Elliot Page: ‘For a long time I could not even look at a photo of myself’

The Duchess of Cambridge sits near the Duchess of Sussex as they attend the West

Elliot Page covers the latest issue of Time Magazine. The cover story is about Elliot’s personal story, but as with all transgender public figures, he’s using his story to speak about larger trans issues. Note: Elliot says, within this Time piece, that “he/him is great” for his preferred pronouns. The entire piece is definitely worth a read – Elliot details how he’s always known that he’s a boy, ever since he was 9 years old and finally allowed to get a short haircut. He had a come-to-Jesus moment about being transgender during and because of the pandemic. You can read the full piece here. Some highlights:

Finally coming out as transgender: “Sorry, I’m going to be emotional, but that’s cool, right? This feeling of true excitement and deep gratitude to have made it to this point in my life, mixed with a lot of fear and anxiety. What I was anticipating was a lot of support and love and a massive amount of hatred and transphobia. That’s essentially what happened.”

He feels a deep responsibility. “Extremely influential people are spreading these myths and damaging rhetoric—every day you’re seeing our existence debated. Transgender people are so very real.”

Working in Hollywood, playing female roles: “I just never recognized myself. For a long time I could not even look at a photo of myself.” It was difficult to watch the movies too, especially ones in which he played more feminine roles. By the time he appeared in blockbusters like X-Men: The Last Stand and Inception, Page was suffering from depression, anxiety and panic attacks. He didn’t know, he says, “how to explain to people that even though [I was] an actor, just putting on a T-shirt cut for a woman would make me so unwell.”

Coming out as gay in 2014: “The difference in how I felt before coming out as gay to after was massive. But did the discomfort in my body ever go away? No, no, no, no.”

Separating from his wife in a pandemic: In part, it was the isolation forced by the pandemic that brought to a head Page’s wrestling with gender. (Page and Portner separated last summer, and the two divorced in early 2021. “We’ve remained close friends,” Page says.) “I had a lot of time on my own to really focus on things that I think, in so many ways, unconsciously, I was avoiding… I was finally able to embrace being transgender, and letting myself fully become who I am.”

Disclosing information about his surgery: Another decision was to get top surgery. Page volunteers this information early in our conversation; at the time he posted his disclosure on Instagram, he was recovering in Toronto. Like many trans people, Page emphasizes being trans isn’t all about surgery. For some people, it’s unnecessary. For others, it’s unaffordable. For the wider world, the media’s focus on it has sensationalized transgender bodies, inviting invasive and inappropriate questions. But Page describes surgery as something that, for him, has made it possible to finally recognize himself when he looks in the mirror, providing catharsis he’s been waiting for since the “total hell” of puberty. “It has completely transformed my life,” he says. So much of his energy was spent on being uncomfortable in his body, he says. Now he has that energy back… He wants to emphasize that top surgery, for him, was “not only life-changing but lifesaving.” He implores people to educate themselves about trans lives, to learn how crucial medical care can be, to understand that lack of access to it is one of the many reasons that an estimated 41% of transgender people have attempted suicide, according to one survey.

[From Time Magazine]

I consider myself reasonably self-educated on many trans issues, but there were parts of this Time piece which were surprising and really informative to me. I especially found the conversation about visibility gaps really useful, because I had never thought of it in terms like “Historically, trans women have been more visible, in culture and in Hollywood, than trans men. There are many explanations: Our culture is obsessed with femininity. Men’s bodies are less policed and scrutinized.” Jesus, that’s true. Society, as a whole, believes they have more “ownership” over female bodies, as in people have the right to police and comment on female bodies in ways no one would ever police men’s bodies. And that’s just with cisgender people: add in transgender people, and it can get toxic in a hurry.

I’m gutted that Elliot was so miserable for so long, and I’m so happy for him that he’s where he is right now. Throughout the piece, he talks a lot about how the acceptance and love he’s received has meant the world to him, from his mom to casting directors to transgender activists.

Cover and photos courtesy of Time Magazine.

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27 Responses to “Elliot Page: ‘For a long time I could not even look at a photo of myself’”

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  1. OriginalLala says:

    This is such a good article, I hope people read the full piece – I found it very moving and insightful.

    • AlpineWitch says:

      It was lovely! And great that Time decided to interview him too :)

      And I’d like to point out that in UK the surgery to transition can be done through the NHS (after psychological assessments of course).

