Elliot Page opens up about trans journey, relationship with mom in ABC Pride special

ByCarson Blackwelder and Anastasia Elyse Williams ABCNews logo
Tuesday, June 6, 2023
Elliot Page talks about new memoir, 'Pageboy'
The actor and advocate recalls coming out as transgender in the new memoir and in an interview for "The Freedom to Exist -- A Soul of a Nation Presentation."

Actor Elliot Page's rise to fame was meteoric -- and complicated.

"Yeah, that whole 'Juno' time. That was quite the time," Page told ABC News in an exclusive network interview for "The Freedom to Exist -- A Soul of a Nation Presentation," airing June 6 on ABC, coinciding with the release of the "Umbrella Academy" star's memoir, "Pageboy."

In 2007, Page starred in the leading role of an indie film called "Juno." When the movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, it became an instant smash hit. The film went on to earn four Oscar nominations, including best picture and best actress for Page, ultimately winning the Academy Award for best original screenplay.

In an excerpt from his new book, "Pageboy: A Memoir," Page said he had planned to wear jeans and a shirt to the premiere but that he needed to wear a dress and heels instead.

Page said he still finds it "tricky" to discuss this era because he "felt like complaining at all or feeling bad at all" would be viewed as him being "so profoundly ungrateful," as many perceived it as a time in which his dreams were coming true.

"It's not like someone was forcing clothing on my physical body, but that is what it felt like to dress a certain way and be a certain way," he explained.

When Page was a 6-year-old kid growing up in Halifax, Nova Scotia, he said that at the time, he had asked his mother, Martha, if he could be a boy, and his mother said no. But at the age of 10, Page wrote that he cut his hair short and people started addressing him as a boy, saying "thanks, bud" when he held the door for them at the local mall.

"It was the first time I really could see myself ... and felt it energetically," he said. "I was lucky to have a mom that let me get to that place at 10 to look like how I did, but I could sense her discomfort. I could sense her embarrassment."

Page said the time when his body began changing and clothes sat on him differently, that "was the beginning of really sort of disconnecting from myself and feeling a degree of discomfort that was very erosive and damaging."

At this point in his life, Page said he probably hadn't even heard the word transgender -- unless it was in health class, where he said it was met with laughter.

"The experiences I had in regards to bullying, it certainly only encourages the shame that literally makes you sick," he said. "The discomfort that I felt really took so much of my life away from me."

Fast forward to December 2020 when, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, Page announced on Instagram he was transgender. He told ABC News that the announcement was a moment of freedom.

"I was able to finally make the steps and the decision to be myself and to do what I wanted to do, and knew I needed to do to live fully," he said. "I'm feeling that joy every day. What it has allowed me is what feels like truly being alive for the first time."

Simultaneously, Page's transition occurred while he was starring on the hit Netflix show "The Umbrella Academy," based on the comic book series of the same name. The series backed him completely, having his character -- now known as Viktor Hargreeves -- transition, as well, and having that transition be integrated as part of the story for the third season.

"The experience with 'Umbrella Academy' and playing Viktor has been such a true gift," he said.

"I think many people obviously relate to that experience of what it means to not see yourself, think you never will, and then there you are, you just start to emerge," he added. "It's so thrilling. It's really thrilling."

"The Freedom to Exist -- A Soul of a Nation Presentation" airs Tuesday, June 6, at 10 p.m. ET on ABC and streams the next day on Hulu.