Elliot Page is the cover star for the June issue of Esquire, and he delivers an unguarded look into his life as a trans man, all while providing insight into his childhood, his career and unfiltered opinions about the state of the transgender discourse in North America.
The Canadian actor, who grew up in Halifax and Toronto, found massive success in films like Juno, Inception, and X-Men, but as he tells Esquire, while his career dreams were coming true and he found global success, he simultaneously suffered from depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.
Writing directly to the reader, Elliot describes the relief and happiness he felt when he finally stepped into his new life as an out and proud transgener man.
“I can’t overstate the biggest joy, which is really seeing yourself. I know I look different to others, but to me I’m just starting to look like myself,” he says.
“It’s indescribable, because I’m just like, there I am. And thank God. Here I am. So the greatest joy is just being able to feel present, literally, just to be present,” he continued.
“To go out in a group of new people and be able to engage in a way where I didn’t feel this constant sensation to flee from my body, this never-ending sensation of anxiety and nervousness and wanting out.”
“When I say I couldn’t have ever imagined feeling that way, I mean that with every sense of me.”
He also describes his surprise that the public reacted with so much love when he did come out, but also tempers it with admitting he did receive a few toxic reactions.
“I didn’t expect it to be so big. In terms of the actual quality of the response, it was what I expected: love and support from many people and hatred and cruelty and vitriol from so many others. I came out as gay in 2014, and it’s different. Transphobia is just so, so, so extreme. The hatred and the cruelty is so much more incessant.”
In speaking about his own personal experience with transitioning, he also revealed that he suffered from panic attacks and anxiety while living his life in another body. At one point in the interview, he admits that while he was filming Inception, he had difficulties just leaving his hotel room or even showing up to a script reading session.
Elliot speaks about his role in the hugely successful Juno, and how even then he was being instructed to fashion himself completely as a cis-woman for the good of the movie promotion – something that his co-star Michael Cera wasn’t beholden to.
“I remember the premiere of Juno at the Toronto International Film Festival,” he begins. “I didn’t know the concept of, like, a stylist. I grew up working in Canada! … So I said I wanted to wear a suit, and Fox Searchlight was basically like, ‘No, you need to wear a dress.’ And they took me in a big rush to one of those fancy stores on Bloor Street. They had me wear a dress, and . . . that was that. And then all the Juno press, all the photo shoots—Michael Cera was in slacks and sneakers. I look back at the photos, and I’m like . . .?”
“I wish I could go back and experience it now. As me.”
Elliot then reveals that he understands the high rates of suicide amongst the trans community.
“Can I relate to the suicide problem among trans people? Yeah, I can relate deeply,” he admits, and takes the time to break down how government officials have a duty to all of their constituents, but quite often viciously attack the transgender community as a scapegoat for society’s ills.
“There are people in elected office saying that, essentially, transgender people are going to be responsible for the end of existence,” he tells the outlet.
“That degree of rhetoric is really alarming and horrible. It’s also endless misinformation—and people buy it. The idea of gender being a binary concept specifically based on genitalia is a very new idea in relation to human history. We existed in every culture throughout history! People don’t learn about that reality. They’re banning kids from learning it. It’s all tactical.”
While The Umbrella Academy star doesn’t explicitly name anyone, he does have some choice words for comedians who use the lives and struggles of the trans community as a punchline. In recent months, both Dave Chappelle and Ricky Gervais have found themselves in hot water for mocking and denigrating trans people in their respective Netflix comedy specials.
“Jokes have an impact that hurts people,” Page states. “I understand that people might think it doesn’t. I understand that they’re not meaning to. But: It’s not a joke. It’s not a joke. You believe what you’re saying. You believe it. It’s not a joke. They believe it. It’s clearly not a joke.”
“And all we’re saying is: Can you just please listen and understand the harm that it causes?” he continues. “That’s all we’re trying to say. That is literally all we are trying to say. And then we get inundated with hatred for saying it. But I’m sorry: You are the ones who don’t want to have the conversation. You are the ones who are so sensitive, who can’t handle people saying, Hey, can you not do that?”
“When people say, Cancel this. Cancel that. No, they get four more comedy specials and have a jillion followers!” he says. “The people getting canceled are the trans people who are suffering, or killing themselves.”
The interview is peppered with so many great anecdotes from his life – he loves working out, he loves eating roasted fennel with Japanese sweet potatoes, he has tattoos of his best friends (and Spike Jonze and actress Catherine Keener) on his body, and despite claiming he’s not a big reader, he loves the writing of Brandon Taylor, Ashley C. Ford, Brian Broome, Carmen Maria Machado, Alexander Chee, and Canada’s own Tanya Tagaq, calling her book Split Tooth, “one of the best things I’ve ever read. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing.”
Despite the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, Elliot also finds every opportunity to reiterate just how Canadian he is, through and through. “The Tragically Hip—they’re fantastic,” he says at one point, and later, when speaking about his love of sports, he admits, “When I lived in L. A., I’d go to Kings games and cheer for the Kings. But if Toronto came, I’d cheer for both.”