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Elliot Page on balancing trans joy and harsh realities of anti-LGBTQ sentiment

‘I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that sometimes it can be overwhelming’

Elliot Page is in a bit of an odd position, he says, being one of the most visible transgender men in the world.

He’s in a better place than ever before. The Halifax-born actor is able to be his full self without reservation. But at the same time, he has publicly declared himself part of a group that is under attack.

“The visibility is complicated,” he told The Canadian Press in a recent interview. “No doubt we need to see ourselves and our joy reflected, and I know how much that’s helped me on my journey. But of course, that can also lead to backlash, and does lead to the most vulnerable members of our community being affected the most in that way.”

That dissonance plays out in his memoir “Pageboy,” published by HarperCollins Canada earlier this month.

“I’m just trying to achieve a balance in my own life.”

The book gives readers a non-linear look at his life, exploring his childhood in Halifax and early entry into acting, the fame that came from his breakout role in “Juno” and the trauma that often comes with being queer in Hollywood.

He wrote of several sexual assaults over the years, of public speculation about his sexual orientation in his youth, of harassment he faced when he came out as a lesbian in 2014 and of incredulity when he announced he was transgender six years later.

The through line is his understanding, only sometimes conscious, that he was never a girl or woman.

He was more confident in that knowledge as a child, until his parents shut it down. Puberty also had a dampening effect, and with it came the onset of gender dysphoria — what he described as “a profound discomfort and confusion and incongruence with my mind and body.”

“Something in me always knew, but it was as if I was always talking myself out of it, figuring out a way around it because it just felt too big,” he said.

It was the COVID-19 pandemic that planted the “seeds of hope, the whispers of a better future,” he wrote. Seeing his reflection when he wore a face mask, he looked like the man he always knew himself to be.

From there, it was quick. Far quicker than the process of coming out as a lesbian, which happened incrementally over the course of years. He was mostly closeted until 2014, but had started dating women in his youth, including during the filming of “Juno” in 2007.

In the near-decade since his first coming-out, the landscape in Hollywood has changed — though not a lot, he noted. But he’s also more secure, making the coming out process smoother this time around.

It hasn’t been easy, but it was necessary.

“I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge that sometimes it can be overwhelming right now,” he said.

As society has become more accepting of the LGBTQ community, a backlash has developed and segments of the population have attempted to claw back recent gains.

There’s been an onslaught of anti-trans legislation in the United States, where Page now lives, with more than a dozen states banning or restricting gender-affirming care for minors.

And while it’s tempting to think of Canada as a tolerant, accepting haven for LGBTQ people, Page notes that’s not necessarily the case.

“The climate is slightly better, but emphasis on the word slightly,” he said. “Canada still has so far to go. We’re seeing that very loud, aggressive, anti-trans rhetoric, behaviour, full-blown attacks (and) bills being set forth and passed. We’re seeing that spread up to Canada.”

He pointed to the example of New Brunswick, where teachers are now required to obtain parental consent before they can use the preferred pronouns and names of transgender and non-binary students under the age of 16.

“We need to be really, really careful about how we’re framing the conversation in Canada, because it’s a slippery slope,” Page said.

Conversations on social media can be particularly vitriolic, a constant stream of hate. Page said he largely ignores it.

“It’s not something that I want to invite into my life and my space,” he said. “I know who I am.”

READ ALSO: ‘It is life-saving’: Elliot Page opens up about surgery to Oprah

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