Pageboy: Elliot Page's difficult journey to his trans-identity
Los Angeles, California - Elliot Page, the Hollywood star who came out as transgender in 2020 after becoming world-famous in films like Juno and Inception, shares his emotional journey in his first book.
The Canadian actor's first book went on sale in early June. In 29 chapters and more than 300 pages, Page movingly tells his life story, a story of shame, trauma, and self-discovery.
Page, now 36, first achieved fame with the dramatic comedy Juno in 2007, playing a pregnant teenage schoolgirl. The film gained him an Oscar nomination for best actress in a leading role.
Afterwards, his career took off in Hollywood, with roles in Inception, To Rome with Love, X-Men: The Last Stand, and The Umbrella Academy.
But increasingly in the Hollywood spotlight, Page had to conceal his sexuality and his rejection of his own body – that of a woman – with feelings accompanied by depression, panic attacks, and eating disorders.
At the age of four, Elliot Page knew he was not a girl
Page writes that he often had had the idea of writing a book, but it is only now, after his top surgery – the procedure to remove breast tissue to achieve a more masculine shape – does he feel right in his own body and able to manage the task.
His story is one that is all the more urgent, given how transgender people are increasingly victims of physical violence and hostility. By telling it, Page hopes to contribute towards "clearing up persistent misinformation about queer and trans life."
It was already at the age of four that he instinctively knew that he was not a girl. One of his earliest childhood memories as Ellen is that of trying to urinate standing up, like a boy.
"I would press on my vagina, holding it, pinching and squeezing it, hoping I could aim," he wrote.
"Can I be a boy?" he would ask his mother. He fought to keep his hair short. He felt terrible wearing a dress.
Elliot Page's battle against his own body
Page describes growing up in the port city of Halifax. At an early age, his parents divorced. He got crushes on girls in school, where classmates bullied him, calling him a lesbian. Following the success of Juno when he had just turned 20, newspapers began to speculate about his sexual orientation.
Then there was the pressure from Hollywood to conceal his queer side for the sake of his career. In emotional terms, Page describes the trauma of battling against his own body, scarcely eating and cutting himself with knives.
Then, in 2014, Page outed himself at a youth conference of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest organization representing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in the United States. He said he no longer wished to hide and lie about himself.
In Pageboy, the actor said his move was one of the "most important and healing moments" of his life. He was "not quite at the end of my road yet, but quite a few steps further."
Page is unsparing in lurid and painful details of his experiences along that road. In a chapter titled Famous Asshole at Party, he tells of an incident in 2014 shortly after coming out as lesbian, when a famous A-list actor told him: "You aren’t gay. That doesn’t exist. You are just afraid of men." And then the threat: "I'm going to fuck you to make you realize you aren't gay." Page did not identify the actor, but the incident was witnessed by others at the party. A few days later, he ran into the actor, who claimed he didn't "have a problem" with gays, to which Page replied: "I think you might."
For Page, such incidents show the battles that transgender people have to face. "The world tells us that we aren’t trans but mentally ill," he writes. "That I’m too ashamed to be a lesbian, that I mutilated my body, that I will always be a woman, comparing my body to Nazi experiments. It is not trans people who suffer from a sickness, but the society that fosters such hate."
The result of a "damn long journey"
Page writes about love and his marriage to the dancer Emma Portner, and the end of the marriage three years later, shortly after his coming out as the transgender man Elliot. That was in December 2020 when he told social media that he wanted to be addressed in the masculine pronouns "he" and the gender-neutral "they."
Embracing his trans-identity had been the result of a "damn long journey" in which "I made the decision to love myself."
Page doesn't leave out any details in the book: from the gender reassignment breast surgery, the tubes in his body afterwards, the testosterone injections, and the joy he felt seeing the first photo of himself only in red swimming trunks.
"You can't grin wider," he writes, while describing the snapshot with the scars still visible on his upper body. Posting the photo in May 2021 on Instagram, he wrote: "Trans bb's first swim trunks" – adding the hashtags #transjoy and #transisbeautiful.
Summing up his own account of embracing his transgender identity, Page wrote: "This is the story of someone who finds himself – amidst obstacles, shame, hopelessness, and pain. Who emerges from it and blossoms in ways he never thought possible."
Cover photo: MICHAEL TRAN / AFP