Ellen Page’s coming out speech at the HRC’s Time to Thrive conference about her sexuality was moving, heartwarming and refreshingly authentic. (See the video below) Among other things, she said:
“I’m tired of hiding and I’m tired of lying by omission. I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. My spirit suffered. My mental health suffered. My relationships suffered. I’m standing here today with all of you on the other side of that pain.”
These words are a reminder of the pain society is capable of inflicting on others. And the pain we are capable of inflicting on ourselves.
This isn’t just about Ellen Page’s sexuality, or sexuality period. Page provides a good reminder of society’s need to protect and perpetuate itself by conditioning its young to believe and behave in a certain way.
In opposition is the individual’s desire to express and be accepted for his or her uniqueness. It’s an age-old battle born out of the need for survival, and of fear. It will not be settled today.
When the conditioning doesn’t take or feel right to the individual, he or she is left to question: do I, or how much of myself do I suppress for the sake of fitting in? For the sake of survival? Do I risk scorn? My ability to provide for myself and my family? Or hurting the ones I love by expressing my individuality or that which I have felt the need to hide?
In her speech, Page alluded to years of succumbing to social pressures to behave and “represent” as being a person she was not. She took responsibility for her fear and her lie, and admitted what the cost was. She then courageously stepped forward.
Tomorrow, it may or may not cost her certain acting roles, and it may adversely affect a relationship or two. But in the moment I’m guessing it felt quite liberating and a relief.
Hiding and lying by omission is not exclusive to sexuality. Society puts pressure on us in many ways and in many forms. Exerting pressure directly and indirectly on us to make certain choices and to look and behave a certain way. It can be malevolent or benevolent, depending on the person or circumstance. The intention is irrelevant from the point of view that when we succumb to this pressure, consciously or unconsciously, we give away a part of ourselves. As was the case with Page, our spirits suffer, and our mental health suffers. That is the high price we pay if and when we disregard our emotional needs and our authentic self.
This isn’t a call for extreme selfishness, renouncing compromise or to break laws. It is an invitation, to search ourselves and to be honest about who we are. To see and measure if there is difference in who we are and what we put out in the world. Where do we possibly sacrifice ourselves? Not out of give and take compromise, but out of fear? Out of selling ourselves out. Not for survival but a superficial need. What do we think we need to survive but in truth do not? How in or out of sync is our internal and external self? If we are out of sync, the questions are: by how much? At what expense? Are we deluding ourselves with negotiations that state something to the effect of, “I’ll be myself when…” However, does that “when” date always seems to get pushed down the road?
“Coming out”, is a phrase typically reserved for a woman or a man announcing that she or he has a same-sex sexual preference. However, any of us that hide a true part of ourselves is capable of having a coming out moment.
It doesn’t always have to be a speech, and it doesn’t always have to be public. It starts with you. With being honest with yourself. With weighing the cost of coming out, and doing what is right for you, when it is right for you, and with whom, versus living a life as someone or something less that what you want to be.
Depending on one’s circumstances, coming out can come with emotional, social and financial risk. These consequences should not be taken lightly. Nor should the consequences of not coming out.
The result of assuming one’s true self does always have to be negative.
Perhaps Ellen Page will experience an inner peace she has never known. Existing relationships with some maybe become healthier and stronger. And or new ones may form as well. Those acting roles she might miss out on? I am guessing there will be new roles and opportunities that will come her way that would not have otherwise. Whether they will pay as much or do as well at the box office I do not know, but I’ll bet they are more fulfilling, and without the spiritual suffering. How much is all of this worth?
**THE ABOVE REPRESENTS MY PERSONAL OPINION. I AM NOT A LICENSED THERAPIST. ANY WORDS IN THIS BLOG ARE NOT MEANT TO, NOR SHOULD THEY REPLACE THAT OF A DOCTOR OR LICENSED MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL.**