Actress Ellen Page came out on Valentine’s Day. She’s gay.
And I have to confess I’m always surprised when someone coming out is news. It seems the most normal thing in the world to me to love another human being. And if it’s so normal, why do we turn celebrity announcements into headlines?
But I know that I’m always surprised because I’ve never had to come out. I’ve never had to call my parents into a room and sit them down and explain to them, carefully and tearfully that I am straight. I’ve never had to live for years in fear that they might find out I’m straight. I endured all the usual teasing in school from people who called me gay, as thought it were some kind of insult, but it never really bothered me because I knew I was straight and I had nothing to worry about.
“I suffered for years because I was scared to be out,” Page said in her speech. “My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered and my relationships suffered.” Later, she added, “It can be the hardest thing, because loving other people starts with loving ourselves and accepting ourselves. I know many of you have struggled with this.”
This is something society has never demanded I struggle with. So I have the privilege of believing that love is love no matter what, without any of the fear so many have had to attach to their love, of themselves as well as others.
And this is why this is news. This is why Page’s announcement is so important: it and all the others like it can help dispel that fear.
“And I’m standing here today, with all of you, on the other side of all that pain,” Page said. “I am young, yes, but what I have learned is that love, the beauty of it, the joy of it and yes, even the pain of it, is the most incredible gift to give and to receive as a human being. And we deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame and without compromise.”
This blog of mine isn’t about sexuality or social commentary; it’s about writing and teaching. But I can think of few things more worthy of sharing than the words Ellen Page wrote down and spoke aloud today. Including these: “I’m here today because I am gay. And because maybe I can make a difference.”
I started writing this as a simple post to share on my Facebook page. Then I noticed I had my privacy settings on a limited group, and I switched them to my default setting, which is Friends only. But then I thought about what Page said about why she was coming out — that she hoped she could make a difference in reassuring others, in helping alleviate the fear of something no one should be afraid of — and I realized that if I was going to share her words, I needed to share them with a MUCH wider audience. Because I have no idea what it’s like to come out, or to be gay, and I don’t have the personal experience it takes to help make the kind of difference Page is making.
But I know what it is to love. And as Page says, we ALL “deserve to experience love fully, equally, without shame and without compromise.”
5 thoughts on ““We deserve to experience love.””
I’m a funny fish. I have been actively gay since I was in my teens in the early 1970s, but I haven’t really cared a damn about coming out or staying in. People criticise me for lack of commitment and don’t see my contrarian stance as being a way of keeping gay socio-politics under constant critical review, trying to make sure it doesn’t become something with a stereotypical, normative culture surrounding it, just like straight culture. I have often felt like I was spitting to windward when I have asked people “Why do we want the CRAP that straight people have just so we can consider ourselves ‘equal’?” or “Fine, now we can get married. Now we can have gay married CEOs, gay married Generals, gay married politicians, and celebrate our equality while we have gay married homeless people surviving in abject gay married poverty.”
People answer “Oh yes, we need to tackle poverty AS WELL…” and that’s the problem. They compartmentalise these little, separatist campaigns as stepping-stones on the way to some kind of Utopia, without realising that the reason the powerful actually let gay people marry, fight, have jobs, and so on is because it doesn’t cause them any trouble. To me, liberation is either total or meaningless. The only reason that the powerful let us chip away at culture is because they can rebuild their fortress faster than we can chip at it.
I don’t expect you to agree with any of that, but I thought you, of all people, would let me vent. So thank you.
You’re absolutely right that I would welcome your comments! You said it well, and I’m grateful you did. And as an idealist, I absolutely 100% agree with all what you wrote. But I would add something, too: I think we compartmentalize these issues this way as a matter of practicality. We can’t achieve total liberation all at once, so we take these smaller victories when and where we can. Even if they’re allowed by the dominant culture or the powers that be, that doesn’t mean we can’t take them as victories and keep pushing forward. And the reason we — or I, anyway — celebrate when any one person does chose to come out isn’t because I think everyone else should come out; it’s simply to celebrate the possibility of being honest in whatever way one chooses. It’s a deeply personal thing, and I hope that no one feels pressured to come out, because you’re right that that kind if pressure is just another kind of conformity, and it’s not helpful. But I do hope that anyone who wants to come out but has been afraid to can feel emboldened by seeing someone else’s truth out in the clean bright air.
And in the meantime, let’s keep working on all those other problems too.
I take all your points.
As a ‘practical idealist’ – one who considers that shooting for the sun is the only way to get anywhere – I am firmly of the opinion that we should question whether any and each ‘victory’ is indeed a ‘victory’, or simply a bone tossed to us. This may be a cheap crack – and I offer it as one of the sternest critics of the philosophies behind the American ‘Revolution’ – but if the ‘Founding Fathers’ had been content with smaller victories, you would still belong to England.
Here’s an interesting cultural phenomenon I mention in passing. I don’t know whether it has a correlation over on your side of the Pond. A generation ago (i.e. when I was young) the talk was of the demise of marriage. Now, with marriage equality across the two main sexualities, there has been an extraordinary revitalisation of the concept and practice of marriage. In a way it’s a thinly-veiled victory for a type of social conservatism.
I hear you. I generally agree. I just worry that, too often, an all-or-why-bother approach leaves us with nothing. And I certainly agree about the conservatism of marriage, but I view the whole issue as a matter not of reinforcing marriage but of reinforcing equality and freedom of choice. Including the choice in how we view the issue and which battles we choose to fight. 🙂
I hear you too, and I’ll leave it at that out of sisterly comradeship. 🙂