The day Ellen Page came out, I received about seventy social media notifications, all in various stages of Caps Lock. “A victory for sarcastic lesbians EVERYWHERE” read one status update, while everyone on Twitter practiced their snarkiest marriage proposals. Within five minutes, my inbox was inundated with forty different texts asking me if I had “heard the incredible news” about this incredible lesbian who’d never sleep with me. As happy as I was to see such a smart funny lady come-of-Page (sorry), I wondered why Ellen’s specific speech triggered such a huge public response. Page’s biggest film, Juno, came out seven years ago, and nowhere in her eight-minute speech did she tap dance on stage with Macklemore. She just came out and told a simple story worth 10,000 retweets, 8,000 favorites, and all of our weird, creepy celebrity love.
Not everyone agrees, and I don’t like those people. Brandon Ambrosino of Time Magazine recently wrote an article entitled “Ellen Page: Is Coming Out Still Brave?”
“The actress’s announcement should be celebrated,” he argues, “but so should the maturing society that received her news with a shrug.” I’m not sure where Ambrosino was when he wrote this (sandwiched between brick walls, douchebag?) but no gay I knew was shrugging when Page came out – we were all dry-humping the nearest live body or air molecule around us. Page’s story captured our attention in a way that other coming out speeches haven’t – because it was brave, because it was brilliant, and because she did it all while wearing a poly-cotton blend tee.
The following list includes ten helpful suggestions for celebrities seeking to follow Page’s suit. Note: while I’m happy to analyze what made Page’s speech work (hint: it existed), there is no right or wrong way to tell a coming out story. Take a dump in your house, call it gay, and retweet the entire experience to your entire fanbase of one: it’s still courageous as hell. Nor should any celebrity feel pressured to reveal anything at all. Whoever you to choose to bone and wherever you choose to bone it should be left up to the person, not the public. Ellen Page’s performance simply provides a helpful guide for celebrities seeking to make their coming out story dig deeper, splash splashier, not be weird.
1. In a speech about coming out as gay, actually use the word “gay.”
When Jodie Foster came out at the Golden Globes last year, nowhere in her seven-minute speech did she once mention the words gay/lesbian/queer. She did make a powerful dedication to her former partner, Cydney Bernard, and my heart did melt at the sight of their two beautiful sons – happy despite a desperate need for real braces. Every moment of that performance was beautiful. But while no one should be required to wear a label just because others say they should (see: my Hollister years), I still wish she had come out and said it.
At approximately 5:22 into Page’s speech, she announces: “I am here today, because I am gay” and you can hear everyone in the audience go “Yes,” “Incredible,” “That’s awesome let’s make out.” So much of the struggle in coming out as gay is simply learning how to say the stupid word. She said it. Now let’s make out.
2. Make it about something bigger than a joint tax return
Marriage isn’t for everyone. While I for one cannot waiiiit to force my “Burlington Coat Factory” registry on everyone (they’re more than just coats, ok?), I also understand there are other issues in the community frequently eclipsed by the marriage debate. In her speech, Page talked about “too many dropouts, too much abuse, too many suicides.” In a country where nearly 1/3 of LGBT kids drop out of high school, and are more than twice as likely to commit suicide, her words resonate with teenagers all across America. Trust me. At fifteen, I wore a choker collar.
3. Keep Expectations Low
Typically in coming out speeches, the speaker encourages everyone to “take action,” despite the fact that it’s a Monday night and they know “Extreme Couponing” is on. Nowhere in Page’s speech does she implore her audience to “stand up and change the world.” That’s a barfy call to action that belongs in graduation speeches, admission essays, and Justin Bieber b-tracks. Page kept it real: the most any of us can ever do is “make an effort to be less horrible to one another.”
4. Defend Sweatpants
Page said: “A website ran an article with a picture of me wearing sweatpants on the way to the gym. And the writer asked, “Why does this petite beauty insist on dressing like a massive man?” Because I like to be comfortable.”
God bless this woman.
While tears can often be used to manipulate an audience into feeling, the look of emotion on Ellen Page’s face was really real: she’s really gay. Though she didn’t exactly bust a duct, every moment in her performance came across as genuine and sincere. Scientists and annoying liberal arts students can debate about whether sexuality is a choice. But the decision to come out is a voluntary act, and one that comes after years of real work:
“I am tired of hiding, and I am tired of lying by omission. I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered, and my relationships suffered. And I’m standing here today, with all of you, on the other side of that pain.”
Where’s the Xanax at?
6. Tell it to the Social Workers, You’re All That They’ve Got
Ellen Page could have delivered her speech anywhere in the United States, but she instead chose to present it to a group of do-gooder counselors and educators at an LGBTQ conference. As someone with a little experience in this world, I’ll say this, Ellen: your performance will be the highlight of their crappy low-income careers.
7. Throw in a Laverne Cox shout-out, because damn
Page not only shared her own story, she also referenced the work of transgender actress/advocate Laverne Cox. Cox recently got some attention for her spectacular performance in an interview with award-winning journalist and ignorant dummy, Katie Couric. While Couric blathered on about “transgenders” and “private parts” – imagine Siri giving a sex talk – Cox courageously defended herself.
There is nothing people like more than patting themselves on the back for their heightened sense of gaydar. Only in a world where passively eating food is now considered a skill (speaking to you “foodies”), do people get to congratulate themselves for stereotyping. When Page came out, even the most politically correct of us came out and shouted “I TOLD YOU SO.” Thanks for making that beautiful speech Ellen. Har har, we knew all along.
9. Just Do the Damn Thing
While I totally respect the right of people to keep their sexuality private, I applaud gay Americans who feel empowered enough to get up there and express it publicly (unless your coming out story is in the form of a slam poem/one-act play, in which case, kudos from afar). I’m sure there are plenty of celebrities out there who identify as gay, but I can count the number of “big” coming out speeches (Cynthia Nixon, Jodie Foster, Neal Patrick Harris) on like a hand-and-a-half. Not to worry, Ellen, you won’t be typecast into a gay role – Jared Leto will gladly steal that from you. Turd.
10. Don’t Forget to Tell Us You Love Us, Even If You’re Faking It
Cause duh. It’s a nice conclusion. And we like to hear it.
But also: we love you back.
Heather Dockray is a comedian and storyteller living in Brooklyn, NY. You can see more of Heather’s work at www.heatherdockray.com, follow her on twitter @Wear_a_helmet, and email her at firstname.lastname@example.org if you aren’t from Moveon.org.