      Unfortunately, the public healthcare system has its limits and the biggest percentage of men/women allowed to transition through the NHS are not heterosexual (I.e. cisgender hetero woman who wants to transition to male gender is rarely allowed).

      • Lyds says:

        That is so confusing…

        So basically, they won’t help someone who wishes to transition from female to male, who is attracted to men…

        Not sure why that attraction matters, especially when sexuality occurs on a spectrum. Wouldn’t the person just claim to not be “heterosexual” to get the surgery then?

  2. Eleonora says:

    What a great role model!

    Am so happy he chooses to speak out. Must have been difficult

  3. Roma says:

    I have a friend who is a trans woman – and this is coming from her experience only – and she said that trans women typically dominate trans space. She feels that it’s their experience of growing up as men, and the power dynamic that entails, shifts over when they transition. She mentioned some trans men, most having become adults being identified as women first, didn’t push into the space as much. She said it’s something that she’s actively working on to be more inclusive with trans men and not carry any of her former white male privilege with her, but I thought it was fascinating how the power dynamic extends throughout trans space.

    • Aang says:

      I have a trans son. We’ve had this conversation. It seems that trans women are the focus. I agree that having been socialized as male might make them more likely to carry that sense of entitlement through transition. I also think that society as a whole is more interested in trans women because they are seen as becoming less than they were. Like why would a man want to become a woman? Men and maleness are the ideal. On the other hand a woman wanting to become a man makes sense to people raised in an institutional patriarchy where men, especially white men, are the reference for success and power.

    • Lady Keller says:

      I think a lot of it also has to do with the fact that so much of what we see and hear of trans women comes from the lens of cis men. I have heard plenty of straight men express fear that a trans woman might some how “trick” them and it would be enough to destroy their whole sexual identity. Getting with someone who used to be male would be akin to being gay, and that terrifies so many straight men. But, I think deep down there is a fascination with trans women that most men would never admit to. Allegedly there is a whole genre of adult material informally known as “chicks with d***ks” that is immensely popular with seemingly cis men, the majority of whom would never admit to consuming this type of material. At heart, plenty of men are dogs and are aroused by things like cartoon rabbits and the fact that a former man who now has breasts is turning them on is likely causing an internal crisis.

      For the entire time media has existed it has basically been geared towards and controlled by the male gaze. What mainstream men think femininity should be is what we tend to see reflected. The fact that we see trans women so much more often, I think hints at the complicated relationship straight cis men have with women in general. They still need to control us and ultimately we should exist to be attractive to them, and if you’re a woman who used to be a man you should still be attractive, but of you are attractive that’s scary, so we’ll make you objects of derision.

      I dont believe straight cis women tend to obsess to this degree about what turns us on or what is so ideally acceptable in terms of attraction. If we like a feminine man or a trans man it isn’t enough to threaten our feminine identity.

  4. Esmom says:

    It breaks my heart to think of the haters coming for him or any trans person. I truly just don’t understand why they feel so threatened by people living their truth.

  5. Alexandria says:

    Such a good article. I’m wishing Elliot all the best and thank you for sharing.

  6. Xantha says:

    This is such a good and moving read. And him using his privilege to help other trans people warms my heart and honestly making me teary eyed right now. Netflix said that they want him still for the Umbrella Academy and I hope they keep their word. Us the public should hold all these corporations accountable if we want more trans representation.

  7. Nanny to the Rescue says:

    Our culture is obsesed with femininity, but the entertainment business even more so. With masculinity, too. I wonder how his career will work, what roles will he be allowed to play.

  8. Lucy2 says:

    I truly can’t imagine how difficult those feelings must be, and then the joy and relief of finally getting to be one’s true self.
    I really appreciate Elliot being so open and honest, and I’m sure he has helped so many others by doing so. I really wish him the best.

  9. Charfromdarock says:

    I am so happy for Elliot that he is finally fully himself.

  10. Jamie says:

    There are two really good books about trans men from the 1800s- modern day (in the UK and USA). One is called “Female Husbands” by Jen Manion and the other is “True Sex” by Emily Skidmore. Both are historians who focus on gender and sexuality, and they are incredibly well-researched books. I encourage you to check them out if you want to know more about transmen in the nineteenth and twentieth century, how the media covered them, and how society reacted to them. There’s another called “Black on Both Sides” by C. Riley Snorton which focuses on black trans experiences. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s next on my list! Books like these really remind us that queerness has been around for centuries.

