The worst takes on Elliot Page

I’m seeing two kinds of negative reactions to Elliot Page’s revelation. One is outright denial, verging on rage; the other is dull, stupid incomprehension. Neither are particularly attractive, or complimentary to the character of those making them.

The loudest example of the first is this editorial by Brendan O’Neill, in which he deadnames him and goes on and on, stupidly upset that a woman cannot just click her fingers and become a ‘he’. It’s about what I would expect from O’Neill, who is one of those peculiarly British reactionaries, a shrieking Trotskyite who always favors conservative authoritarianism. I really don’t get Brendan O’Neill, he’s such a strange creature. But here’s what he says about Elliot Page:

So that’s it, is it? Ellen Page is no more? She’s been disappeared? She’s been shoved down the memory hole, left to stalk that netherworld of people whose names must never be uttered out loud, like Bruce Jenner, Frank Maloney, Voldemort? Ellen Page, the actress most famous for starring in irritant quirkhouse movie Juno, has now declared that she is Elliot Page and that she’s a he. And, boom, just like that, Ellen’s gone. She’s being erased from film history. People are getting into trouble even for saying the word ‘Ellen’. ‘Who?’, woke identitarians ask, as if they’ve all gone mad.

It goes on and on like that, but the gist of it seems to be that he acts as if “Ellen Page”, the female, has been dragged out and shot, to be replaced by “Elliot Page”, the male, and that we’ve betrayed her by accepting their evolution. It’s an odd view that isn’t believed by anyone. There was a person, a human being, who was assigned female at birth, and who lived and grew and realized that the identity forced on them by the conventions of culture was not the identity they held inside. The person isn’t gone or erased, they’re still here — they just aren’t the person you thought they were, and they definitely don’t fit into the one of the binary cartoons you wanted them to conform to…but then, nobody does. Get over it.

The second type of anti-trans sentiment I’m seeing is the chickenshit sarcastic ‘skeptic’ who is Just Asking Questions, because they want to be able to run away fast if called out on their bigotry. Who else could better represent that view than Michael Shermer?

What a buffoon.

Oh, he’s serious (not trolling). Do I need to point out that he’s published many books, which he likes to claim are the product of “research”, and that he should have the tools at his fingertips to find all kinds of sources that could explain to him in great detail how to answer those questions? Does he usually “research” his books by asking leading questions on Twitter of his followers, who, he must know by now, tend to have a bit of a bias against the progressive views that he’d need to listen to? Shermer is definitely trolling. He’s just playing the dumbass to build some plausible deniability, and to pretend to be more open-minded than he actually is.

Also, he left off the question he really wants to ask. If Michael Shermer thinks Elliot Page is attractive and wants to assault him, would that make Shermer gay? Go away, Shermer, you’re just an awful person.


  1. says

    No, it’s not. Transmasculine usually means male of center, up to and including trans men.
    Books are written about this subject.
    Sometimes people call m/f couples “straight” couples, but the people in such couples are not necessarily straight, e.g. they could be bisexual.
    Traditionally, one’s gender is public information, even absent any political motivation.
    I don’t understand what this is getting at, I presume it’s something dumb though.

  2. Saad says

    The amount of ignorance (and bigotry) Shermer displays question after question…

    LOL @ question #6. He really didn’t need to list all those qualifiers about his identity. That one question tells us all that already.

  3. says

  4. says

    It depends on the definition of “male” in use.
    There are many definitions. I’ve seen research work by biologists where “male” was used as an adjective that was functionally defined for the purpose of the paper as “tending to mount other rats from behind”. I couldn’t possibly list all the ways the word has been used here, but I will say that however Page uses it is no less valid than how that scientist used it, and probably a lot more common.
    Are they a straight couple? Not from the language they’ve presented. Is there a new term? Only if you’ve been in a van down by the river for the last 40 years. The term used by Elliot Page in the announcement, which you could have read if you were actually curious about page and not just being an asshat, is “queer”. The term has been in use for longer than I have been alive, and in common use as a self-descriptor since at least the mid-80s. You may know it as the Q in LGBTQ.
    Which pronouns or titles or name is most respectful to use for a person is not a private matter. When you’ve hidden your name and your degree for 31 years, you can ask this question without being a complete, aggressive jerk. The moral progress bit is up to you, but I’m not hopeful.

