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Trans Experiences

How Elliot Page Coming Out Inspires Trans Actors Like Me

"I didn’t believe that my acting career could be anything but soul-crushing and invalidating."

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Written by Sam Spadafore.

Photo by Belle Fall.

I have always been a fan of Elliot Page. They were the lead in my favorite movie, Juno, and that has remained my favorite movie since I first watched it in middle school (probably a little ahead of my time, but I watched a lot of adult movies late at night while everyone was sleeping). Juno reflected parts of who I was and who I wanted to be in this aesthetically pleasing, broken, yet whole, version of what my life could have been. My parents divorced when I was five, and I had a quasi-step-mom figure in my life since elementary school. To deal with my unaware identity crisis and undiagnosed ADHD I fell into a series of rebellious acts that involved random sex and relationships. I was using my body to get attention and made a lot of impulsive decisions that could have easily gotten me into a pseudo-Juno situation.

Juno reflected parts of who I was and who I wanted to be in this aesthetically pleasing, broken, yet whole, version of what my life could have been.

Elliot Page played this sarcastic, boy-ish, quick-witted, wise beyond her years teen girl that I related to and idolized. Still to this day, I think about the many scenes where Juno’s external hard shell cracked and poured out, sometimes on the side of a highway. I had many moments like that throughout high school and college, whether it be the pressure of my own expectations for myself, the bitter end of a relationship, or grappling with my own gender identity. And let’s face it, Juno was pretty fucking badass. She, as well as her counterpart Paulie Bleeker, tore gender stereotypes apart at the seams. The movie was irresistible to younger me, from the aesthetics of the hamburger phone, to the butch, sarcastic gender-bending attitude.

Not only was Juno a badass, but she also had agency over her body. She decided for herself that she wanted to have sex with Paulie, take the baby to term and give the baby to new parents. She was ultimately supported by her dad and stepmom, and isn’t that the ideal response in any situation? Growing up as a girl is hard enough. Throw in being trans, not even realizing that was why you hated your body so much. How could I not idolize this character when I had little to no control over what I was allowed to do with my body?

I grappled with coming out. Theatre and film hadn’t realized that transgender folks needed representation and not just poor stereotypes of prostitutes and butt-of-the-joke sidekicks.

Now, with Elliot coming out as trans using he/they pronouns, I feel more connected to the actor than that fictional character they portrayed. I came out as a gay trans man in 2017 and began medically transitioning when I was in my senior year of college studying musical theatre. I grappled with coming out. Theatre and film hadn’t realized that transgender folks needed representation and not just poor stereotypes of prostitutes and butt-of-the-joke sidekicks. One of the only representations of transness I had seen in film at that point was the ending of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective when Ventura rips off Einhorn’s clothing to reveal she is a trans woman, prompting everyone in the room to promptly vomit. What was that supposed to tell me about my own body and understanding of gender?

Maybe it wouldn’t have been as complicated to transition and stay in acting, but when your voice is dropping, you don’t feel comfortable in your skin, and you’re basically going through a second puberty. The last thing you want to do is have people staring at you and trying to fit you into a box.

The timing of Elliot’s public coming out couldn’t be better for me. After college, I took a long break from theatre to focus on transitioning because I didn’t think I could do both at once. I didn’t believe that my acting career could be anything but soul-crushing and invalidating. I didn’t want to be the joke. I also wasn’t sure how I would even audition for certain roles when everyone who saw me or looked at me clocked me as a somewhat-butch lesbian. I was just recently fired from my nonprofit job, so the pandemic and the lack of employment or direction brought me to re-think why I left acting in the first place. Was it really to take time to transition or was it because I didn’t see the support that I needed from the community to feel confident? I don’t want to entirely cast blame on the performance industry, but the decision to leave was far too easy for someone who doesn’t fit neatly in the “boy” or “girl” boxes. Maybe it wouldn’t have been as complicated to transition and stay in acting, but when your voice is dropping, you don’t feel comfortable in your skin, and you’re basically going through a second puberty. The last thing you want to do is have people staring at you and trying to fit you into a box.

Seeing the outpour of love and support for Elliot Page has given me hope for a new career in the arts. Instantly, all the news articles, artist bios, and wiki pages showed his correct pronouns. The fact that they are such a beloved actor and have such a huge platform could really make an amazing impact on the acceptance of trans people in society. On top of that, he’s going to challenge a lot of stereotypes that we have for trans masc people (things like trans masc people are always hyper-masculine and want to be muscular and ripped). I am very excited to see Elliot Page taking roles that align with his identity at whatever stage of his transition. And I’m even more excited to see how this shifts trans representation in performance.


About The Author

Sampson Spadafore (he/they) is a white nonbinary trans man, who’s queer. He currently works in consent and sex education in southern Maine and is excited to pursue his career in acting once more. They enjoy walks on the beach with their dog and writing poetry. His writing focuses on sex, sexuality, gender, mental health, relationships, queer and trans issues.

Follow on IG: @samspads & @samspadafore_workinprogress


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