Sunday, February 23, 2014

Coming out is power

Hi, nice to see you all again.

Certain conversations and literature brought to my attention recently about the importance of coming out, or if it is even important at all to come out. This outright baffled me. When considering that at this very second, people just trying to express themselves and be true to who they are being criminalized and denied basic human rights all around the world. Of course coming out is still important. Coming out is power.

Coming out is different for everyone, but something crucial to recognize is the power of being able to come out on your terms and only when you feel comfortable. That's not to say that it could take a terrible turn for some folks. It could just as easily become a time of losing trust and cutting ties, and it is very important to recognize that that is a very plausible reality for some. 

All of this became relevant on this past Valentine's Day. While Americans bought into the commercialism or used the holiday to further define their love for one another, a young, poise film actress publicly came out. Ellen Page's public coming out suddenly became everyone's Valentine's Day gift. Ellen delivered a speech at the "Time to Thrive" Conference hosted by the Human Rights Campaign in Las Vegas, Nevada. Like I said, coming out is different for everyone. It can either be a bold, direct statement or be done without words at all. Page’s speech at the conference opened with an anecdote about the media condemning her for dressing like a “massive man” instead of a “petite beauty”. She mentions the crushing standards the media put in place not just on those participating in entertainment, but those same standards leak into everyday society. Page’s demeanor throughout this entire speech is one of humility and vulnerability.

Once Page utters the words, “I am gay”, the crowd erupts and the news receives a standing ovation. Page’s words thereafter are met with a break in her voice. Those who have seen Page’s history of playing queer or queer-presenting characters in her work might have not felt as surprised as most. Page has had media speculate on her sexual orientation for a few years, but has never explicitly stated anything in regards to that . Her tabloid photos of her with other women might have made it easier for folks to just place her into the category of queer. Upon hearing the news, one of my friends said, “I knew she was queer, but considering she’s been getting more famous, I thought she would never come out.” But she did. She did in a way that was beautiful, poised, and honest.

So, when folks tell me that coming out is irrelevant, I think of this instance. I think that even though Page identified as queer and had relationships with women before her coming out statement, her coming out still inspired people. Her coming out was still a surprise to some. It affirmed the notion that coming out is still necessary and that it can be done in a way that can pave the way for most. Maybe this will be the best thing of Page's career, who knows? The important thing is that coming out still generates a reaction. Whether that reaction be positive or not, it is still one of the biggest moments of one's life. The beauty of that is that coming out happens many times, to yourself, to other people, to the world. Each of those times is a celebration of your journey.

Ellen Page, keep doing you.

Steph Salazar

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