Meredith Autumn Bennett-Smith is the new Identities editor at PolicyMic. She reminds us that is continues to be a struggle to come out. Even in 2014. She sites Ellen Page as her inspiration to do so.
Many people, gay and straight, praised Page for her raw, sometimes painful honesty. But after that initial round of cyber applause came a second, slightly less laudatory reaction. In the media and on Facebook and Twitter, some people people wondered whether Page's coming out was news.
"This is 2014," these (mostly straight) friends exclaimed. "We have a president who endorses gay marriage, we've got Anderson Cooper and Rachel Maddow and (the original) Ellen, for God's sake!" Over at TIME magazine, the gay community's contrarian du jour Brandon Ambrosino wrote an op-ed titled, "Ellen Page: Is Coming Out Really Still 'Brave'?"
Coincidentally, I'm only a few months younger than Ellen Page. Like Page, I live in a relative bastion of liberal sentiment. I have many intelligent, progressive friends and work in a traditionally supportive industry. Also like Page, it took me until I was in my mid-20s to officially come out: 26 years, three months and seven days, to be exact.
Watching Page stand at that HRC podium, I was moved as much by her words as by her nerves. The young woman's voice quivered and nearly chokes; her mannerisms were disjointed and shaky. Call me a coward if you want, but don’t tell me her speech "doesn’t matter" anymore.
Page's speech mattered to me. It may very well matter to your neighbor's son or your coworker's daughter. Just like attraction, fear is a universal emotion unconstrained by human distinctions like socioeconomic status, race, gender or hometown.