    and the one that is actually the worst of all these
    6. “Universal Human Rights” are violated all the time, Indeed we only think to write them down because they have so often been violated and we have seen the consequences. Trans persons’ rights have been violated in many ways throughout history. Our rights to change our names or get divorced or vote or defend ourselves have all been denied. We have been beaten and killed. We have been denied the opportunity to practice our religion. We have been involuntarily sterilized. For someone to argue we shouldn’t campaign to have our rights respected because a handbook already says that we have the rights that cis* people violate at half a whim is to completely misunderstand what a campaign for human rights must be.

    We do not campaign to create a tiny handbook with a dark blue cardboard cover, stamped with the imprimatur of the United Nations. We do not campaign to create a law permitting trans people to vote even when poll workers believe we are cross-dressed and that they should therefore discount the photo identification that plainly depicts the same face. We do not campaign for judges to write opinions that find trans persons’ self defense legally reasonable since being trans is not an act initiating aggression.

    These are all tools we seek to build the world not where all persons have universal human rights, but where all persons’ human rights are respected. Where there is no assault, there is no rape, there is no defamation. Where each individual is the authority on their own life.

    But you wouldn’t recognize or even want that world, would you, Shermer? Print up the little blue books and be done is the entirety of your thought on the matter.

    For if people were to actually be free, you would have to change, and that terrifies you.

  5. PaulBC says

    I’ll pass. I just don’t see how this is any of my business.

    Aside from transphobia, there is also the pathology of fans who believe they own celebrities in some way. Though I don’t think Brendan O’Neill is a fan, I would say, so what if Ellen Page is no more. How is that any of your business? You are not a stakeholder here, so STFU.

  6. kome says

    I guess it’s not a surprise that Michael likes to JAQ off like that publicly, given everything else we know about him.

    Anyway, as to the first buffoon, whom I don’t believe I’ve heard of until now – what are his thoughts about legal name changes? Sticking with traditional cishet customary nonsense, when a woman marries a man and takes his last name, does the person she used to be with her “maiden” name disappear? Or is that okay because that’s the kind of identify signifier change that validates that idiot’s prejudices about the relative status of women and men?

    I’d be willing to entertain these colossal assholes in the slightest if there was ever even the tiniest of hints that they wanted to have some sort of consistent belief system. But holy moly do prejudicial people seem to just love compartmentalization and pretending they don’t actually hold mutually exclusive beliefs.

  7. barbaz says

    What I hate most about this is that there are people who are actually genuinely uninformed but open minded, and all this sealioning just means that they can no longer get their questions answered without being accused of being one of the assholes.

  8. wzrd1 says

    The idiot failed on the final question, as the reality of this benighted world is the denial of universal human rights.

    Been a week, doctor still hasn’t called in my thyroid meds, but there is a really nice Buick parked outside. Can I hit him a few times with it? I’m thinking shins, for a change…

  9. raven says

    Go away, Shermer, you’re just an awful person.

    He is a horrible person.
    Shermer vaporized his credibility a decade or so ago.
    I won’t waste my time reading anything he wrote because he is an idiot and a horrible person.

  10. Pierce R. Butler says

    Crip Dyke… @ # 5: … “queer”… You may know it as the Q in LGBTQ.

    I recall it as signifying “Questioning”, as in “personally sorting things out”, and would hope that category remains a recognized option.

  11. says


    Who are you saying called someone a communist? If you’re referring to PZ’s assertion that authoritarian Trotskyites exist in Britain & Brendan O’Neill seems to be one, that’s rather a different and more specific charge than naming someone a communist.

