So, actress Ellen Page came out this week. How awesome is that?
Wait…what’s that I hear you saying? You don’t give a crap about it? You don’t care one way or the other? It makes no difference to you? Ellen Page is not a hero for coming out?
Well then…aren’t you enlightened. It must be nice to live in such a bubble that you can’t see what enormous guts it took for her to do that. You must have totally glossed over the portion of the video where, for a brief moment anyway, she looks scared to death. What’s that? You didn’t watch it? My bad. Here it is if you’re interested. I watched it and was actually pretty moved.
Look, I know most of us have gay friends at this point and it seems like ‘no big deal.’ They’re out and you still like them, love them in fact. I hear you. I have gay friends too. You know what I’ve never asked most of them though? What was it like to come out? We only think of it from our perspective. When they came out to us it might have been no big deal…to us. BUT…what was it like for THEM?
Perhaps for some of them it really was no big deal, but I know we would also hear lots of stories about sleepless nights, shed tears, fear and doubt. The worrying and wondering: will this or that person still want to talk to me? Will my parents still love me? Will I be in danger of losing my job or bullied at school? But we largely don’t think of those things because, like a Hollywood actress, they don’t affect us directly.
Ellen Page might not have been your hero this weekend, but I guarantee she was a hero for someone. The backlash of people online is pretty harsh, and one only needs to read the comments of any article that was published about her this weekend to see why visible people coming out is still necessary. I know we are all looking forward to the day where it no longer matters, but guess what? That day is not today, and so yes, it’s news, and yes it’s important.
I had a volunteer gig a few years back where I sat on one end of a phone that people called when they were in crisis. If you’ve ever sat and listened to a young person cry and question their existence for any reason, and you have a heart at all, it would break. Some were gay and contemplating suicide for that reason alone. Even in Canada where we consider ourselves to be more progressive the world can still be a cold, cruel place for gay people, or anyone who is different. The day being gay no longer matters is the day they stop calling the crisis lines. I don’t work there anymore but I suspect if we were to ask the people that do they’d tell us those calls still come in on the regular.
It matters because it may save a life. That’s a farfetched concept to most people who are cynical about seeing celebrities trying to do some good, but not to me. I’ve listened to more than one person’s gay child tell me they want to die. If this saves even one family from having to stand and cry at the grave of their child while the coffin is lowered into the ground her coming out was more than worth it.
So to Ellen Page I say, thank you! Thank you for being brave. Thank you for not just thinking of yourself, but others as well. As far as I’m concerned you’ve done us proud here in Nova Scotia and I admire and salute you. Thank you for being here, and thank you for perhaps helping someone else stick around too. You didn’t have to do it, but you squared your shoulders and did it anyway. That’s my definition of a hero.