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Okay, so a tall, white, straight, Anglo-Saxon North American male professional cannot really know the experience of prejudice others live with.  Maybe if we imagine a world where a straight person must pretend to be gay, we might get some sense of the uniquely soul-devouring hurt inside that closet.  And the courage it still takes, to step out of it

http://davidkeithlaw.wordpress.com/...

Standing in front of the friendliest crowd on the planet Earth – the Human Rights Campaign conference – you wouldn’t think Ellen Page required much courage to utter to the words “I am gay” out loud.

http://www.youtube.com/...

Yet when you listen to her sometimes halting speech what you hear in her voice, see in her body as she builds up to the words, what you feel trembling out of her, seems like fear. She is afraid. I know that body language and so do you: watch her, and you see it. She is afraid.  That fear adds a greater depth to her words, which on the page were themselves beautifully stitched together, but when spoken have a heart-clutching dignity. You watch this girl – she is still something of a girl, this young woman – mounting a tall, steep staircase to a rocky ledge. She gets there and looks outward, and downward, into a fierce and foamy sea. And then she leaps.

I don’t know what it means to fear, what Ellen Page may fear. As a tall, white, straight, Anglo-Saxon North American male who has managed to hang onto his health (knock wood) while working his way into a privileged position, I may never know what it’s like to face the kind of overt and ugly hatred that still percolates inside certain bigots.

Even if we don’t face hatred or danger, we can try to imagine it. Even if we aren’t protesting the poisoning of our well water at Sochi, or trying to blog honestly in Beijing, even if we aren’t a girl carrying her books to school in Pakistan; even if we aren’t Christians trying to worship in Saudi Arabia – no matter how “safe” we may feel or be, especially if we feel safe – it is our moral obligation to try and put ourselves in the very small shoes of Ellen Page.

It’s not that difficult. Fear is not reserved to life’s natural targets. We all know it. Think about the parts of yourself that are most fragile, most intimate, most buried inside – the parts you may not love in yourself, the parts others may turn away from. Picture the humiliation of being shunned or mocked. Now imagine yourself standing in front of one person, then five people, then a ballroom of people, saying it out loud. Go ahead, say it: “I am…”

Whatever you are, in your life there may well be reasons to fear saying it. The things that I may be or believe, that I am afraid to say, remain unsaid. My reasons for not saying them are the same ones you have: I don’t trust other people with the truth. I cannot fairly compare the sheltering of personal truths like mine, to the life experience of a woman or man who has felt compelled to hide their sexual orientation. But I know what it means to expect punishment for being honest. Maybe if we imagine a world where a straight person must pretend to be gay, we might get some sense of the uniquely soul-devouring hurt inside that closet.

Unlike Ellen Page, I can only imagine it. But like her – and like you – I’ve been afraid to be true to myself. For me it is always the same: I feel something very deeply, but fear saying it will alienate or injure someone. So I keep silent. Many summers ago, after a long and miserable stretch of unrequited love, I somehow found the guts to say it out loud. My body trembled, my stomach churned. It was a hopeless case (so was I) and as expected, she was not on the same page. Yet the moment the words left my lips, it was like a rock had been pulled from inside my chest. I remember a sense of lightness and joy – truly joy – as I walked down the stairs of that old house, out into that sultry, thick summer night. For once, I had given my feelings a chance, I had been true to myself. She didn’t love me but hell, just for a moment, it felt like I did. I was blissfully happy.

I hope Ellen Page feels like that this morning.

No, it’s not the same thing. Of course it isn’t. I walked away that night free of a burden and ready to live my real life, without fear of psychological or physical danger.  Other people don’t get off so easily. I have seen real courage – my mother going it alone, my wife giving birth, my friend David living every day of his too-brief life as if he didn’t have terminal cancer, my daughter getting back on a horse after a serious accident. I feel rather unimpressive in their brave company.