    I am so unspeakably proud of Elliot for not only living the life he’s always wanted, but for using his voice and his power to educate others, provide visibility, and inspire others to live their truth.

  11. Lucy says:

    How wonderful! He will help lots of people.

  12. GrnieWnie says:

    He says,

    “There are pervasive stereotypes about masculinity and femininity that define how we’re all supposed to act, dress and speak,” Page went on. “And they serve no one.”

    I agree! I so agree! Why are we shoved into these boxes that tell us “you are X, therefore you must do/be Y”? Our limits for X and Y are so narrow and arbitrary. But here is where I differ from a lot of the conversation around transgenderism. I think even though Elliot might have felt like his true self after he got a short haircut as a child, this association between a haircut and gender is…wrong. There is no association. I want to talk about this in a way that doesn’t deny the experiences of transgender people but also acknowledges that the associations we make between clothes, etc. and gender are actually meaningless. They shouldn’t exist. You can be a cisgender female and also feel a sense of liberation in a short haircut — one that says this represents me, too. It’s a fine hair to split, I guess, but it always nags at me how a lot of transgender narratives indirectly reinforce these stereotypes. I want to end these associations between gender and clothing, etc. but I see them being used to explain individual realizations about gender. And while I don’t deny those realizations occurred, they still reinforce the stereotype! It’s a weird dynamic.

    I listened to one the other day where the person in question eventually came around to the conclusion that a label for their identity didn’t matter at all. And they could like what they wanted and wear what they wanted without ever commenting on their gender. This, to me, is the ideal. We are all simply individuals. We can put ourselves together how we like in terms of our preferences around anything.

    There’s a cisgender hetero man on Instagram who wears pencil skirts and heels every single day. I love this, inside and out. That’s what I’m talking about! We can wear what we like and these trappings do not define our gender or sexuality.

    I’m glad Elliott is pointing out how much these stereotypes are reinforced by Hollywood, though. I hope we can emancipate ourselves from these meaningless constructs around race and gender. There’s a lot of complexity to it but emancipation would mean total freedom from these arbitrary associations. I hope he goes on to have a long and fruitful career after this transition.

    • Ashley says:

      Yes, I agree. There is often too much focus on switching gender constructs in trans narratives. Gender constructs aren’t actually real. Hopefully soon people can transidentify without needing to lean into and underline these harmful societal norms.

      • GrnieWnie says:

        okay you just gave me the language I need to express this: “switching gender constructs.” I’m always trying to explain this in a shorthand way and I can’t!

  13. Sandra says:

    I’m so happy for him. I always felt like he looked really uncomfortable in his own skin before. Wishing so much love and support for all trans people.

  14. chimes@midnight says:

    I absolutely love a lot of Elliot’s work. Inception is a beautiful film, and Kitty Pryde is an awesome character (she has a pet dragon, hello). It hurts my heart to hear how uncomfortable Elliot was creating these films and performances that I love. I wonder, should/can I still enjoy them, knowing these roles and masks of feminity added to his misery?

  15. ce says:

    I love his ‘new’ look. I definitely had a feeling that his haircut/clothing style I recognized as being a more authentic representation of how he dressed when presenting as female (I think that’s the right terminology?) Bravo!

  16. Eni says:

    So happy for Elliott, finally himself and happy! To see his story positively displayed on the cover of Time is great too. Let’s keep educating ourselves.

  17. Margot says:

    I marvel at his bravery. Think of all the people he must be helping! Incredible.

  18. molly says:

    I’m heartened by how far we’ve come in a couple decades about gay/queen acceptance. In about 10 years, we went from American Idol refusing to talk about Adam Lambert being gay to Harry Styles on the cover of Vogue in a dress.

    We’re clearly not there with transgender acceptance yet, but I’m hopeful that with more visibility from people like Elliot, it won’t be so shocking anymore.

  19. K says:

    I am happy for him. If you are not true to yourself you have nothing, really. Fear is so powerful. It can make you live a lie forever if you let it. He’s so kind to share this. It will help someone else.

  20. Mia says:

    Cute boy, great read ❤️