When the imagined world seems better than the real, one escapes to it frequently, basking in its comfort and delusions. Looking back at his life as Ellen, 36-year-old Elliot Page writes in his memoir Pageboy, “My imagination was a lifeline. It was where I felt the most unrestrained, un-self conscious, real.” Ultimately, this living in his imagination fed into his onscreen calling. With his roles in films like Juno (2007), Inception (2010) and X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), Page is an established name in Hollywood today. He was recently seen in the web series, The Umbrella Academy.
He says he knew at the age of four that he was a boy stuck in a girl’s body. It would take him two decades to finally come out as gay, and another couple of years to reveal his transgender identity.
As a child, he would try to urinate standing like a man, not caring if he spilled all over. He would cut his hair short and wear collared shirts and pants. However, he soon had to give up his ways when he took up acting as a profession. His pictures from Juno’s premiere show his discomfort at being made to wear a dress and heels. At the age of 20, he won an Oscar nomination for his role in Juno.
“The success of Juno coincided with people in the industry telling me no one could know I was queer,” he writes. “That it would not be good for me, that I should have options, to trust that this was for the best. I was struggling with depression and having panic attacks so bad I would collapse.”
The insensitivity of the media would add to the trauma. He shuddered in disdain when the headline of a popular news magazine speculated, ‘Is Ellen Page gay?’ Being called a “dyke”, Page writes, was like being smacked across the face.
From kissing a girl for the first time to visiting a queer space and feeling whole, he bares his soul in the book. He writes about his relationships and sexual encounters with co-actors, both onscreen and off, and getting rid of shame as he comes into himself.
“That time at Reflections (a gay bar) was new for me, being in a queer space and being present, enjoying it,” he writes. “Shame had been drilled into my bones since I was my tiniest self, and I struggled to rid my body of that old toxic and erosive marrow.”
He is also open about the sexual harassment he faced as a minor working in Hollywood, often from film directors and crew members. “Turning 18 further frayed my boundaries, an unspoken permission slip I did not consent to,” he writes, describing how a female crew member would repeatedly take him to her apartment for non-consensual sex. This continued for years.
Pageboy is a deep dive into what it takes to survive in the binary gendered world. Despite the challenges, Page thrives, writing his story in his own voice and reclaiming his true self. From being denounced by magazines for his sexual identity to becoming the first trans man to appear on the cover of TIME, Page’s journey is a true page-turner.
Pageboy: A Memoir
By Elliot Page
Published by Flatiron Books
Price Rs1,383; pages 288