Should We Care About Ellen Page Coming Out?

By Emily
Since Ellen Page came out over the weekend, the Internet has gone a wee bit mental. Most people were, of course, praising Page for taking public steps about being honest with her life and who she is while others criticised her for rubbing her sexuality in the public’s face.  However, we know that the latter are the people who shout at us in the street for holding hands with girls and there isn’t enough salt in the world for us to take with their opinions.
In slightly more sane corners of the web, people are discussing whether or not Page coming out is ‘news’ and if we should care about it.  The latter part of that question is easy: no, you shouldn’t care.  You shouldn’t care about anyone’s sexuality or when they choose to talk about it.  There, done.  It’s the former part of that question which is tricky; by virtue of talking about a topic, some people consider that news, however if Kim Kardashian flashing her underwear as she gets out of  a car trends on Twitter, does that make that news?  Ellen Page owning her sexuality at an LGBT conference in front of the media is definitely news.  People may disagree over whether or not coming out should be news, but we’re not talking about just anybody coming out; she’s a young celebrity whose coming out can be helpful to thousands of people.  My coming out, for example, really only helped me, which is why I wasn’t anxiously waiting by the phone for the world’s media to call.
Whenever a celebrity comes out, it’s still news for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, they’re famous and when famous people do just about anything, people can spin it into a news story.  But Ellen Page didn’t just come out at the Thrive conference, she made an eloquent, moving speech about equality and human decency – in addition to coming out, that’s news.  Secondly, as tough a pill it is to swallow, it’s a struggle to think of young lesbian celebrities and it has a huge impact when someone does publicly say, for all the world to hear, “I’m gay.”  Editor of DIVA magazine, Jane Czyzselska, wrote about in the Guardian, stating that it shouldn’t have to be news that someone isn’t heterosexual but goes on to conclude that it’s unfortunate that it has to be.
“Page’s declaration shouldn’t be news, but when I read the spiteful remarks in response to the speech – made to people who work with LGBT teens, many of whom experience mental and physical abuse as a result of their sexuality – my heart sank. The comments ranged from the sneering “We don’t care – Don’t rub our noses in your sexuality – Get a life” to the sinister “Send her to Uganda. That should sort her out.” These words clearly demonstrate why Page’s act was so necessary. I wish coming out wasn’t a big deal. But it’s because of lesbophobia that it is.”
But what comes next?  The conversations about Page coming out don’t really involve her anymore and it’s a whole lot of chatter about her, not with her.  What does her coming out mean to the culture?  Is it helpful or hurtful to her career? With so many people proclaiming that her coming out is an amazing thing, which it is, some people are raising interesting points.  Dorothy Pomerantz of Forbes asks, “Imagine what would happen if someone as big as Beyonce or Robert Downey Jr. came out as gay. Would people love Iron Man any less if it turned out Downey Jr. liked men?
With her upcoming roles in the X-Men movie, Days of Future Past, and her timely casting in the role of Julianne Moore’s lesbian lover in Freeheld, it would be smart to assume that Page will be just fine.  Her acting ability and level-headedness kept her out of trouble in her formative years and she consistently chooses more serious or challenging roles, starting with films like Hard Candy, The Tracy Fragments then onto Juno and Whip It
The answer to whether or not people will still love a celebrity after they come out is that they probably will, but the truth of the matter is that many stars in Hollywood just aren’t willing to take that kind of a risk, so when a young celebrity whose career is on a good trajectory chooses to be an inspiration to others, that is newsworthy.
Emily is the Community Manager of Dattch as well a part-time film reviewer and full-time cookie monster.  She can’t walk in heels, is a crossbreed of Essex girl and Londoner and makes cupcakes like nobody’s business.  Find further nonsense from Emily on Twitter @moulder5000