Belfast Telegraph

Monday 15 September 2014

Critics of Ellen Page speech missing a point

Actress Ellen Page came out as a gay woman during a speech in Las Vegas at the Human Rights Campaign's THRIVE conference
Actress Ellen Page came out as a gay woman during a speech in Las Vegas at the Human Rights Campaign's THRIVE conference

Ellen Page came out publicly at the Human Rights Campaign's Time to Thrive conference in Las Vegas last week. The star of Juno's eight-minute-long speech contained a critique of Hollywood's repressive standards and a mention of her own struggle and the suffering she underwent while keeping her sexuality a secret.

Her strength and bravery in coming out is not, for me at least, in question. It's inspiring to have high-profile actors, musicians, sports stars and entrepreneurs come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgendered.

It makes being part of the LGBTQ community feel less lonely and not something that should be hidden, because you're afraid of mockery, of not being selected for jobs, or of losing friends, contacts and status.

The normalisation of homosexuality by famous names even makes it harder for young people to bully their LGBTQ peers.

Jane Czyzselska, writing in the Guardian, said Page's disclosure "shouldn't really be news". I fear that commentators who wish to deny the importance of Page's speech are missing the point.

Page's coming out should be news, as long as we live in a world where homophobia still exists. It should be news, because she is giving hope to all of those who are still in the closet.

One of the most interesting parts of Page's declaration was when she addressed the "crushing standards" that Hollywood places on all of us in terms of beauty and success.

She mentioned a recent E! article where she was criticised for wearing sweatpants. Why was the E! piece written and published in the first place? It is, of course, irrelevant celebrity gossip.

But it's also an example of the pernicious way that magazines, newspapers and blogs penalise female celebrities for their appearance.

In a previous column, I criticised Shakira and Rihanna's faux lesbian performance in Shakira's latest music video. A commenter below the line wasn't particularly keen on what I'd written and stated I "looked like a lesbian".

I think this was meant to insult me, but it provides a great example of how our society likes to shout women down and shame them.

Making light of what a woman wears isn't okay. So wear those sweatpants, Ellen. I'm really glad you've decided to come out.

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