How You Talk About Elliot Page’s Coming Out is a Matter of Life and Death

You never know who is listening when you discuss transgender people

Mary DeVries
4 min readDec 2, 2020


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Elliot Page, a Canadian actor, and star of Juno and The Umbrella Academy, came out as trans today. Way to go Elliot! I’m sure there will be a lot of conversations surrounding this over the next several days.

I’m here to implore you to please, please, please be careful how you talk about Elliot and what may feel like surprising news to you. It could literally be the difference between life and death for someone you love.

Sound hyperbolic? The suicide risk for transgender youth is much higher than for other teenagers. One recent study found between 30–50% of transgender teens attempted suicide at least once.

Many transgender people know they are a gender different from that assigned them at birth long before they tell others.

Read this excellent story from Cassie Brighter to get one woman’s perspective on what this can look like.

So you just don’t know who is listening when you start talking about trans issues. You don’t know who around you is struggling. What you say casually can have impacts you don’t anticipate.

I’m a cisgender heterosexual woman so I’m not the best person to tell you what to say and not to say. But there is a trans person in my life who I love with every fiber of my being and your careless talk hurts her more than you can imagine.

GLAAD has released a tip sheet for journalists with best practices on how to respectfully report this breaking story. These are excellent tips you can also follow in casual conversation.

DO describe people who transition as transgender, and use transgender as an adjective. Elliot Page is a transgender person. DON’T use transgender as a noun: “Elliot Page is a transgender”. DON’T use “transgendered.” Transgender never needs an extraneous “-ed” at the end. DON’T use “transsexual” or…



Mary DeVries

The older I get, the less I know. That won’t stop me from writing about everything and anything under the sun. Join me in delighting and despairing about life.