This week Elliot Page came out as trans and uses he/they pronouns. This was very exciting for me, as a trans nonbinary fan of theirs since… God, Juno? I’ve watched them create many exciting characters on screen for many years. I was a budding actor myself (and half still am) and I always felt drawn to Elliot’s work and characters. Through the years, he has come out as queer (or, sadly outed like a lot of queer stars in Hollywood) and turned to a queerer direction of character portrayals. His characters were never mainstream, but seeing them change from straight/cis to queer and somewhat fluid of gender representation, gave me hope for the continuing change in Hollywood to start allowing more LGBTQ+ actors to, not only play queer roles, but any roles and be successful.
Getting to see Vanya fall in love with a woman in season 2 of the Umbrella Academy, or Shawna in Tales of the City breaking monogamy relationship norms and representing a rocking bisexual, or even in My Days Of Mercy as Lucy (which I haven’t actually seen, but is indeed a queer romance plot), it’s exciting and exhilarating to see the roles Elliot plays, morph into something more authentic and be able to give us more representation on screen. And while I am proud of them for coming out and the full statement made, I can’t help but be enraged by the media AGAIN for how they continue to mishandle trans stories.
credit to Evie Clayton for providing the transcription
I spoke with a couple of my friends who use multiple pronouns to get their perspective on the issues I discuss in this post. Anniek is my nonbinary friend from the Netherlands, they use they/he/she pronouns, and Piper is my friend, a nonbinary woman in the UK, who uses she/they pronouns. Both of them were ecstatic to hear Elliot has come out, and were both very excited about a public figure openly using more than one set of pronouns. “I have nothing but happiness for Elliot coming out!” Piper said, “Hopefully, this will help more people to understand us and what we are! We are not a threat, we are normal human beings! Earlier that day, I was super upset about the Bell vs. Tavistock shite (cw: for the article linked, detransition and damage to trans healthcare in the UK) and I was really down. I thought that people hated us. But, to see so much love out there [for Elliot] really affirmed everything for me.”
“Hearing about Elliot Page’s coming out, aside from feeling super happy for them, immediately made me feel so happy and hopeful because it means another step forward in terms of visibility [for] trans people, [and] hopefully lead to more understanding and acceptance.” Anniek said.
Before I saw Elliot’s original statement, I saw numerous articles all saying slightly different things. One article claimed Elliot was nonbinary, which may or may not be true but is incorrect to claim based on his actual statement where he only specified being trans. It was easy to believe this statement because Elliot uses multiple pronouns, but something I am unlearning (as well as many other people) is that pronouns do not equal gender and they are just part of personal presentation. Using they/them pronouns does not automatically equate to being nonbinary. “In regards to the multiple pronouns, nice! We love that!” Piper says, “I’m refraining from using ‘nonbinary’ because I am unsure whether Elliot himself used that word, but good for him! They’re so powerful, we need more pronoun diversity. The journey of a trans person is complicated, unique and liberating,” She adds offhandedly, “It’s a journey, we shouldn’t be expected to figure it all out at once.”
“I have the impression that cis[gender] people tend to think of gender and pronouns in a very simplified way: men use he/him, women use she/her, and nonbinary people use they/them. This implies that pronouns are equal to gender identity, when in fact they just a form of gender expression,” Anniek said. I have been seeing more cisgender people branching out and using different pronouns to what they are typically assigned, including they/them pronouns, so I’m hopeful Elliot will help bring this idea to a broader audience of people to feel like they are allowed to experiment with their gender expression more. Anniek added, “I use she/her pronouns as well as they/them pronouns, but I am by no means a woman nor am I aligned to femininity – I lean more towards the masculine side of the spectrum, if anything. I’ve already seen a lot of people make swift assumptions about Elliot’s gender too. Some people are saying they’re a trans guy and others are saying he is nonbinary. Either could be true, but really, we don’t know. And we don’t need to either.”
Then my next issue with how this has been reported is the violent deadnaming of Elliot. Elliot is a very famous actor and has featured and lead in many films, TV shows, and even video games throughout their career. A picture is enough to let people know who Elliot Page is, and for accessibility reasons, listing their previous works and roles will do it too, you don’t need to deadname a trans person. Ever. “My hope [for the] future is for more and more people to respect us. Fuck, because we deserve it.” Piper says. Not deadnaming someone is basic level respect.