But whatever you may fear – death or just hurt feelings – if you are frozen inside it, you aren’t living your true life. You are going to have to decide whether what you’re hanging onto is more precious than what you have to gain. Someone once said that courage is “the inability to see all the possible consequences of our actions.” That sounds like a joke, but he who jokes, confesses. It is helpful to forget the danger before we leap out, into the fierce and foamy sea.

As I have sometimes told my daughter, “you don’t know you’re brave, until you do something you’re afraid of.” None of us can show such courage every day. But Ms. Ellen Page, in all her trembling dignity, has done so.

Originally posted to samsoneyes on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 06:11 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  She wears a size 6. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    rb608, Brown Thrasher, mikejay611

    That's small, but not very small.

  •  Courage (16+ / 0-)

    I've heard this before --

    Someone once said that courage is “the inability to see all the possible consequences of our actions.”
    But often, courage is knowing all the possible consequences of our actions and taking those actions anyway - because it is right to do so - and/or because in our own truth, it is impossible for us to do otherwise.
    •  Oh, sorry to get into semantics here, but I (0+ / 0-)

      think "bravery" is the inability; courage is seeing them and jumping anyway. "Bravery" seems to have lost that meaning over the decades and become a synonym for "courage" but I think the original definitions are more valuable, adding to the precision of our language, and should be brought back. I've tried to find the old definition of "bravery" online, but can only locate in a huge old Oxford English Dictionary.

      "You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty." Mohandas Gandhi

      by cv lurking gf on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 08:52:33 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thank YOU Ellen... (13+ / 0-)

    Because of your courage there is someone out there today who is having a moment of peace. Someone who, before they heard your words, was struggling with who they are, fighting with the demons of what is “normal” and feeling like they just didn’t measure up.  Now they know they have an ally, someone who is like them, someone who understands and that they are not alone.  

    That is why it is so vital to have people come out and announce loudly, “I am gay”, because it tells people living in the shadows of fear, shame and self-doubt that they aren’t alone, they aren’t weird, they aren’t a pervert and there are many, many, many more like them.

    Welcome to the family, Ellen, we are glad to have you!

    You can get animals addicted to a harmful substance, you can dissect their brains, but you throw their own feces back at them, and suddenly you're unprofessional. -Amy Farrah Fowler/The Big Bang Theory -7.50, -5.03

    by dawgflyer13 on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 08:12:23 AM PST

  •  As difficult as it must be for an average (6+ / 0-)

    person; I think it is extra courageous for an actor or actress whose career and livelihood requires that people empathize with your portrayal of any character.  Though it should make no difference, I have to think that coming out as gay will make heterosexual love interest roles more difficult for her.  h/t to Ms. Page.

    You can't spell CRAZY without R-AZ.

    by rb608 on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 08:29:05 AM PST

    •  I suspect Hollywood... (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      rb608

      ...is a more sympathetic environment than most.  I assume straight people have played gay roles in the past so for to play straight would just be the opposite side of that coin.

      •  I certainly agree that Hollywood is sympathetic. (0+ / 0-)

        I was wondering about movie patrons seeing Page in a hot hetero love scene and not buying it because now they know.

        You can't spell CRAZY without R-AZ.

        by rb608 on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 09:01:50 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  I doubt it will be a problem. (5+ / 0-)

          You don't have to believe that Dustin Hoffman is both autistic and afraid to fly for the airport scene to be effective in the movie Rainman. Jodie Foster has been out at least informally forever and her inevitability in hetero roles has never been an issue.  

          The world is a den of thieves and night is falling. -Ingmar Bergman

          by Pirogue on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 09:57:54 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Inevitability? (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            rb608, Matt Z, cv lurking gf

            Sorry, the spell corrector gave me several choices when I botched "believability" and I hastily chose the wrong one.

            The world is a den of thieves and night is falling. -Ingmar Bergman

            by Pirogue on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 10:38:19 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  A fair point, but I think sexuality (0+ / 0-)

            is more visceral than other character qualities.

            I'd posit that the Jodie Foster/Richard Gere scenes in "Sommersby" are less convincing with the knowledge that Foster couldn't be the least bit interested in the man she's supposedly making love to.

