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.
Good for Ellen Page. I don't imagine it's an easy thing coming out, or even admitting to yourself that maybe you aren't what society expects you to be. There's got to be some cognitive dissonance that goes along with that which must be taxing. It reminds me of a quote from X-Men: First Class -
"If you're using half your concentration to look normal, then you're only half paying attention to whatever else you're doing."
The X-Men have often been used as a metaphor for people who are stigmatized for their differences; it's worth noting that gay actor Ian McKellan has said friends and colleagues told him his acting improved after he came out, as though he was suddenly better able to inhabit his roles.
Both Ellen Page and Ian McKellan play the roles of mutants in the X-Men franchise.
Accompanying Page's coming out has been the usual trolling responses anyone gets when they come out as gay, having a mental illness or anything else that makes them "extra-normal." Straight people don't make a big deal out of their sexuality, why do gay people have to parade themselves in front of everyone?
Reading these comments got me thinking - why does it matter that people public declare themselves "extra-normal?"
It matters internally for the reason stated above - no one should have to live in denial of themselves. Of course, no one should have to fear reprisal for being themselves, either, but that's clearly still not the case.
From Toronto Mayors to Russian Presidents, LGBTQ people are still heavily stigmatized by many for something other than the content of their character.
Which is why coming out matters externally, too. Whatever we tell ourselves, gay people are still considered "extra-normal" in the same way that you don't see that many women on Bay Street or black men in politics. It's considered a kiss of death to publicly disclose you have a mental illness - and this in spite of the grand tradition of great leaders, innovators and catalyzers all being a bit "extra-normal."
When a black man becomes President or a popular actress comes out of the closet and retains her career afterwards, a message is sent to others in society that it can be safe for them to live externally who they are internally.
In essence, the message conveyed is that mutants can co-habit successfully with their more normal (straight, white, whatever) peers.
Of course, the end goal should always be to get to a point where there's no need for people to come out, because we'll have an expanded enough understanding of what it means to be human that it really won't matter what your faith, sexuality or any of it is. You'll be exposed to variety and encouraged to find and be true to yourself from day one.
That vision of society is still a long way off, though. In truth, we may never get there.
So I'm glad that people like Ellen Page are prepared to stand up and take pride in who they are, "extra-normal" or no. If we're ever to retire the notion of "extra" from humanity, it's going to take people folk like her to lead the way.