelina has somehow transgressed by wearing a garment that is typically favoured by men, instead of the gown that she ‘should’ have worn. As Simon Amstell says in his stand-up show 'Numb', “maybe your idea of what a girl is supposed to be is quite restrictive”.

In my last piece for Independent Voices, I criticised Shakira and Rihanna’s faux lesbian performance in Shakira’s latest music video. A commenter below wasn’t particularly keen on what I’d written, and stated that I ‘looked like a lesbian’. I think this was meant to insult me, but it provides a great example of how our society likes to shout women down and shame them. Making light of what a woman wears, what she looks like or how ‘feminine’ she is perceived to be isn’t okay. Maybe we should stop reading the appearance-focused, mean-minded gossip columns and allowing their influence to encourage us to believe that it is normal to constantly police ourselves and our bodies. Wear those sweatpants Ellen; I’m really glad you’ve decided to come out.

 

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

£27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

£23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: how to spell BBQ and other linguistic irregularities

John Rentoul
 

South Africa's race problem is less between black and white than between poor blacks and immigrants from sub-Saharan Africa

John Carlin
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...