    Now, I can’t speak to O’Neill’s political philosophy, being entirely unfamiliar with him, but Wikipedia says this:

    Once a Trotskyist Marxist, O’Neill was formerly a member of the Revolutionary Communist Party and wrote for the party’s journal, Living Marxism. O’Neill self identifies as a Libertarian Marxist[1][2] and writes for a range of publications.

    The sources cited are two. This is the 2nd:
    One relevant quote:

    Brought up in North London and raised Catholic by Irish Catholic parents, atheist-libertarian-Marxist Brendan O’Neill has found himself in the strange position of being a public defender of Catholics, and the traditional view of marriage.

    The first source is this video, which I did not watch in full, but is an interview with O’Neill which has him acknowledging in the first minute that he is a Marxist libertarian.

    He really is someone who at the very least has embraced Trotsky in the past (it’s unclear if he still does). He very much is a “Marxist” to this day. And he does spend quite a lot of energy defending the most authoritarian societal structures of our day, including the Catholic Church.

    So I don’t think this is American name calling so much as … telling the truth about a thing. Sorry if that’s too radical for you.

  12. says

    @Pierce R Butler

    I recall it as signifying “Questioning”, as in “personally sorting things out”, and would hope that category remains a recognized option.

    So I was active back in the day where these acronyms were first being lengthened to include the Q, and I can tell you that for several years many people used a double-Q, one for Queer & one for Questioning. Eventually common usage reduced it to a single Q but which stood for both. It may have been different in other parts of the world, but where I was, the Q very much stood for “queer” but that was not an attempt to exclude “questioning” and the Q stood for that as well.

  13. PaulBC says

    Brought up in North London and raised Catholic by Irish Catholic parents, atheist-libertarian-Marxist Brendan O’Neill has found himself in the strange position of being a public defender of Catholics, and the traditional view of marriage.

    This seems less strange than predictable in a world where tribe overrides every other concern.

  14. PaulBC says

    Is it “The worst~takes (noun) on Elliot Page.” or “The worst takes~on (verb) Elliot Page”?

    I have been parsing it the first way (correctly I assume) and just noticed the second, and I agree: These assholes are the worst.

  15. garnetstar says

    “Don’t universal human rights already apply to everyone?”

    What planet do you think he lives on? As wzrd1@12 says, on this one, denial of all rights possible to as many peope as possible is, and always has, been the way.

    I deduce that Shermer’s planet is one where “everyone” doesn’t include trans or queer people.

  16. says

    These assholes don’t know anything. They think they know everything. They refuse to learn anything. Dunning Kruger strikes again. There’s a whole wonderful world of human sexuality and they are deliberately blind to it.

  17. unclefrogy says

    like the Adam that he may no longer believe in he and many (all) of his ilk find a need to give everything a name and in naming given a definition that is absolute and unchanging It is a compulsion that few of them can resist. of course the name and its definition are unquestioned from first sources, real questions are unthinkable., and are only ever just a rhetorical device as in his question #3 what does male mean? he does not want to question that only define it because the question is clearly absurd. real questions are difficult and often face unexpected answers and always lead to more questions.
    real questions like what are human relationships how are they maintained
    uncle frogy

  18. PaulBC says

    unclefrogy@24 I agree.

    I have been thinking for a while that the root cause of all bigotry is some form of essentialism. There seems to be a compulsion to box in everything and insist that it stays in the box. When reality refuses to draw neat and tidy lines, out comes the procrustean instinct to make things fit anyway. It would be annoying anyway, but when human beings are involved, the result is always suffering.

    And I expect this from religious people or snobs of various stripes. It is the bane of science, though. You’re lucky to find patterns that describe things approximately, and even luckier to have a reality so rich and full of surprise that your patterns are never quite enough to nail it down.

    Or do these people just not like surprises?

  19. John Morales says

    I have been thinking for a while that the root cause of all bigotry is some form of essentialism.
    And I expect this from religious people or snobs of various stripes.

