Canadian actress Ellen Page came out as gay at the Human Rights Campaign Time to THRIVE event February 14th, 2014. The internet went wild. Ellen became a ‘trending topic’ on numerous social media websites, articles were published at lightning speed, and fans and fellow celebrities voiced their support for the young actress.
I was in seventh grade; sitting in my then best friend’s living room watching Whip It. I remember being awe-struck by how badass and witty Ellen’s character was. She was pretty damn cute! She was one of the first women who made me seriously question my sexuality. Four years later, when I found out Ellen Page had come out as gay, I felt an even stronger affection for her. I am so proud of her for being brave enough to come out publicly while under the scrutiny of the mainstream media. Ellen powerfully stated: “I am tired of hiding, and I am tired of lying by omission”.
Even more importantly, Page acknowledged the struggles that come from all angles, especially from her line of business. Page states, “It’s weird because here I am, an actress, representing — at least in some sense — an industry that places crushing standards on all of us.” The standards, as she understands, are soul-crushingly oppressive, forcing her into a silence that she finally broke during her speech, “I am here today because I am gay.” As members of the audience stood, cheering and hollering in support of her (and I use this term lightly) confession, she became a selfless inspiration – an advocate for honesty and a warrior against the oppressive and dominant power which caused her grief, suffering, and confusion about herself and those around her. Regardless of her privilege – a thin, white, cisgender woman who is financially successful and able-boded – Page’s address for Human Rights Campaign shows the vulnerability associated with these issues, specifically queer youth. This speech is not about her or her sexuality as a gay woman, but instead, Page hopes her public acknowledge of her sexuality will allow other members of the LGBTQIA community to see the possibilities of happiness, of the inner strength that grows within once you’ve become aware of your oppressors and your ability to band together in order to dismantle the institutional powers. However, Human Rights Campaign (HRC), despite their advocacy for queer youth, have a lot of grievances that paint their movement in privilege.
In fact, I, along with hundreds of other internet bloggers, am so inspired by Page’s refusal to remain silent, but many LGBTQIA folk are disappointed by her affiliation with the HRC. HRC consists mostly of middle-class, able-bodied, cisgender, white gays and lesbians, leaving out a huge percentage of the LGBTQIA movement. The organization pushes for assimilation through homosexual marriage, while forgetting about life-threatening queer issues such as LGBTQIA homelessness, abuse, and unemployment. Page mentioned some of these issues in her speech, especially highlighting the devastation of staggering suicide rates among queer youth, and I’m glad that she used HRC’s platform to shed light on these important issues that HRC overlooks.
HRC has also been known for its transphobic actions, like supporting the 2007 Employee Non-Discrimination Act, while excluding trans people to be more appealing to conservative government. Additionally, HRC continues to cut transpeople from the equation in order to maintain their attractiveness to staight people. At the risk of losing popularity, HRC completely redirects their movement, and therefore, the organization hardly maintains a radical agenda that pushes equality among all people within the queer community. It is ignorant and exclusive; the lack of compassion to transpeople, especially transpeople of color, leads to an entirely faulty system which abandons their own message in order to appeal to mass audiences. Interestingly enough, Page, as a representative of HRC, indiscriminately and strongly combats the dangers and risks for LGBTQIA youth without censorship; her speech is more about the community than HRC is, which is why Page’s words are so profound and touching to those who can relate and, more importantly, understand her points and concerns. But I can’t help but question why, as a woman who seems very well versed and aware of the issues within the queer community, Page would associate herself with the very organization that reinforces those impossible standards riddled with privilege and ignores those in need in order to win popularity contests?
Valentine’s Day 2014 was a day of queer love and celebration, and I applaud Ellen Page for coming out publicly. Seventh grade me is jumping for joy! Page’s speech was beautiful and inspiring, despite her troubling association with the privileged HRC organization. Ellen, I think the sun shines out of your ass. In addition, I beg you to distance yourself from a conservative lap-dog organization who ignores the very people you want to fight for. HRC does not practice what they preach, and most importantly, stands their entire organization on a foundation of privileged white, cisgendered, able-bodied, and middle-class ideologies.