Pageboy: a horrifying tale of sexual abuse in Hollywood

Elliot Page had to come out twice. First as a lesbian in 2014, when the Oscar-nominated Canadian actor was 27, a process slowed down by the homophobia of Page’s upbringing and the diktats of Hollywood celebrity. In December 2020, Page then came out as a trans man – becoming instantly, and remaining still, the most famous in the world. That was when the vitriol exploded.

“The world tells us that we aren’t trans but mentally ill,” Page, now 36, writes towards the end of this punchy and tough memoir. “That I’m too ashamed to be a lesbian, that I mutilated my body, that I will always be a woman, comparing my body to Nazi experiments. It is not trans people who suffer from a sickness, but the society that fosters such hate.” Pageboy has not been written to placate those with the above views, or win over “those with massive platforms who have attacked and ridiculed me.” The book puts up a fight, instead, against the sheer exhaustion of being in such a position: “When your existence is constantly debated and denied, it sucks you dry.”

Page’s life was first transformed in 2007, by playing the title character in Juno – of all things, a pregnant teenage girl. Shot in Page’s native Canada on a $6.5m budget, it was one of hundreds of indies like it that could have gone nowhere, but Diablo Cody’s caustic script helped it to hit the jackpot. Grossing $231m worldwide, it catapulted Page to global fame and a Best Actress Oscar nomination.

But the rumour mill was already churning. “Let’s put the dykey pieces together… is Juno a you-know?” asked the gay gossip-columnist Michael Musto in a mean 2008 piece for the Village Voice. Musto’s target was 20 at the time, closeted, and familiar with being bullied: at school, the popular girls had made quips about Page’s formless clothing and seeming awkwardness. Now, stylists and photographers laid down the law for Juno’s awards campaign, brooking no refusal about making its star look feminine.

Page had been acting since the age of 10, and before Juno, had gained notice for Hard Candy (2005), the tale of a 14-year-old vigilante girl who takes a paedophile hostage, turning the tables. This “all-consuming, emotional sprint” (as Page describes it here) was also cathartic. Off-screen, the actor, aged 16, was tracked down in Toronto by an obsessed fan with undiagnosed schizophrenia – a situation for which Page’s angry (now estranged) father, Dennis, apparently blamed his child.

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