'It's appalling': Actor Elliot Page denounces Alberta legislation on transgender youth at Calgary Expo

‘Forcibly outing children to their parents, taking away any kind of agency for them to be themselves, particularly when it’s backed by major medical institutions, is appalling,’ said Page

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Actor Elliot Page did not hold back Sunday afternoon when asked to comment on Alberta’s controversial policies on transgender youth at the Calgary Expo.

Page was asked directly about policies in Alberta by moderator Mike Morrison at the BMO Centre in Stampede Park on the final day of the Expo.

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The UCP government introduced sweeping changes regarding children and LGBTQ rights in January, including bans on gender reassignment surgery for those aged under 17 and on hormone therapy for children aged 15 and under, as well as limits on sports participation for transgender athletes. The government also requires parents to be notified and opt-in for each instance a teacher intends to give formal instruction on gender identity, sexual orientation, or human sexuality. It will also require parental notification and consent for a school to alter the name or pronouns of a child aged 15 and under.

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The legislation has been denounced not only by activists and artists but by doctors, nurses and medical associations, including the Canadian Paediatric Society and Alberta Medical Association. On Sunday, the question came not long after a man from the audience asked Page for advice for “parents of trans kids.”

“First of all, it’s awful,” Page said about Alberta’s policies. “It’s harmful. It stems from misinformation and lies about our health care, about our lives and who we are. It’s policies that go against the advice of the Alberta Medical Association and Canadian Paediatric Society. Seriously, this has serious impacts on people’s lives, on the father you just saw and his son and all the individuals who are just trying to live their lives and thrive and grow in safe environments.

“The first time I tried to talk about my sexuality when I was 15 my mom — who is so supportive now and amazing — (said) ‘Yeah, that doesn’t exist.’ Forcibly outing children to their parents, taking away any kind of agency for them to be themselves, particularly when it’s backed by major medical institutions, is appalling. It’s appalling.”

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Sunday’s talk with Page, an Oscar-nominated actor who disclosed he was transgender in December 2020, included a number of poignant moments. That included not only the man asking for advice about his trans son, but three audience members who were transitioning themselves and thanked Page for being an inspiration. Another fan said Page’s example and his character of Viktor in Netflix’s superhero series The Umbrella Academy, who also came out as a trans man in Season 3, helped their stepfather accept them. One audience member asked directly what it was like to be “an inspiration for queer kids.”

“When I know in my life the pain I felt, the discomfort, the struggle, not being able to see a future despite all the privileges that my life has allowed me, the resources to access, etc., I think that if anything on my journey or in my wake is able to connect with someone, make them feel less alone on any level, make them feel reflective or any kind of hope, that means more than movies . . . Why be alive if you’re not being able to embrace the interconnectedness and know that you could help someone in any way be able to thrive and live their lives?” he said.

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Elliot Page at Calgary Expo
Actor Elliot Page speaks during an interview at the Calgary Expo on Sunday, April 28, 2024. Gavin Young/Postmedia

Page, who was born and raised in Halifax, just wrapped the fourth and final season of The Umbrella Academy, a series created by Edmonton native Steve Blackman and based on the comic books by Gerard Way. Page’s character began as Vanya Hargreeves, a violinist with hidden powers who is alienated from his siblings who have more obvious supernatural abilities. In the third season, he comes out as a trans man to correspond with Page’s own transition.

“That was a pretty extraordinary thing to have gotten that place in my life,” said Page. “Steve Blackman, who is the showrunner, is one of the first people I ever came out to because we were going to go back to shoot and I wanted to get surgery and all these things. For him to really be the one who did the initiative of making it a part of the show and everything obviously meant so much to me.”

Elliot Page at Calgary Expo
Actor Elliot Page chats with host Mike Morrison during Calgary Expo on Sunday, April 28, 2024. Gavin Young/Postmedia

‘Now I get to work and feel alive’

The discussion did touch on other aspects of Page’s lengthy career in film and television, including a brief chat about Page landing an early recurring role in Trailer Park Boys, where he played Jim Lahey’s daughter. Audience members also asked about lesser-known films such as 2007’s harrowing An American Crime, which was based on a true story of horrifying abuse, and 2005’s Hard Candy, where Page played a teenager who traps and tortures a man she believes is a sexual predator.

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He was also asked about the 2013 video game Beyond: Two Souls, which featured a motion-capture performance by the actor, and the 2019 documentary There’s Something in the Water, which Page co-directed with Ian Daniel and focused on environmental racism in Nova Scotia, or the “disproportionate placements of landfills, dams or polluting industry next to Black and Indigenous communities,” he said.

In his 2023 memoir Pageboy, the actor wrote about his experiences in Alberta filming Christopher Nolan’s 2010 sci-fi epic Inception, writing that he developed shingles due to anxiety of feeling out of place in cast full of cis men. In the book, he stressed that the cast, which included Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hardy and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Nolan were all a “delight” to work with, which he reiterated on Sunday when asked if he had any happy memories of being on the set.

“The work, at least, got me out of my apartment,” Page said. “That was a great group of people to work with, all around. (I was doing) extremely fun things like learning to scuba-dive to be able to shoot the scene where the van is submerged in water. All of these things, I really thoroughly enjoyed. Being on set and the actual making of it was fun. The hard times were all about that I didn’t really feel alive when I was working. Now I get to work and feel alive.”

— With files from Postmedia News

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