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Elliot Page being transgender is a necessary reminder of the beauty of declaring our truth

Too many people have attempted to declare our lives and bodies up for debate. But living as our authentic selves is welcome, valid and beautiful.
Image: Elliot Page
Elliot Page discusses "Tales of the City" at Build Studio on June 3, 2019 in New York City.Roy Rochlin / Getty Images file

When Elliot Page, LGBTQ+ advocate and actor known for “Juno” and “Umbrella Academy,” shared that he is transgender and nonbinary on social media platforms yesterday, it brought trans people together across the internet. “I can’t begin to express how remarkable it feels to finally love who I am enough to pursue my authentic self,” Elliot wrote in his beautiful statement. The combination of fear, vulnerability, joy and magical possibility in that statement felt so quintessentially us, and quintessentially trans.

The thing about celebrity that makes it strange is that it gives other people a false sense of proximity to those celebrities they watch or read about on their screens. It also makes the voices of actors uniquely resonant to the people who see them both as projections of their expectations, and as the characters they recognize from film and television.

I, too, first knew of Elliot from his work in films — in fact, after seeing “Juno,” my father (with whom I am not particularly close) noted that Elliot reminded him of me. At that moment in 2007, I was very queer and almost out as trans and I didn’t quite see the resemblance. But we were connected, Elliot and I: we were both on nonlinear journeys, to self-understanding and to homes inside our scrutinized bodies.

Since then, Elliot has become a trusted partner in fights against anti-trans legislation that has dominated state legislatures since 2016. His voice is powerful, and he has always used it to make sure people are aware of the myriad efforts to restrict trans people’s survival opportunities.

Elliot’s words, his tenderness, his love for us — his trans community — was comforting.

And though we all know too well that the mere existence of highly visible trans people does not change the material conditions under which most trans people live — since every day there are new announcements made about why our lives and bodies are legitimate terms of debate and terrains for violence — having someone so highly visible say, “I see you. I love you and I will do everything I can to change the world for the better,” is comforting.

Elliot’s words, his tenderness, his love for us — his trans community — was comforting. It was also powerful.

Before Elliot’s statement came out, I had been at work, assessing the consequences of a devastating ruling against trans rights out of a United Kingdom high court yesterday, one which immediately jeopardized health care access for trans youth across that country. There, the court effectively held that trans youth under 16 can never consent to any medical treatment related to gender affirmation, including puberty blockers, thereby preventing tens of thousands of young people across the U.K. from getting the chance that Elliot celebrated today to “pursue [their] authentic sel[ves].” Though the clinic providing the care will appeal, young people across the U.K. are already having their ongoing care terminated and appointments canceled.

The court’s written decision was infused both with the anti-trans rhetoric and distrust of trans existence that has become endemic to public discourse in the U.K. over the past several years.

So upon reading Elliot’s statement, the contrast between the two moments was stark: while he celebrated the possibility of finally being able to live as himself, I knew other people younger than us were having that opportunity taken away. Still, his announcement was a welcome change: his words offered a moment of collective appreciation for someone declaring their truth, which allowed many of us to sit with the comfort in knowing that we fought for and deserve to claims ours too, every day.

I love that you are trans, too, Elliot; I love our beautiful trans community.

It can be easy to forget that we deserve to claim our truth when we are told in court that our bodies threaten the privacy and safety of others. It can be easy to forget that we deserve to live in our own authentic selves when our selves are debated in state legislatures like a theoretical concept. It can be easy to forget that our truth is worth declaring when any defense of our basic need for self-determination means being told that we are shutting down other people’s free speech.

These fights are being waged in courtrooms, in legislatures, on the streets, in our homes and on our bodies — and there are material consequences for them. As Elliot noted in his statement, “the statistics are staggering. The discrimination towards trans people is rife, insidious and cruel, resulting in horrific consequences.” Those can take deadly forms, from street-based violence to the abrupt termination of lifesaving medical care. There is no reprieve from fear for too many trans people.

Today, Elliot used what he knew would be the scrutiny of him and his body and the attention to his journey to draw the world’s attention to the crisis of these attacks. “To all the political leaders who work to criminalize trans health care and deny our right to exist and to all those with massive platforms who continue to spew hostility towards the trans community,” he wrote, “you have blood on your hands.”

Elliot is right: They have the blood of the murdered trans people who were killed in the street because they created the notion that a person whose body that does not accord with our expectations of how a body should look is dangerous. They have the blood on their hands of the trans people who have died by suicide, because the world so cruel that it tries to blunt the beauty of who we are. They have the blood on their hands of the trans people who have died from Covid-19, from cancer and even from the flu because they were too scared to go to the doctor, because health care facilities are so rarely places of healing and more often places of terror and shame.

As he has in all his work, Elliot also used this moment to lift up his communities — our communities. “I love that I am trans,” he wrote.

I love that you are trans, too, Elliot; I love our beautiful trans community. I look forward to building more spaces for people to feel big and messy and nonlinear, and more spaces where we all feel free to claim the beauty of their authentic selves. We will have to fight the efforts to criminalize our young people, the efforts to dampen our lights, the efforts to limit our dreams. But we have already have the blueprint for that fight, left by our ancestors after generations of mapping out the contours of who we could be. Thank you for inviting us in — and welcome home.