LAS VEGAS — An emotional Ellen Page, the adorable, quirky actress who enchanted movie audiences in 2007 as the pregnant teenager Juno, came out as gay Friday night at a conference for educators and counselors who work with LGBTQ youth.
"I'm here today because I am gay, and because maybe I can make a difference," the 26-year-old Page told a group of about 600 school counselors, teachers and others at the Human Rights Campaign's inaugural conference devoted to issues faced by children and teenagers who identify as lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual or queer. "I feel a personal obligation and a social responsibility. I also do it selfishly, because I am tired of hiding and I am tired of lying by omission."
The audience rose to its feet, giving Page, whose sexuality has been the subject of gossip and speculation for years, the first of two standing ovations.
"I suffered for years because I was scared to be out," said Page, who was nominated for a best actress Oscar for "Juno." "My spirit suffered, my mental health suffered and my relationships suffered. And I'm standing here today, with all of you, on the other side of all that pain."
Page spoke for about eight minutes and prefaced her announcement with reflections on the tyranny of an entertainment industry that brooks no imperfection or ambiguity.
"It's weird because here I am, an actress, representing_at least in some sense_an industry that places crushing standards on all of us. Not just young people, but everyone," she said. "Standards of beauty. Of a good life. Of success. Standards that, I hate to admit, have affected me. You have ideas planted in your head, thoughts you never had before, that tell you how you have to act, how you have to dress and who you have to be. I have been trying to push back, to be authentic, to follow my heart, but it can be hard."
The tears in her eyes were visible to the audience in the Bally's Las Vegas conference center thanks to the two giant video screens that flanked the stage.
"Sometimes it's the little, insignificant stuff that can tear you down," she said. "I try not to read gossip as a rule, but the other day a web site ran an article with a picture of me wearing sweatpants on the way to the gym. The writer asked, 'Why does (this) petite beauty insist upon dressing like a massive man?'"
She paused for effect.
"Because I like to be comfortable."
And now, at last, she can be.