ST. PETERSBURG, Fla — The LGBTQ community and its allies have been celebrating actor Elliot Page, who on Tuesday came out as transgender.
“I want to share with you that I am trans, my pronouns are he/they and my name is Elliot,” he wrote on social media. “I feel lucky to be writing this. To be here. To have arrived at this place in my life.”
The responses from around the world were overwhelmingly positive for the Oscar-nominated actor from “Juno” and “The Umbrella Academy.” As a celebrity with a large following, Page’s coming out has helped give more light on the experiences of transgender people to a larger audience. And, it helps continue the conversation on how local communities can be more inclusive and diverse.
“Anytime when anybody comes out...there’s less people in the world who can say, ‘I don’t know a trans person or I don’t know of a trans person or I don’t know what it means to be trans,’” said Lucas Wehle (he/him/his), Trans Services Division Manager with Metro Inclusive Health Tampa Bay.
The Tampa Bay area has a thriving LGBTQ community, including hot spots like the Grand Central District in downtown St. Pete and GAYbor in Tampa. St. Pete is also home to Florida’s largest Pride event, which sees tens of thousands flock to the area for days of parades and festivities.
But, more support and diversity are needed both locally and around the world.
According to the Human Rights Campaign, at least 40 transgender or gender non-conforming people were killed in 2020 in the U.S. And, The Trevor Project found that the COVID-19 crisis continues to have serious mental health implications for LGBTQ youth, who it says are already at an increased risk for anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicide.
Justice Gennari (he/him/his), president and CEO of the Tampa Bay LGBT Chamber, said communities like Tampa Bay tend to see "overwhelming support" after a celebrity or public figure comes out.
That includes "local coming out stories of others finding the courage through that public figure to come out," he said. "It tends to shine a light on an important subject, which many tend to forget."
Wehle said he wouldn't be surprised to hear a few more calls in the next week or so after Page's coming out.
"A lot of times that does help family members or young kids come out to their family members because they feel and see that response 'if they accept this stranger then they'll probably accept me,'" he said.
Gennari said one of the best ways to support the local LGBTQ community is to shop small at LGBTQ-owned businesses and donate or get involved at local non-profits. The Tampa Bay LGBT Chamber has a directory of inclusive businesses and non-profits in seven counties.
Another crucial way to show support is simple but powerful: Use proper pronouns.
"When you're looking at somebody, you don't always know their gender or...what their pronouns are," Gennari said. "You don't know what my pronouns are unless I share them with you."
GLAAD publishes a media reference guide for journalists covering the LGBTQ community. This guide is also helpful for anyone joining the conversation on social media.
"Using accurate terminology is the first step toward creating a respectful story about transgender people," the guide states. Accurate terminology includes using a person's correct pronouns, like "he/him/his," "she/her/hers" and "they/them."
"It's a simple way to show inclusivity for everyone," Gennari said.
"I really think it's an important time to have some more positive light and experiences and just have more people being comfortable coming out," Wehle said. "So that hopefully more people can come around and understand that we are all human and...we deserve the same respect and love that everyone else does."
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