    Correlation and causation are different things.
    They may coincide, but should not be conflated lest confusion arise.

    Perhaps people have a predilection for religious or snobbish because they are essentialist, rather than they are driven to essentialism by religion or snobbery.

  20. unclefrogy says

    is not religion just an expression of existentialism as religion just states and insists that this is what reality is. formalized by tradition and sanctioned by cultural practice
    uncle frogy

  21. says

    I will add a couple of shallow comments that reflect my selfish nature as a human being:

    First, my immediate reaction to the original story when it broke was, “Who is Elliott Page?” then “Oh…” and finally “I like his jacket.”

    Second, I used to read books and columns by Michael Shermer. How long has it been since I abandoned him and his works? Years? (Long enough to not feel any sting about the bastard, anyway.)

  22. lanir says

    @unclefroggy #24:
    I agree with your clear intent on everything you mentioned. I just disagree with one specific thing and I realized it had something to do with how the whole thing goes off the rails for this second type of bigot that PZ mentions. To me, the “first sources” are people like Elliot Page. While I think in your statement you’re talking about the “first sources” as Shermer may use the term – someone who wrote about something from the outside.

    In some ways it’s actually a bit of a reversal. I’m believing in the lived experiences of people and the ways they describe themselves while it’s the conservatives who usually believe that over just about any other data, facts or logic you can come up with that are casually brushing it aside. I think the difference just comes down to one thing. I believe people when they tell me who they are. Shermer and people like him think they themselves get the privilege of saying who they are but they want people they disagree with to get the approval of some authority figure before they’re allowed to continue being who they are. And people like him disagree with anyone they don’t think they understand (they generally seem to have a pretty shallow understanding of human nature so I’m not willing to assume they understand anyone all that well, even themselves).

  23. Howard Brazee says

    That argument reminds me of when Miss Melania Knauss became Mrs. Melania Trump, or even Mrs. Donald Trump.

    So that’s it, is it? Melania Knauss is no more? She’s been disappeared? She’s been shoved down the memory hole, left to stalk that netherworld of people whose names must never be uttered out loud, like Bruce Jenner, Frank Maloney, Voldemort? …

  24. says

    Given what we know of Shermer’s past actions, I’m pretty sure that last big question in the OP above is the real murder-hornet getting up Shermer’s bum.

    And also given what we know of Shermer’s past actions, NO ONE has ANY reason to take anything he says about other people’s gender or private lives seriously. His JAQing is no more worth our time than Donald Trump’s.

  25. Bernard Bumner says

    Brendan O’Neil literally wrote an article headlined “In Defence of Deadnaming” a couple of years ago, where he rides the same emaciated hobbyhorse around at length, trailing nothing of more value or substance than the fetid skid-marks of his own uncomprehending rage that people would dare to respect people by acknowledging that who they are now is really who they have always been.

    The idea that the world will not remember the course of Elliot Page’s life is so utterly vapid as to defy any possible credibility. Furthrmore, he contends that it is important to the world to recognise some “truth” about the assignment of sex at birth even where someone is not a celebrity who very publically transitioned, which is just really odd.

    No-one knows a stranger’s history, and there is so much that is veiled in casual relationships. Bloody hell! Even the most intimate relationships may involve history that is obscure and not shared. To think that “truth” is the normal currency of human interaction is just so stupid, that it makes demanding it in these narrow circumstances unconscionable by anyone who would aspire to not be an arsehole.

    I cannot help but suspect, and I’m sorry for this, that the main preoccupation of these raging polemicists is rooted in a fantasy that they could be “tricked” into an intimate relationship with someone who offends their bigotry.

  26. raven says

    …that the main preoccupation of these raging polemicists is rooted in a fantasy that they could be “tricked” into an intimate relationship with someone who offends their bigotry.

    That requires more thought than they are capable of.
    These guys don’t have intimate relationships.
    I’m not even sure they are capable of having intimate relationships.
    They are just creeps and jerks.