Actress Ellen Page came out as gay Friday night at the Human Rights Campaign’s inaugural Time to Thrive conference in Vegas, a gathering of LGBTQ youth-serving professionals promoting the safety, inclusion and well-being of LGBTQ youth.
Best known for her portrayal as the titular character of the Academy Award-winning film Juno, Page gave an extremely personal speech that touched on gender stereotyping, being scared of being out and “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 pain,” said Page.
The actress also mentioned the good that LGBTQ youth-serving professionals like those in attendance were doing. “Thank you for inspiring me, thank you for giving me hope, and thank you for continuing to change the world for people like me.”
While on the floor at the HRC conference, Weekly asked a few attendees for their reactions to the Canadian star’s proclamation.
“Goosebumps. It was amazing. Because, I mean, to have her here as an ally in the first place was fantastic, but then when she chose to actually come out and share that with us, it was hugely powerful. And I don’t think there was anyone in the room that wasn’t hugely, powerfully affected by it—and encouraged. … Kudos to her, for doing that, because just coming and just lending her support and her star power to the cause, it would have been enough. But … she said to the crowd, you inspired me so you know I’m going to come around and do the same thing.” –Kevin Thompson, schoolteacher in Devereaux, Massachusetts
“I think it was a really big moment. Obviously, it’s Ellen Page, so it’s someone that a lot of our generation knows and recognizes the face [of]. And you could see this overwhelming support from people. To have an announcement like that where a room stands and says, ‘We love you just the way you are,’ it was really, really beautiful. And you could see on Ellen’s face that it was a big moment of, ‘Okay, I’m going to be okay. I have a family here.’” –Samuel Brinton, graduate student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“It was powerful … It was one of those things where it could have only happened here for the benefit that we received from it and for the benefit that everyone else will receive from it. I was not necessarily shocked because I had no expectations, so when it happened it just made the speech and everything more powerful for me.” –Geoffrey Murry, counseling apprentice at the University of Redlands
The premiere evening of the conference also featured an awards ceremony, where another LGBT celebrity, Lance Bass, was honored with the Upstander Award for Promoting Safety, Inclusion & Well-Being for LGBTQ Youth. Magic and Cookie Johnson also received the award.
A few conference attendees shared their thoughts on whether or not celebrities should come out to the public.
“I think it is if they feel it’s important for them … I just saw it blew up all over Facebook and all these other LGBT agencies were quoting her … I feel happy. I’m like, ‘Good. I’m glad that [she] can feel comfortable that [she] can just say [it].’ I just feel a little bit torn in that: Do they have to come out? Do they feel pressure to come out? Or is it that they wanted to, that they felt they were ready … I hope it was her time to come out and that she felt comfortable and that she’s happy for it. … I think that we’re at the time that it doesn’t really matter. I don’t think people are not going to watch her movies … I really would like to believe that we’re over that now. But I think that it’s important for the younger people that maybe had a connection with that star, to be like, ‘Oh, well they did it. I can do it, too.’” –Nancy Ortiz, schoolteacher from Newark, New Jersey
“It is up to them. It’s their personal lives. That celebrity aspect of them, that’s them, but their personal lives [are] up to them. It does help youth come out, being able to relate to somebody that’s in that public eye.” –Alicia Halley, student services technician at Crafton Hills College
“Absolutely. I think we have to have voices and we have to have faces that we can say, ‘I’m like them’ or at least ‘I’ve recognized that they have gone through similar struggles.’ So whether it’s coming out as an ally or whether it’s coming out as LGBT, I think it gives us the space of, ‘Oh, well if Ellen Page, or somebody I look up to and somebody I respect their work, if they’re comfortable sharing that part of their personal life with others, that’s something that I want to be able to do as well.’” –Brinton