My next point is one that people will have differing opinions on, and that’s totally valid I’m not trying to talk for anyone who uses multiple pronouns (as I do not, I only use they/them) but I feel it’s a point I want to make as a trans writer. As Elliot uses he/him and they/them pronouns, I feel like the articles talking about him should make the effort to use both sets of pronouns seamlessly in their reporting, but no one has. I say this because my friends who use multiple pronouns have said to use all their pronouns throughout speech or when writing about them. I’m not perfect and this is new to me, but I’ve put the effort in when talking about them to use a mixture of their pronouns, as I have done in this piece for Elliot. “As someone who uses multiple pronouns too, my hope is that him using multiple pronouns as a famous person will help normalise this,” Anniek added. Obviously, as long as they are using one set of pronouns that has been disclosed, it’s not misgendering so this is a more picky critique. But as a trans nonbinary writer and editor, I feel like the effort should be made to also help normalise multiple pronoun use. “Obviously, some people need to catch on that we can have more than one pronoun,” Piper said.
This conversation hasn’t even approached neopronouns, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that in order to prepare the world to respect and be able to use neopronouns, the basics of getting exipronouns right is really important if we are to keep moving forward.
Overall, these are small critiques of a larger issue. None of the stories I read were written by trans people. Probably weren’t edited by one either. These mistakes would be very easily avoided if more publications would just hire trans writers. Not only is this violent to Elliot who is being publicly deadnamed, misgendered, and so on, but it’s violent to trans people seeing this unfold. It’s traumatising seeing a well off, privileged, white, thin celebrity getting all this shit when they come out. If someone with as much privilege as Elliot doesn’t get the common decency I’ve explained above, how on earth will anyone respect the rest of us? The BIPOC, Disabled/Chronically Ill, Neuro-Diverse, Fat, Poor trans people.
Quick reminder, I wrote a simple ‘How To Be A Better Trans Ally’ Post a little while back, please go have a read if you’d like to do something for your trans friends.
Before anyone wants to get defensive on Elliot’s behalve after I pointed out his privilege, he also admits and acknowledges the privilege he has. I wanted to point this out, as I feel like there will be people who didn’t read the original statement, even though I have put it in this post. “I also ask for patience. My joy is real, but it is also fragile. The truth is, despite feeling profoundly happy right now and knowing how much privilege I carry, I am also scared. I’m scared of the invasiveness, the hate, the “jokes” and of violence. To be clear, I am not trying to dampen a moment that is joyous and one that I celebrate, but I want to address the full picture. The statistics are staggering. The discrimination towards trans people is rife, insidious and cruel, resulting in horrific consequences. In 2020 alone it has been reported that at least 40 transgender people have been murdered, the majority of which were Black and Latinx trans women. To the political leaders who work to criminalize trans health care and deny our right to exist and to all of those with a massive platform who continue to spew hostility towards the trans community: you have blood on your hands. You unleash a fury of vile and demeaning rage that lands on the shoulders of the trans community, a community in which 40% of trans adults report attempting suicide. Enough is enough. You aren’t being “cancelled,” you are hurting people. I am one of those people and we won’t be silent in the face of your attacks.” I have seen people addressing Elliot’s privilege in a way that erases the validity of his fear. No matter how privileged you are, if you are part of a marginalised community, it is scary and even dangerous to exist loudly.
Elliot has been an outspoken member of the LGBTQ+ community and even made a documentary series called Gaycation that showed what it was like to be queer or trans around the world. Living in the Western world, everything tends to be very U.S. and U.K. centric and white/rich if it is about LGBTQ+ people, which isn’t the reality for… hardly any of us. I feel like Elliot has been a good ally to trans people pre-coming out, and we should make the effort to be a good ally to them too. They have promised not to be silent and even de-centred themselves in their own coming out post to highlight a real issue the world is having.
“In the end, we’re not entitled to details about someone else’s gender identity, we just need to respect them and the ways they want to be addressed,” Anniek says, which I think should be the main takeaway from this piece. “My hope for the future is that this teaches people to see more nuance in gender identities and to accept varied expressions and identities.”
Piper adds, “There are people on our side, and all this love is helping people understand their true selves and navigate their own destiny.”
Want to watch some gay shit? Click here.
Want to learn some history about LGBTQ+ people around the world? Check out this post.