Friday, February 14, 2014

Ellen Page Came Out, And It's a Big Deal.

Tonight, gay women got the best Valentine's present short of actual love from an actual girlfriend: Ellen Page came out.  This is a big deal, and I want to briefly explain why.

I'll preface this by saying that no one has an obligation to come out.  It's a very personal decision.  And I should say that the familial environment of my childhood has greatly changed since I've passed into adulthood.  But I want to emphasize what is possible when people choose to live openly, and the way it can help counter some of the attitudes under which so many gay children are raised.

Hey Ellen Page.  I'm not single, but if I am one day, I promise I'll hit on you right after I strike out with Michelle Chamuel.

I grew up in Texas, in a conservative, Christian family that taught abstinence, to the point of giving each of us kids a purity ring when we turned 13.  For a straight child, this would certainly create a bit of repression, but for me, this meant both repression and a reprieve: with sex forbidden by God On High, I could put on blinders and ignore it completely.  I internalized what I believed these teachings meant--sex was dirty and aggressive and somehow also sacred--at the same time as I absorbed some of conservative Christianity's other none-of-your-business teachings.

Growing up, gay was dirty, gay was diseased, gay was sinful and it was hellbound.  Gay wasn't an option.  Lesbian was even worse.  For some reason, even now, gay has cultural traction--women have glamorized gay men, but no such fashionable fetishization exists for lesbians, just a fake idolization by a certain type of man.  There's a reason Ellen DeGeneres was essentially banished from television after she came out, when I was in eighth grade.

What would it have meant to me to have an Ellen Page come out when I was a teen?  I didn't have a clue about my sexuality until midway through my 20s, so I won't pretend it would've led to a sudden, lighting-strike moment in which I Realized; it would've meant a cool, funny, pretty woman I liked watching on film just so happened to be a lesbian.  Might it have led me to think about some things?  Yep.  Might it have made me wonder why I felt an impulse to kiss girl friends?  Probably.  But on a more basic level, she would have been a counter to what I had internalized, and maybe would have been a sort of beacon for me--she would have represented an option I didn't have.  She may have helped beat back the waves of homophobia and self-loathing I still battle.

One of my biggest reasons for blogging is to hopefully do this sort of work: to show people, gay and straight alike, the depth and breadth of gay history, and its extension beyond the stereotypes with which we're familiar.  It's what I want to do with Queer Vintage/Vintage Queer, but it's work that can be done so much more powerfully when people just come out, live openly, and simply show others they exist.

Thank you, Ellen Page.



6 comments :

  1. Yay! This is so wonderful and hopefully inspiring to other young homosexuals out there who are concerned about coming out.

    xoxo
    -Janey

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    1. Thank you, you are honest-to-god the sweetest.

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  2. YAY! I wonder why lesbians have so much more trouble in American society than gay men... my pet theory is that (grossly generalizing here) women find gay men nonthreatening to be around in a sexual sense and while straight men are often homophobic, at least gay men don't represent competition for the ladies... while women are afraid that lesbians will treat them the same way straight men do and men see lesbians as reducing the pool of available women.
    Anyway. Complete side tangent there.
    But I think it's really wonderful to have another positive celebrity out there as the face of What Gay Looks Like both for young people struggling with their sexuality and for everyone else to get a little more comfortable with the idea.

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    1. Yeah my own theory has to do with the negative way women frequently perceive their own bodies, and the general punishing way people view/treat women. But yeah, that's my hope; the more people who come out, the more "normal" it is, in every way.

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  3. Incredible post! Yes, yes, yes! I agree that there is an unfair portrayal of lesbians in the media and Hollywood. Gay men are seen as witty and "fabulous", stylish, fit and sexy. They are seen as fun and trendy, whilst lesbians are portrayed or seen as "angry", manly, out of shape, unattractive and less of a woman. Lesbian women are not the cast as the comic friend, or the stylish confidant in TV and Films like many of their Gay male counter parts. Thank God for women like Ellen Degeneres, Portia De Rossi, and Ellen Page, to hopefully begin to break down these grossly false ideas of Lesbians. Thank you for being a positive voice with your blog Whitney. Hopefully the next generation of kids growing up, whether straight or gay, will have a healthier outlook, understanding and acceptance toward the LGTB community. After all, we are all just people, it doesn't matter our sexuality, ethnicity, religious beliefs, nationality, etc. A person is a person.

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    1. This comment, and you, are perfect. You describe everything that's so depressing about lesbian portrayal and (non)visibility in the media and Hollywood. I will say though, and your comment made me think about this, I don't think I'd wish on gay women the "accessory" status that's been foiled on gay men. Gay man have more mainstream acceptance, but it's certainly come at a price. I mean I have actually heard women say, "I need a gay!" Actual. Women. Have said that.
      Anyway yes, that's all I can wish for future generations, is just a healthier outlook and some examples to whom can look and with whom they can identify.

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