As soon as I can find time today or tomorrow, I’ll be rewatching Juno & posting some more thoughts on the Elliot Page news from yesterday. But why am I rewatching Juno at all? Well the answer bears on another question raised in the comments to yesterday’s post by sonofrojblake:
He was in Inception and X-men. It baffles me a bit why this story leaves those off the headline almost everywhere I’ve seen it.
The Umbrella Academy reference is understandable as it is Page’s most recent (and still Netflix-current) work. But why Juno, instead of a much more well known film (or at least one higher-grossing)?
The answer, I believe, can be found in the fact that is that it is the best and best-known pro-choice film for at least a generation. Over the last decade trans persons’ struggle against invisibility and for access to services has gained the attention of abortion providers and others responsible for family planning & reproductive health services as well as organizations that advocate for reproductive rights. This attention is not insignificant. In 2018 during the campaign to repeal Ireland’s constitutional Amendment 8 which banned nearly all abortion in the country, one excuse for some feminists to oppose the movement fighting for the repeal of A8 was that the movement was too supportive of trans persons and the ballot language was written in a way that included trans persons. Fascist fuckfaces argued with apparent seriousness that granting equal abortion rights to trans persons with vaginas and uteruses who might get pregnant would be to permit the proverbial and unacceptable camel’s toe into the tent.
Despite well-publicized pregnancies of a few trans men, and the obvious biological fact that merely coming out as non-binary or trans masculine does not give a body the means to automatically shut that whole thing down, there are people who struggle with the idea that we might want reproductive rights for everyone, even when inconvenient for pithy rhetoric. These people aren’t necessary bad people because they haven’t necessarily consciously thought through what it means to privilege rhetoric over human lives, nor have they necessarily thought about trans people enough to even realize that this is what they’re doing. But when the lead actor in such a tremendously important movie exploring the complicated nature of, the interpersonal and social limitations on, and vital importance of reproductive self-determination comes out as something other than a woman it becomes impossible for honest persons to see Juno as applicable only to women.
Juno will not lose its resonance for cis women. Juno will not become unimportant to cis feminists or cis reproductive rights advocates. It can be and is still a powerful movie addressing issues with which many (if not most) cis women who have sex (or experience sexual assaults) involving sperm will struggle. A cis women doesn’t even need to become pregnant to experience these issues. She need only believe that she is pregnant or has a high chance of being pregnant. A late period, a false test, a test that appears false because of a spontaneous abortion which will never be known, any of those things can be enough.
But without changing anything in the movie itself, trans and non-binary persons capable of getting pregnant (or who believe they are capable of getting pregnant – infertility isn’t announced at birth) can now point to the movie Juno and say, “These are our issues too,” with new credibility. With a credibility, frankly, that can’t be denied by any honest person.
I’m happy for Page, really I am. But I didn’t write about Page’s coming out because this is some random celebrity who happens to share some experiences in common with me.
I wrote about, and will continue to write about, Elliot Page’s experience of trans life because the importance of a specific piece of Page’s work to feminism is now presenting a moment of choice to every feminist who has found Juno valuable in the past. Umbrella Academy can help identify who Page is to those who aren’t automatically familiar, but this isn’t a moment about an actor, and that’s why Inception and X-Men: Last Stand are irrelevant to the story.
This is a moment when feminists have the opportunity to become transfeminists, when feminists can decide again whether they seek reproductive privileges for some or reproductive rights for all.
It presents a moment when feminists may ask each other, “If we fight for abortion access only for those whose gender is acceptable, what, in the end, do we stand to win?”
That question is truly dangerous for those who believe that feminism is compatible with demanding conformance to a broader stereotype, or one’s choice of a few new stereotypes. Elliot Page’s announcement has the power to force a fundamental moment of dawning awareness, a moment in which one can hear one’s own brain sound a feminist :click:, a moment in which those of us feminists who reluctantly support (or fight against) trans inclusion finally understand that to do so means that they have, all unknowing, continued to believe that some stereotypes are acceptable, and that all rights are ultimately conditional on good gender.
What will we, as feminists, choose next when we hear that click?
That feminists now face such decisions is the real news, the important news, in Page’s Instagram announcement. And after 25 years of fighting for feminism-informed trans-advocacy and trans advocacy-informed feminism, I can’t tell you how exciting this moment has become.
Let’s see some change.