Elliot Page’s emotional and insightful interview with Oprah Winfrey is live today on Apple TV+, and the two covered plenty of ground in their conversation — including deeply personal revelations about Page’s life leading up to his coming out as transgender.
Page came out as a transgender man (who uses both the pronouns he/him and the gender-neutral pronouns they/them) in an Instagram post last December followed by a historic TIME Magazine cover. At the time he told the transgender community (and specifically trans kids), “I see you, I love you and I will do everything I can to change this world for the better.”
Page used his time on “The Oprah Conversation” to challenge Republican lawmakers opposing the pro-LGBTQ Equality Act, and make good on his promise to start using his platform to advocate for transgender people. Here are five key takeaways from Page’s first on-screen interview since coming out as a transgender man.
Influence of other transgender stars and people of color
Page shouted out several other transgender actors, including “Orange is the New Black” and “Disclosure” star Laverne Cox and “Pose” executive producer Janet Mock, as being influential in his journey.
“I’m such a great admirer of of Janet Mock’s and have read both of her books and and those have been really influential and important for me,” Page said. He also added that the steps taken by activists that came before him — like Marsha P. Johnson and Miss Major Griffin-Gracy — influences his work today.
“So much of the privilege I have, the ability to be here sitting here right now, is really because of so many trans women of color who have consistently put their lives on the line throughout history,” Page told Oprah. “When we think of Marsha P. Johnson, or Miss Major… I’m grateful to have the access to the resources I’ve had, because I don’t know what would have happened if I didn’t.”
Growing up transgender in Hollywood, red carpet gender-induced panic attacks
Page grew up acting; his first on-screen role was in the Canadian TV movie “Pit Pony” when he was just 10 years old. Living a life entirely in the limelight made Page’s process of discovering himself and then coming out even more difficult. Page grew exceedingly emotional when telling Oprah about his time promoting “Juno,” the Diablo Cody film that got him an Oscar nomination.
Unfortunately for Page, though, there couldn’t have been a more agonizing film to star in, since it’s about a teenage girl who gets pregnant. While Page said he felt lucky for the experience and how it changed his career, the whole process brought on intense mental health struggles including gender dysphoria, an often overwhelming feeling of distress that transgender people experience because of their conflicting assigned sex and gender identity.
“I remember it felt so impossible to communicate with people how unwell I was, because obviously there is so much excitement,” Page said of his experience during the “Juno” Oscars circuit. “The film unexpectedly became a big hit, I became quite known… I felt like I almost couldn’t express just the degree of pain that I was in.”
“The Oscars, for example, I could not look at a photo from that red carpet. People might watch this and be like, ‘Oh my gosh, this person is crying about the night where they went to the Oscars.’ (But) I think that prevents the ability to allow yourself to not just feel the pain, to reflect on the pain,” Page said.
The process of having to dress feminine at premieres, including for another hit film of his, “Inception,” caused Page intense stress, he said. “The period where I was shooting and promoting ‘Inception,’ because there was so much press and so many premieres all around the world, I was wearing dresses and heels to pretty much every single event,” he said. After his manager, who he said was supportive, asked him to pick a dress out of a lineup he just “lost it.”
“I lost it, it was like a cinematic moment, kind of like a thing that would be in a movie. That night after the premiere and at the after party, I collapsed. That was something that happened frequently in my life, usually corresponding with a panic attack,” Page said.
How transition changed his life
Not every transgender person wants or pursues surgery or hormone replacement therapy — a point that Oprah made sure to note in her interview — but Page has been open about his journey so far and shared that he got top surgery (a plastic surgery procedure which removes breast tissue and masculinizes the chest) shortly after coming out.
“It’s this interesting dichotomy in a way where on some level, it feels just like the most miraculous, amazing thing,” Page said of the procedure. “And it also was just sort of the experience of like, ‘Oh, there I am.’ And a part of me was like, ‘Oh my god, why was that so hard? Why?’ Why has society made getting to this place in my life (so hard) because that really is what that’s the situation we’re facing,” he questioned.
Page also said the procedure brought with it a ton of gender euphoria after he recovered. “I just was probably driving my friends crazy, like sending them profile photos of me, you know, post-top surgery and how different I felt after that. (It’s) just sort of this newfound energy, because it is such a freeing, freeing experience. I mean, truly, I’d go to therapy, and I’d be like, I don’t even I don’t know how to sit down. Like, I’m not even comfortable sitting down at times in my life.”
Advocating for the Equality Act
Page also talked about the Equality Act, a bill currently up for debate that would amend the 1964 Civil Rights act to include protections for LGBTQ Americans. President Biden supports the bill, and encouraged lawmakers to pass it and get it to his desk during a recent joint session address to Congress.
“I think a lot of Americans don’t realize that there’s no explicit federal protection against discrimination for LGBTQ people,” Page said. “In many states, you can still be fired for being gay, denied housing for being trans. The Equality Act would allow for these federal protections and the Republicans don’t want that. So if they spread these myths and fearmonger about trans kids, it’s it’s essentially their tactic right now, in terms of this debate.”
“I believe people want to erase trans people, they don’t believe we exist and they don’t want us to exist,” Page said. “Right now, the main tactic is to attack trans kids. It’s unfathomable to me to desire to do something like that. These kids are being used as political pawns to fight the Equality Act, which the Republicans don’t want passed.”
Message to trans youth
When Oprah asked Page why he felt he needed to give an onscreen interview after coming out, he replied, “in this time we’re in right now and especially with this horrible backlash we’re seeing toward trans people, particularly trans youth, it really felt imperative to do so.”
Over 25 states — roughly half the country, the most wide-reaching yet — are either debating or passing anti-transgender laws, many of them focused on banning healthcare for transgender kids or preventing them from playing on sports teams. Page addressed transgender kids around the world at the end of his interview with a heartfelt promise.
“I want to tell them that I see them that they exist, that they are real,” Page said of transgender youth. “I know like, for me right now going and looking at the attacks against trans kids right now and the rhetoric, I can’t imagine what it feels like, on top of everything else. I just want kids to know that they’re loved. And I’m going to continue to do what I can to try and help this society shift how it treats transgender people.”
Elliot Page’s episode of “The Oprah Conversation” is streaming on Apple TV+.