The headline popped up at the top of my Facebook feed: “Oscar-Nominated ‘Umbrella Academy’ Star Elliot Page Announces He is Transgender.”
I’m not sure I even stopped to read the full article before smashing the share button on my phone. As a queer and trans man, this was news that needed to be shared ASAP, with not one, not two, but three brand new trans flag emojis (and three heart-eyes emojis for good measure).
If my social media feeds are any indication, December 1st is now a national holiday in the trans world. I’m pretty sure I even saw one person refer to it as “Elliotmas.”
OK Kasey, you might be thinking, I like “Juno” and “The Umbrella Academy” as much as the next person, but isn’t this all a bit of an overreaction? Forgive me for assuming that response comes from a well-meaning cisgendered person — if that’s the reaction you had, I’m willing to take the odds that’s your profile. But the answer is, "No. It's not an overreaction."
I need to back up three years to tell you why.
The year was 2017. It was early June, and I was standing in front of my bathroom mirror, having just returned from getting a haircut. I’d had my hair cut very short before, but this time was different. Perhaps it was that I’d finally succeeded in directing the hairdresser away from an overtly feminine pixie cut, or just that my brain was catching up to a truth I should’ve known years before. This time when I looked in the mirror, my first thought was “Ohhh s***.” I immediately Googled: “Can I be trans if I haven’t always known I am trans?” (The answer to that, by the way, is emphatically yes).
I love being trans ... I love that when I look into a mirror now, everything clicks into place. I love that it feels right.
Two weeks later, I came out as trans to two close friends. I then told my parents, on the occasion of their wedding anniversary. Within three months of that haircut, I began taking testosterone. Despite the relative ease I’d experienced so far in my transition (an ease I did not take for granted, as it is not the experience of many trans people), what I was still missing was representation. Media. Books, TV shows, and yes, celebrities, whose experiences of transness I could look to, and identify with.
In the 24 hours since this news broke, I don’t know how many times I read Elliot’s announcement. I keep going back to two lines in particular: “My joy is real, but it is fragile” and “I love that I am trans. And I love that I am queer.” Because I, too, love that I am trans and love that I am queer. And my joy is also real, yet fragile.
How can it not be fragile, when I read about another trans person being murdered? (Often, trans women of color are the targets of deadly violence.) How can it not be when I see my formerly favorite author — the woman who inspired my love of reading and writing -- use her gigantic platform to spread dangerous misinformation and hate against the trans community? Or when I see the alarming rates of attempted suicide among transgender youth?
It seems there’s no shortage of reasons for despair, and yet, it’s the joy of being transgender that surprises people the most. Upon seeing a distant aunt for the first time after beginning my transition, I was greeted with a somber face and the words, “You must have been in so much pain.” But I wasn’t in pain before. Life had been relatively good, but now it was so much better. Couldn’t she see that this moment — this step into the light of knowing who I really was and showing it to the world — was a moment for joy? For celebration?
Elliot’s joy was no longer just Elliot’s, and perhaps in becoming collective, that joy became just a little less fragile.
I love being trans. As a writer, I love that I’ve experienced the world through the lens of multiple genders. I love being part of the queer community. I love sharing drafts of my novel about a queer and trans teenage boy finding acceptance at a magical circus and being able to provide for my trans friends what I’ve struggled to find for myself — a book that allows them to finally, finally, be seen. I love that when I look into a mirror now, everything clicks into place. I love that it feels right.
Elliot’s coming out announcement wasn’t exciting just because he’s such a well-known actor, or because of the visibility it provides to trans masculine people --though both are obviously causes for celebration.
No, after the initial shock of delight, what stood out to me most was that the celebration wasn’t contained solely within the trans community. Scores of people, some celebrities, others ordinary cisgender allies on my social media feeds, were sharing words of congratulation and delight. Elliot’s joy was no longer just Elliot’s, and perhaps in becoming collective, that joy became just a little less fragile.
And so this year, a year in which time has no meaning, I’ll remember December 1st. I’ll remember it as a day of trans joy. A day of celebrating one more person adding to the beautiful tapestry of humanity, by being their most authentic self. And as the day I texted another trans friend of mine “One of us! One of us!”
So welcome Elliot Page. And thank you. You're one of us.