At a Human Rights Campaign conference in February 2014, actress Ellen Page publicly came out as gay, a move very much inspired by her role in 2015’s Freeheld. Years later, Page, 32, is now happily married to dancer and choreographer Emma Portner, but it’s a future she didn’t always think was possible.
Page opened up in an interview with Net-a-Porter about her struggles with members of the Hollywood machine pressuring her to remain in the closet throughout her career.
“I was distinctly told, by people in the industry, when I started to become known: ‘People cannot know you’re gay,'” she said. “And I was pressured — forced, in many cases — to always wear dresses and heels for events and photo shoots.”
“As if lesbians don’t wear dresses and heels,” she added. “But I will never let anyone put me in anything I feel uncomfortable in ever again.”
Since coming out, Page has starred in films like Into the Forest with Westworld‘s Evan Rachel Wood, Netflix’s Tallulah, horror film The Cured, and the remake of Flatliners. She now stars in a lead role for Netflix’s adaptation of The Umbrella Academy comics. But this pressure she felt is a fairly common occurrence for LGBTQ actors in Hollywood.
This month alone, Matt Dallas, the 36-year-old actor who starred in Kyle XY, mentioned a similar experience in a video Q&A with fans.
“I was told to stay in the closet, not talk about my sexuality, to be on every red carpet with a girl on my arms because you could not be successful if you were openly gay in the entertainment industry, at least in front of the camera,” he said.
“Because of the advice that was given to me to stay in the closet,” he added, “I became very disconnected from who I was, and there’s a lot of residual [stuff] that to this day I still deal with where I find myself [thinking] ‘oh, I sound too gay’ or ‘I’m acting too gay’ because it was so drilled into my brain.”
“Be visible,” Dallas’ husband Blue Hamilton said.
Page is also working on Netflix’s Tales of the City, and while she’s “so grateful to be a part of something that offers a lot of representation,” she notes “it doesn’t scratch the surface.”
“There’s still so little out there,” she says of LGBTQ-inclusive entertainment. “And what comes of that is a perpetuation of negative stereotypes and people still not understanding what LGBTQ people deal with.”