Elliot Page says films like “But I’m a Cheerleader” offered relief from some of his struggles as a young LGBTQ+ person.
“I for one know that without the various representation that I was able to stumble upon as a kid and a teenager — there was very little — I just don’t know if I would have made it,” he said while receiving Outfest’s Achievement Award on Sunday at the film festival’s closing night gala in Los Angeles. “I don’t know if I would have made it through the moments of isolation and loneliness and shame and self-hatred that was so extreme and powerful and all-encompassing that you could hardly see out of it.
“And then, you know, at 15, when you are flipping through the channels and you stumble on ‘But I’m a Cheerleader’ and the dialogue in that film, and scenes in that film just transform your life,” he continued. “I almost think we don’t talk enough about how important representation is and enough about how many lives it saves and how many futures it allows for.”
“But I’m a Cheerleader,” a comedy released in 1999, is about a high schooler (Natasha Lyonne) who is sent to a gay conversion program when her parents suspect her of being gay.
Page, who accepted the award virtually because he is filming in Toronto, came out as transgender in December. He said the lack of representation that continues today is “infuriating.”
“It’s [Outfest] and organizations like yourself that are completely changing that,” the Oscar-nominated star of “The Umbrella Academy” said. “And helping get stories out in the world that I know are reaching people in moments where they feel desperately alone and afraid and like they have no sense of community. And it offers somebody a lifeline. And I know that representation has done that for me.”
Outfest also honored Octavia Spencer with the James Schamus Ally Award. As “Just for Variety” first reported, the Oscar winner recently joined “Right to Try” as a producer. The documentary short, directed by Zeberiah Newman, tells the story of casting director Jeffrey Drew’s participation in an experimental treatment that researchers hope will cure him of HIV. The film premiered at Outfest on Saturday.
“I’m proud to bring LGBTQIA stories to audiences all over the world,” Spencer said, also virtually. “I’m thrilled that our own film ‘Right to Try’ is also a part of this important festival. I’m always a big fan of the unsung hero, which is why I responded so strongly to Jeffrey Drew’s story. It speaks to the kinds of stories I want to see on screen, celebrating everyday heroes with a true sense of purpose and hope.
“I feel humbled to be acknowledged with this award. It’s important to stand with your friends, and give them the same respect you want for yourself,” she continued. “It is also important to open hearts and minds through authentic storytelling. Good stories can entertain while bringing change and providing hope.”