            You can't spell CRAZY without R-AZ.

            by rb608 on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 11:43:01 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  You may be (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Tonedevil, rb608

              right but Rainman's refusal to get on the plane seemed about as visceral as you can get.

              Besides, rarely in movies are extended love scenes anything but gratuitous. I have known that Jodie Foster was gay for at least 20 years and I can't say the knowledge has effected the way I have looked at any of her movies.

              And it was never necessary to believe that Ryan O'Neil and Ali McGraw were actually in love for the movie "Love Story" to succeed. Accomplished actors convince you  that they are actually feeling the emotions, or lust if you will, that the circumstances dictate. If well done the audience is brought into the action and forgets momentarily it is watching make believe.

              Bottom line is that I don't think Ellen Page's career is going to suffer because of coming out. Even if it were a factor she is not the kind of actress who is going to be cast in roles that rely on heavy love making for effect.

              The world is a den of thieves and night is falling. -Ingmar Bergman

              by Pirogue on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 12:32:12 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

        •  IT'S MORE COMPLEX THAN THAT (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          rb608

          Page is a serious actor and not going to up for very many fluff roles.  OTOH to have gotten pregnat in "Juno" she had sex (off camera) with Michael Cera's character, and he's such a soft butch looking guy that, duh, well, of course.  And just think, in that movie when she uttered the line about giving her baby for adoption to "a pair of nice lezbos," how that must have felt, using that term which is kind of a semi-slur but not as offensive as 'fag' and 'dyke'.  Did the director know what was going on in her head when that was the line?  

          Actually, back in the 1970s though, this was largely true.  It still is among the big successful older studio executives, but the homophobic ones are dying off.  

          I remember some made for cable TV movie about a gay man and a lesbian in love with each other and having a baby.  It starred Perry King and Meg Foster, two about which everybody was certain were Friends of Dorothy but I don't think either ever came out publicly.  It was kind of stupid and silly but it was also a big middle finger to Hollywood homophobia.

          OTOH Richard Gere's career definitely suffered due to those gerbiling rumors.  But he was a leading man, too.  

          Page will do fine.  It'd be great if in a few years she and Heather Matorozzo (who came out earlier, played Weinerdog in Todd Solondz' "Welcome to the Dollhouse" and DJ's birlfriend on "Roseanne") played a pair of lesbian moms with wacky kids.  I think they'd do better than Annette Benning did in "The Kids Are All Right."  Benning was great but not a likeable character.  She might have been more likeable with more insights, but the story required her to be a smother mother.      

          The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. -- John Kenneth Galbraith

          by Kangaroo on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 07:20:21 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Actually many LGBT actors... (6+ / 0-)

        ...have said that they've been pressured by agents and other industry bignames to stay in the closet for fear that they wouldn't be cast in roles under the banner of no-one-will-buy-into-a-gay-actor-playing-straight-characters. So, Hollywood might be more socially sympathetic, but not as much as one would think on the business side of the industry.

        •  Matt Bomer lost Superman role because he's gay (0+ / 0-)

          according to Jackie Collins.  The role of Superman is so iconic as a straight man (male? alien from the planet Krypton) that she believes he lost a role that should have been his.  

          It's the difference between the teammates of Michael Sam and the NFL unnamed front office personnel and coaches.  And ultimately, being an actor is a job.  Fearful or hateful bigots with power are an unfortunate reality.

          Ellen Page is a hero!

          "Out of Many, One Nation." This is the great promise of the United States of America -9.75 -6.87

          by Uncle Moji on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 03:47:26 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  You don't get out much (0+ / 0-)
        I assume straight people have played gay roles in the past
        You've never heard of HBO's "Behind the Candelabra" with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon?

        Even Democrats can be asses. Look at Rahm Emanuel.

        by Helpless on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 06:22:19 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  Maybe not. (0+ / 0-)

      This announcement was a big loss for men and a clear victory for women everywhere. She's seems to be a great catch and now guys like me have no chance. OTOH, if she is playing a role in a romantic movie, we can still go and pretend that she is still out there (if only for 2 hours).

  •  Why am I having a hard time getting excited? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DeanObama

    When Ellen DeGeneres came out is was historic news, but that was ages ago.  Now it seems every time you turn around either someone is coming out or another state is taking a step toward marriage equality.  I have to confess that to both Ellen Page's and Michael Sam's announcements my reaction has basically been to shrug my shoulders.

    •  And that in and of itself is a sign of progress. (11+ / 0-)

      However, there are still people, especially young people, especially people in repressive environments, who can uniquely identify with Ellen Page or Michael Sam, and to them it is a big deal.  And every additional person who takes the leap, makes it that much more difficult for the bigots to win.

      “The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day.” Gloria Steinem

      by ahumbleopinion on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 10:03:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Ironic-- (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Matt Z, Tonedevil

      I had the same reaction to your comment.

      The better I know people, the more I like my dog.

      by Thinking Fella on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 10:03:28 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I often see the Who Cares/So What response (18+ / 0-)

      and struggle with how to take it.  Mostly, I think, it comes from a well-intentioned place:  should never have been a big deal, is no longer a big deal, let's move on.

      But rarely it is it a gay person who offers this response, because we know how much each personal revelation has contributed to the amazing gains we see now.  Coming out and staying out at first created legal space for formerly-illegal sexual relations between consenting adults.   Now it is creating legal space for full financial and familial status through marriage equality.  This is no time to STOP the wave.  Every young actress, every pro athlete, every politiican, teacher, and plumber who comes out, is STILL contributing to the cause of human rights.

       It may be a drop in the bucket, but that bucket has yet to overflow, so we'll take all we can get.

      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

      by lgmcp on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 10:55:29 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  As long as there are places on (6+ / 0-)

        Earth where people are still being imprisoned or executed for being gay, these announcements as going to be causes for celebration.

      •  Well said. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        lgmcp, cv lurking gf

        Every person with a voice to be heard puts a little more weight on that arc of justice.

        “The future depends entirely on what each of us does every day.” Gloria Steinem

        by ahumbleopinion on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 05:23:45 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Still not news worthy. (0+ / 0-)

        Some people are sexually queer. Those who don't like it need to get over themselves or be prepared to be marginalized (like racists are). It's time to stop keeping a list of who is and is not queer and move forward.

        •  Wrong! This is exactly (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Daulphin, cv lurking gf, Kangaroo

          HOW bigoted hold-outs get marginalized:  by creating and sustaining overwhelming pressure across multiple sectors of popular culture.  It's less exciting news, but still news, every time a starlet or a mayor or boring-ass local schoolboard member declares for team Q.  Because it enforces the normalization: yes, regular people you know or admire.  You are clearly aware that that's how we got this far, but IMO you underestimate the fuel that it takes to continue and stoke that momentum. Demographics may be on our side, but the old guard has some ugly fight left in themand will for a long time to come -- it's not like marginalizing the racists has exactly eliminated them, has it?  

          "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

          by lgmcp on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 07:02:38 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  It's already normal. (0+ / 0-)

            Every time someone "comes out," it says that homosexuality is an abnormal trait that needs to be mainstreamed. What we need are people who don't answer the question, "Are you gay?" because it's a personal matter and the only people who care are the bigots.

            •  Rare indeed is the gay person who'd ever say that (0+ / 0-)

              and I pretty certain you're not one of them.  

              It'll be a personal matter when it no longer has the slightest bearing on my marriage rights, custody and adoption rights, taxes, or employment opportunities, anywhere in this or ANY country.  

              It'll be awhile.  

              "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

              by lgmcp on Wed Feb 19, 2014 at 07:00:50 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  Relics of the BGLT movement (0+ / 0-)
                Rare indeed is the gay person who'd ever say that and I pretty certain you're not one of them.
                Too many people have been conditioned into believing that "coming out" is the zenith of a BGLT person's existence. Maybe 20 years ago, when BGLT Americans were on the perimeter of society, that was true. However, the country has changed. I don't want my sexual identity to be grist for the political mill, and it doesn't need to be. Appealing to universal values of equality and fairness will change hearts and minds.

                ... and I'm not going to allow you to goad me into divulging my sexual identity to you to make a point. However, it was a nice try.

                It'll be a personal matter when it no longer has the slightest bearing on my marriage rights, custody and adoption rights, taxes, or employment opportunities, anywhere in this or ANY country.
                It's a personal matter NOW. It's always been. Privacy is a right, too.
    •  Maybe you're not excited... (10+ / 0-)

      ...because the advancement of LGBT equality doesn't directly impact your life? On the other hand, I enjoy seeing my society changing to slowly become one that will accept my existence.

    •  Ellen can still be refused service at a restaurant (9+ / 0-)

      in Ohio because she's gay.  Both Ellens.  And so can I.  

      It is legal in 29 states to discriminate on the basis of being gay - so Ellen can be refused a job or a rental or the purchase of a home or service or the right to marry because she's gay.  There is no Federal civil rights anti-discrimination class protections for lesbian and gay persons.

      It doesn't matter to you because you don't live it.  You haven't been spit on or refused service or threatened or called a slur because of whom you love.  Even to this day.

      Michael Sam may not be selected in the NFL draft.  Ellen Page may not be hired for a plum job.  People with that kind of privilege see qay drama queens, pushy Jews, angry blacks, uppity women, whatever, all boring old news.  Yeah.  I guess.  

      If we see each others struggle (with racism or poverty or joblessness or homophobia or whatever) as boring or inconsequential, then I guess when we go looking for allies, we won't find them.

      "Out of Many, One Nation." This is the great promise of the United States of America -9.75 -6.87

      by Uncle Moji on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 04:13:36 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  lots of reason to care (7+ / 0-)

    even in my country, where we have universal marriage equality, there is a constant need to support people coming out.  There's thousands of years of prejudice to overcome, after all.

    it is unwelcome news to many people, but progress is like a sandcastle - we have to keep building it against a relentless tide of oppressive tendencies. The battle will NEVER be over. That is a lesson of human history.  

    besides, when anyone steps forward and does something truly brave and righteous, she deserves to be recognized for it.

    ultimately, what I'm doing with this diary is asking the reader, "what do you need to be like Ellen Page about?"

  •  your daughter is very lucky to have you as a dad (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jarbyus, johanus, Daulphin, cv lurking gf

    You show so much intuition and empathy here. The majority of people, especially those who do not belong to any minority-in-power group (such as white straight cis-gendered men who are not a minority religion.), have great trouble doing that.

    Some of their difficulty is understandable and human. What is unconscionable is they then think that their own relatively privileged experience is everyone's, so when people struggle it is because they are less worthy.

    You do neither, bravo for you (sincerely).

  •  Empathy & the ability to "put oneself in another's (0+ / 0-)

    shoes" is a key attribute of progressives which seems to be absent from conservatives.  Thanks for reminding us that while we all have different circumstances, we are also all very much the same.  When we all unite to fight each other's battles against injustice, we can be far more successful than if each fights alone.
    Very nice diary.

  •  I always said whatever I thought (0+ / 0-)

    I really got in some trouble. I am much more guarded these days, so I guess there is no easy answer. So take your pick about what you want to hurt.

    "You can die for Freedom, you just can't exercise it"

    by shmuelman on Mon Feb 17, 2014 at 09:55:42 PM PST

  •  Beautifully written Diary (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Kangaroo

    And spot on description of her speech. She was so afraid the brave little sweetheart. Well done, Sir.

    No star is lost once we have seen, We always may be what we might have been. Adelaide Proctor -7.25/-5.64

    by mikejay611 on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 12:52:32 AM PST

  •  I'd say they are big shoes (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Brown Thrasher

    few of us can fill.

    Trust, but verify. - Reagan
    Vote, but Occupy. - commonmass

    When the rich have tripled their share of the income and wealth yet again, Republicans will still blame the poor and 3rd Way Democrats will still negotiate.

    by Words In Action on Tue Feb 18, 2014 at 07:28:10 AM PST

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