Actress Ellen Page, best known for her work in the 2007 film Juno came out as gay in her speech at a Human Rights Campaign conference on February 14.
The conference itself was aimed at LGBTIQ youth where, during an emotional speech, Page said she was “tired of hiding” and “lying by omission”.
“I'm here today because I am gay,” Page said. “And because maybe I can make a difference.”
The response so far has been overwhelmingly positive from fans and co-workers alike — with social media filled with messages of support and appreciation for Ellen's speech.
Young Australian LGBTIQ rights activist Sarah McClelland posted the following in response to Page's speech: “I'd like to take a moment to appreciate public figures who come out to help young LGBT people feel less alone (thanks Ellen Page you're inspiring and we love you).
“I'd also like to take a moment to appreciate the strength of young LGBT people who can't come out for fear of losing their friends, their family, their home, or their life, but manage to get out of bed every day anyway. LGBT solidarity for life!”
However, there have been some online comments asking “what the big deal is?” or “is coming out today a courageous act?”
Supporters of LGBTIQ rights might wish it was not such a big deal, but the reality is that coming out is still a big deal in our society for a lot of people. It can result in losing family, homelessness, mental illness or the the loss of life due to murder or suicide.
In many countries, homosexuality remains a crime punishable by jail or even death — and it is worse for trans or intersex people.
In other countries where it may be legal, it is still not socially acceptable. For example, Kansas in the US has recently passed legislation that makes it legal to discriminate against the LGBTIQ community on the basis of religious views.
The law means the LGBTIQ community in Kansas will have unequal opportunity to employment. Businesses now have the right to refuse employment based on a workers' sexuality.
In this context, a powerful speech by a well-known actress coming out and standing up for gay rights is still an extremely important stance to take.