The 2023 National Book Festival, hosted by the Library of Congress, featured a heartwarming interview between Gina Chua and Elliot Page — and a subsequent forum allowed audience members to introduce themselves and their questions.
Elliot Page, who came out as trans and non-binary in December of 2020 and has since written the book “Page Boy” about his experience as a trans man before and after coming out, detailed a positive experience coming out and publishing his book. He said he is the happiest he’s ever been.
“You really feel how much you were losing in regards to just living your life and getting to embrace life,” Page said.
When writing his book, Page, at the behest of Chua, explained that there was an overarching question he was asking himself.
“Why did this have to take so long?” he asked.
Page delved into his earliest memories, from childhood to adulthood. He explained wanting to live as a boy from a young age — he knew as early as six years old — but he was originally shut down.
“Why did there have to be such interference?” he continued. Page said that he felt as if there was a lot of time lost.
Writing the book felt like a stream of consciousness, according to Page. The first chapter was written close to the first day he decided to write the book.
“As the process grew, it became more about what it does mean for other people to read this and what you do want to share and knowing that,” Page said. “For me, writing it, and in the moments when I felt scared or insecure about sharing certain things, I really reflected on how much books have helped me and how various writers and their vulnerability and generosity in terms of sharing parts of themselves have had a great impact on me.”
The nonlinear aspect of his book is how Page reflects the queer and trans experience.
“We get close and then we pull back,” he said. “Particularly in trans narratives, we talk so much about the before and after, when really, it’s so much about integration, integrating all these parts of ourselves that we’ve known and are rediscovering and are finding again — that spark of what it means to be alive.”
Page discussed the idea of nurturing parts of himself that were neglected, especially after being “viciously closeted” until he was 27 years old, which is why, even as a grown man, he still embraces all of the other versions of himself.
“The shame you feel, the shame you’re holding, it is not yours,” Page said.
Though he still gets infantilized or told that he’s just misguided, Page simply ignores it now. In light of the emergence of transphobia across the country, Page expressed that it is anxiety-inducing, with possible political fluctuations that could negatively impact him. But he is focusing on what he can do as a trans person who has the ability to tell his stories and many others. According to Page, it is about representation, visibility, and inclusivity in society.
“How can we be visible and represent while also being mindful of the work that still needs to happen and get done to make sure that everybody is feeling the benefits of progress?” he asked.