The harassment that Page faces particularly hit home for me because it shined a light on the specific struggles that LGBTQ+ people face.
[TW: discussions of sexual violence and harassment, homophobia.]
If you’ve been taking note of anything in public media lately, you’ve most likely seen accusations of powerful Hollywood figures committing acts of sexual violence finally getting the publicity it needs. In fact, it’s hard to take note of what was in the news outside of that.
Day after day, we’ve seen stories shattering the facade that these abusers have so carefully crafted in the public sphere. The lock has been lifted on Hollywood’s secret of sexual violence, and there’s no turning back. But despite the long list of survivors telling their stories, the stories keep coming. For me, one that took my particular attention was Ellen Page’s.
Page took to her Facebook page last week to speak on the sexual harassment that she experienced. As she writes, she was harassed by director Brett Ratner, who she worked with X-Men: The Last Stand when she was 18. In the post, she speaks on the deliberate outing of her sexuality that she had to endure, slurs and derogatory comments that Ratner made about her and other women on set, and even comments suggesting that Page be “…f*cked so she realize that she’s gay.”
The harassment that Page faces particularly hit home for me because it shined a light on the specific struggles that LGBTQ+ people face. Because nothing exists in a vacuum, her awareness that homophobia and misogyny were intricately linked to the harassment that she faced is important to note. As she writes:
I was a young adult who had not yet come out to myself. I knew I was gay, but did not know, so to speak. I felt violated when this happened. I looked down at my feet, didn’t say a word and watched as no one else did either. This man, who had cast me in the film, started our months of filming at a work event with this horrific, unchallenged plea. He “outed” me with no regard for my well-being, an act we all recognize as homophobic. I proceeded to watch him on set say degrading things to women. I remember a woman walking by the monitor as he made a comment about her “flappy pussy”.
The stories of all survivors matters, but Page’s confession is especially important to take note of because in doing so, she is breaking the silence of the particular ways that sexuality and gender impact violence. Survivors stories matters, but it’s also important that we don’t move to uphold one form of oppression as we try to break away from another.
So often when we talk about sexual violence against people of marginalized genders, we leave out the specific ways that homophobia, transphobia, and queerphobia affect us. Mainstream culture is still failing to accurately recognize, name, and dismantle the violence that relies so tightly on it for success. This cycle continues in public conversations about survivorhood and healing, by leaving out or minimizing the impact on survivors of marginalized genders. But this isn’t by accident; it’s by design. Violence exists as an extension of the power structure that oppression is built upon. Without that oppression in place, the violence wouldn’t be able to exist.
But erasure isn’t the answer. Queer survivors of violence — sexual or otherwise — are too often left to suffer in silence, because so much of the circles meant to support survivors are dismissive and ill-fitting to the needs that queer survivors specifically have. This cycle reinforces that beyond lip service, we are still failing to properly center and uplift survivors of trauma and violence.
The lack of specific resources for marginalized survivors is the first place to start if we are to begin rebuilding this system to commit to change. As it stands, support for queer survivors are limited to what can be provided by (mainly) other queer survivors. But as we know, systematic oppression also limits access to the resources that marginalized communities need. It’s not enough that the communities that are struggling the most are the ones that have to bear the weight of supporting and healing.
So what can be done? Collectively, our society has a responsibility to restructure itself to be truly survivor-centered. Naming and stripping these perpetrators of violence of their power is a great step, but it’s only the first step. What resources are being created to give survivors the emotional, economic, mental, and overall well-being of survivors as they heal and transition into new parts of their lives? How are we securing their safety? These are only the first questions that we should be thinking of and applying as we begin to dismantle the power that sexual violence has in our society.
Survivors – all survivors, including those who are queer — deserve so much better. It’s far past time that we truly commit to that.