The former Ellen Page the actress (Juno, The Umbrella Academy) came out as gay in 2014, and in 2018 married dancer Emma Portner, and last week announced that he is now Elliot Page, and is transgender, non-binary. Non-binary gender means not all one or the other. In this case, it means Elliot has a primary identity as male but retains some identity as female. Despite the gender identity change, Ms. Portner loves and is staying married to Elliot, formerly her wife, now her husband.
There was a flood of congratulations from the celebrity world, but as we have come to expect, there was the almost instant appearance of a particular form of hatred known as transphobia. It’s a violent hatred. Forty trans women have been murdered in the USA this year (Oct 2019 to Sept 2020), and at least 350 worldwide, up 6% from the previous year.
“I can’t begin to express how remarkable it feels to finally love who I am, enough to pursue my authentic self,” Page shared in a statement on Tuesday. He has chosen he/him and they/them as his pronouns. Having two sets of pronouns is another way of expressing non-binary gender. He goes on to write, “My joy is real but it is also fragile . . . I am also scared, scared of the invasiveness, the hate, the ‘jokes’ and of the violence.”
The movement of which Elliot is the most recent expression began in the 1960s with ‘Gay Liberation.’ The same-sex, marriage equality movement ramped up in the 1990s and culminated in the 2015 SCOTUS ruling that all States must no longer discriminate. Now the cutting edge is transsexuality, and gender fluidity, and other forms of ‘in-betweenness.’
I hope all or almost all of us can feel happy about these developments. It’s another step on the road from abolition of slavery, to SPCA, to Votes for Women, to all the liberation movements from the 1960s up to the present.
The revolutionary development in this current movement for freedom is that more and more of the younger generations are almost hatred-free, and that’s because they are almost fear-free. Free of fear and loathing of the ‘other,’ you know, people ’not like us.’ These younger people feel that we are all the same in all the ways that really matter. And that is why so many things are no longer a barrier to love: race, ethnicity, age, ability and disability, affectional preference, gender identity and expression.
These young people Get It: it’s not the superficial things that matter. The question is, who is this person with whom I am falling in love, in heart and soul? Do our hearts beat as one, are our souls in harmony? Increasingly, the other stuff, the superficial differences, no longer decide everything, don’t prevent love the ways it has prevented it, or made life very difficult, for past generations. Hallelujah!
Rev. Leland Bond-Upson
Wow. There’s a lot to unpack in this post. I can see that this message is trying to say something positive about the world and trans people’s place in it. But I can’t begin to count the ways that this post has made me feel angry, misunderstood, and resentful, because of the ways it speaks about the identities of trans people.
I am transgender. If a blog post deadnames a trans person in the first three words, I’m very unlikely to finish it, because I do not expect it to be respectful of that trans person. There are many ways to discuss Elliot Page’s transition that respect their identity. For instance, many LGBT-friendly news sources have opened with text like “Elliot Page, star of Juno and Umbrella Academy, announces that he is trans.” If you use a trans person’s deadname to reduce the confusion of your audience, you do so at the expense of that trans person, who does not wish to be associated with that name.
Use the words Elliot used to describe himself and his identity. Do you have a source where Elliot says that he “retains some identity as female”? If not, then you have no right to put those words in his mouth. Nonbinary people do not necessarily consider themselves “in between” two genders. Unless you are Elliot Page, you cannot fully understand his relationship with his gender. It is disrespectful to speculate and present that speculation as truth.
Please consider the language that you use when you discuss trans people. If you are writing a post about trans identities, please consider whether you are the right person to write that post. No matter how well-meaning your message is, if you use language that alienates trans people and disrespects their identities, you will be harming the groups that you are trying to support.
For anyone who doesn’t know what a deadname is, here’s an article that explains. https://www.healthline.com/health/transgender/deadnaming
Hey, just stopping by to say that non-binary is a term that means more than just somewhere in between a man and a woman. It’s an umbrella term for anything beyond strict man or woman identities, and a non-binary person’s identity is very personal. Non-binary doesn’t tell you how someone experiences gender (how much they feel like a man vs a woman, whether they feel like neither at all, whether their feelings are constant or fluid) it only tells you that they don’t identify as a man or a woman. Assuming you know someone’s feelings about their gender because you know they identify as non-binary is like assuming you know someone’s food preferences because you know their skin color; sometimes you’ll be right, and a lot of times you’ll come across very badly. There’s also no inherent in-betweenness to trans identities; not only because non-binary is an umbrella term that covers many different experiences of gender that aren’t in between anything, but also because binary trans people are a significant portion of the trans community and they’re just men and women, nothing in between.
I would also say that characterizing younger people’s attitudes as ‘we’re all the same underneath’ kinda misses the point. Why would our caring about other people be contingent on their similarities to us? We’re all different, and we all face different struggles; ignoring those differences keeps us from being able to fully empathize and understand what other people face in their lives. The fact that I’m disabled matters. The fact that I’m a woman matters. These impact how people treat me, and if someone doesn’t understand that, they’re not going to understand my experiences. The point is we’re all different and we should love each other because of that, not in spite of it.
I replied to Haley Davis last night:
Dear Haley Davis,
Thank you for your comments. I want to get it right, and will do more reading and talking to people on these issues.
— Rev. Leland Bond-Upson
I say the same thing now to Elijah Byrd: I want to get it right, and I regret offending. It won’t happen again.
— Rev. Leland Bond-Upson.