‘I am standing here today, on the other side of all that pain’ – Ellen Page
Nearly two weeks have passed since Ellen Page’s interview with Balance was derailed when the Juno and Inception actress fell ill and had to postpone promotional activity to recuperate at home in the Hollywood Hills. “It was our first flu as a married couple,” Page continues, “so we tried to make it cute. Oh my lord – it was not cute”
God love the honeymoon period: when you’re so darn smitten that everything, even synchronous sickness, feels romantic. Indeed, the depth of 31-year-old Ellen’s feelings for her wife – dancer and choreographer Emma Portner, who she met in July 2017 – is undeniable. The romance unfolded publicly over social media, with a barrage of PDA-packed selfies and date night snaps. And then, in January 2018, just six months after meeting, came the biggie: a photo of their hands gently touching, adorned with their respective wedding bands.
“I feel different in the sense that I just love it so much,” says Ellen, 31, when asked if being newly married has changed her at all. “She’s the love of my life and I don’t really have a word for it other than this brand new, all-encompassing feeling that…” she trails off before finding the words. “I guess it just feels really grounding and really beautiful. Absolutely I’ve been in love before, and this was definitely a very different new kind and new form, clearly.”
On February 14 2014 at The Human Rights Campaign-organised conference in Las Vegas, Ellen spoke out, publicly, about her sexuality. She took the stage to deliver a soul-stirring and deeply personal speech, exposing her truth and explaining her reasons for finally speaking out.
“I’m here today because I am gay and because maybe I can make a difference to help others have an easier and more hopeful time,” she told the Time To Thrive audience of youth counsellors, mid-way through the near nine-minute address. “I suffered for years because I was scared to be out. I’m standing here today, with all of you, on the other side of all that pain.”
OUT IN THE OPEN
I ask Ellen how she feels today compared to the days, months and years prior to living openly and authentically. “I still feel like I’m just becoming able to be who I am and feel comfortable in my body. The difference I felt physically after coming out was just like… you’d have to feel it to believe it.” It’s Ellen’s hope that many have been inspired by her courage. In just five years her speech, which received two standing ovations, has been viewed on YouTube over 5.7m times. She’s now a veritable poster girl for the gay community, equally passionate about advocating for LGBTQ+ rights (she campaigns for America’s Astrea Lesbian Foundation for Justice and is on the board of directors at the Tegan and Sara Foundation) as prioritising diversity in her film and television projects.
For her twice Emmy-nominated Viceland series Gaycation, Page has travelled to some of the world’s most homophobic places. She’s also embodied a multitude of lesbian characters, including in Freeheld, a political drama where she fights for the pension benefits of her terminally ill partner.
When Ellen confesses she ‘wishes’ she had come out sooner, I question whether her dedication to advancing LGBTQ+ rights and awareness is being fired by a subconscious need to make up for lost time. “I think it’s more just the natural movement of things to want to use the platform to help others who deal with much worse than what I had to deal with,” says Ellen, who once publicly confronted anti-LGBTQ+ Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz about discrimination. “We have to figure out a way to help, give visibility to those who are most marginalised in our society. We should all be doing what we can, with what we have, to help.”
BE SEEN, BE HEARD
Ellen believes visibility is the key to change. It’s why, unlike many privacy-obsessed A-listers, she offers a lot of her own home life on social media. “We’re a married lesbian couple, and in a world that doesn’t have enough LGBTQ+ representation, you want to be visible,” explains the Canadian from Halifax, Nova Scotia, where she struggled to understand her feelings owing to an absence of gay representation in her community and the media.
“When I was in high school in grade 10, at least to my knowledge, not a single kid was out. I remember being 14 and stumbling across a movie like But I’m a Cheerleader on TV and how much that meant to me. What a tiny little moment between two characters and one thing said made me go ‘that’s kind of how I feel’.
I don’t think the importance of seeing yourself reflected can be undervalued.”
Ellen got her acting break aged 10 after a film director visited her school inviting pupils to audition for a part in Canadian kids’ TV series, Pit Pony. Ellen was chosen and after a series of TV jobs landed her first movie role aged 14.