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

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

Deputy Education Manager

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Deputy Education Manager (permanent ...

Science Teacher Urgently required for October start

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: We are currently recr...

ICT Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Group: We are looking for an outstandi...

Art & Design Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Group: We are looking for an outstandi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Lightning over central London as major storms kept the city awake overnight  

The less we hear about a project to predict the unexpected, the better

Oliver Wright
 

This ‘school in the clouds’ teaches us a valuable lesson about learning

Andrew Buncombe
'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering