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This Week in Social Justice: Ellen Page and the importance of openly LGBTQ celebrities

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Posted: Wednesday, March 12, 2014 5:30 pm

While giving a speech at a Human Rights Campaign conference for LGBTQ youth on Valentine’s Day, actress Ellen Page officially announced she is gay.

“I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission,” Page said. “I suffered for years because I was scared to be out.”

Page isn’t the first actor who was scared of coming out of the closet. In 1997, Ellen DeGeneres announced she was lesbian because she too was tired of hiding. She staged her coming out alongside her character in “The Ellen Show,” and there was rejection by some people. Advertisers stopped investing in her show and her career came to a stall, causing her to go into a depression. However, now DeGeneres is a popular celebrity, has a successful television career and has been married to her wife, Portia de Rossi, for nine years.

Another successful gay actor is Sir Ian McKellen, one of Page’s costars in the X-Men series. McKellen said that he signed onto the series because director Bryan Singer explained that the mutants serve as an allegory for gays in the community, cast out for no good reason. This is probably why a major part of the audience for the X-Men series consists of young Jewish, black, and gay individuals.

McKellen spoke in a conference about the importance of coming out to the public and how he is proud of Page for making that step.

Anyone in public life who comes out, comes out primarily for themselves, and their life is immediately improved. That’s what happened to me,” he said. “The world (became) a slightly better place.”  

Now, this intended effect isn’t always the effect felt. Young kids who feel lost and alone about their sexuality can resort to suicide instead of facing it. Not all people are accepting. Conventional views and fear can cause people to be closed-minded.

Athletes have also made a difference by announcing their sexuality to the public. Jason Collins, an NBA player who has played for the Boston Celtics, Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets, became the first male professional athlete in the U.S. to come out as gay. Michael Sam could become the first openly gay player in NFL history. In the world of sports, where athletes are seen as tough and masculine, these players and others are changing that view to broaden the mindset of who can be “considered” gay.

Athletes like Collins and Sam and celebrities like Page, DeGeneres and McKellen come out to not only release a big part of themselves but to also provide an example to the public. They want to show that you can be accepted for every part of you.

In an anti-pope rally in 2010, McKellen wore a shirt that shows his views on the topic of coming out: “Some people are gay. Get over it.” Even though this might be a bit forward, the message is still there. Celebrities and athletes coming out to the public all have one goal in common: to teach others that no matter the sexuality, color or gender of another person, it’s important to show acceptance towards everyone in society.

“Maybe I can make a difference to help others have an easier and more hopeful time,” Page said in her speech.

Welcome to the discussion.