In this On Purpose episode, Jay Shetty invited Elliot Page. Page is an Academy Award-nominated actor, director, producer, writer, and a New York Times bestselling author. In this conversation, they discuss his newest book, Pageboy.
Elliot Page shared with Jay Shetty that the nonlinear structure of his memoir mirrors the Trans and Queer experience. It reflects how individuals on such journeys often grapple with self-discovery, societal expectations, and the oscillation between feeling close to their truth and retreating due to fear or being overwhelmed. Page expressed a personal fondness for nonlinear narratives, appreciating how different themes, emotions, and histories can intersect, reflecting the complexity of the queer and trans journey.
Many of the stories and moments Page chose for the book had always been near the surface of his consciousness. Writing the memoir felt organic, as he would reflect on specific periods, relationships, friendships, or incidents and then expand upon them. These memories were readily available to him, making the writing process feel as if he were describing a vivid movie.
Page also explained to Jay Shetty that when recalling memories, he experienced a combination of seeing himself move in the memory and feeling like the narrator describing the scene. However, there were no shocking revelations for the actor. Writing the memoir was cathartic and healing. He acknowledged that he had suppressed many memories and conditioned himself to let go of specific experiences and behaviors. Writing the memoir allowed him to confront and process these buried memories, leading to a therapeutic outcome.
Releasing the Authentic Self
Elliot Page explained to Jay Shetty that living authentically allowed him to experience a sense of self that he had never thought possible. He described it as a transformative feeling, emphasizing that even on challenging days, it was a game-changer. Page shared a touching moment with a long-time friend who witnessed his transformation, highlighting the positive impact it had on his life. He noted that previously, he couldn't envision this level of fulfillment and authenticity in his future.
Page revealed to Jay Shetty that he struggled to function on a basic level in the past, making it difficult for him to be productive or present in his daily life. The future felt uncertain, as he didn't know how long he could continue living in a state of emotional distress. Yet his journey towards living authentically and being perceived as he perceives himself has been a profoundly positive experience despite occasional challenges.
Relationship with Acting
Page's life had improved significantly since embracing his true self, leading to a newfound sense of embodiment and presence. He explained to Jay Shetty that in the past, he struggled to start from a foundational place of authenticity when taking on acting roles. However, now he could fully connect with the characters, their stories, motivations, emotions, and traumas, allowing him to approach his roles openly and authentically.
Page noted that he used to experience profound discomfort in his acting work, which was evident in his performances. But now, he felt a sense of looseness and ease. This enables him to exist comfortably in his body while on set. Moreover, being present and open was crucial to his acting process and made it possible and powerful.
Page shared with Jay Shetty that if someone had told him that coming out as trans would mean he could never work as an actor again, he would have accepted it gladly. He prioritized living as his authentic self and feeling grounded and present in his life over his acting career. He believed that his newfound sense of self would likely enhance his performances and make them better. Still, to him, the outcome was less important than living authentically.
Jay Shetty and Elliot Page discussed the importance of being true to oneself and the difference between knowing and feeling your identity. Page shared his early memories of knowing who he was but feeling perplexed by how the world perceived him, even at a young age. He described moments from childhood when he pushed to express himself authentically and how that made him feel grounded and euphoric.
The actor acknowledged that throughout his life, he struggled between knowing his identity and feeling pressured to conform to societal expectations. He highlighted the euphoria that comes from aligning your identity with how you present yourself and the profound discomfort that arises when there is a disconnect.
To Page, his conversations with the LGBTQ+ community regarding these challenges were crucial. They provide a sense of connection and support for those involved. Sharing similar experiences and feelings helps individuals realize they are not alone and reduces feelings of shame or isolation. Page also emphasized the reciprocal nature of these conversations, where one person can offer support and receive it in return, creating a strong sense of community and solidarity.
Page recommended Travis Alabanza's book None of the Above, which had left a profound impression on him. He also mentioned Trans: A Trans Man Walks into a Gay Bar by Harry Nicholas, a British book he found stunning. Page further highlighted his recent reading of a collection of diaries by Lou Sullivan and Janet Mock's books, which he found beautiful and intense.
Page needed to maintain a diary consistently to document his own journey. However, he had found some old writings from his teen and late teen years, which he found helpful and fascinating to revisit. He regretted not writing more but acknowledged the value of journaling as a practice.
Page emphasized the need for parents to listen to their children and create a safe and supportive space for them to explore their gender identity. He tells Jay Shetty that he encouraged parents not to dismiss or shame their children for their feelings and expressions but to allow them to explore who they are.
Moreover, Page addressed some common misconceptions about transgender healthcare. He stated that the idea that children's bodies are being mutilated is untrue. He explained that healthcare for transgender youth is a thorough and careful process involving parents and medical professionals. Puberty blockers, often labeled as experimental, have been used for decades for children with precocious puberty and are a part of transgender healthcare to delay puberty until informed decisions can be made.
Page also debunked the misconception that transgender youth can quickly access gender-affirming care, highlighting that many trans individuals face difficulties accessing care. He stressed that the process is not forced but involves informed decisions and consent.
Jay Shetty acknowledged the importance of dispelling misinformation and encouraged the listeners to research from credible sources rather than relying on generalized headlines or assumptions.
Masculinity from a Trans Men's Perspective
Page told Jay Shetty that trans men can bring a unique perspective to the discussion of masculinity due to their lived experiences of being perceived differently at various points in their lives. He mentioned Amateur by Thomas Page McBee, which explores the concept of masculinity and what it means to be a man. Page expressed empathy for cisgender men and their societal pressures, including emotional limitations and toxic behaviors ingrained in society.
Testosterone hormone therapy does not inherently make trans men more aggressive, challenging the stereotype that hormone treatments drive aggressive behavior. Page emphasized that toxic masculinity is primarily a result of socialization and societal pressures rather than hormones.
Page and Jay Shetty also discussed the pressure on cis men to conform to traditional roles of protector and provider while suppressing emotions. Having supportive and emotive environments during childhood can provide a balanced perspective on masculinity and emotional expression.
Page shared that being transgender has allowed him to have meaningful conversations with cis men about their struggles and societal expectations. He acknowledged that some cis men may not have had these conversations before, and it has increased his empathy for their experiences.
Page shared with Jay Shetty that research has shown that transgender and gender-nonconforming youth are four times more likely to struggle with eating disorders.1 Page explained that this might be related to a profound discomfort in their own body and a desire to have a sense of control, particularly during the process of transitioning.
When Page was consumed by thoughts related to his gender identity and body dysphoria, it left little mental space for other contemplations. However, after his transition, he has the mental capacity to engage in various creative pursuits, such as writing a book and making music with a friend. He described to Jay Shetty the joy of simple activities like enjoying a cup of coffee or spending time with friends in the park without being preoccupied with discomfort or anxiety.
Acceptance and Understanding
Elliot Page shared with Jay Shetty the heartwarming responses he received from people who had read his book or heard his story. He is grateful for his story's impact on others, particularly in helping them feel less alone, carry less shame, and have meaningful conversations with their loved ones.
Page received a letter from a person in their 50s who had decided to start testosterone therapy after reading the book. He also recounted a touching story of a friend whose relationship with their mother improved after she read the book and gained a better understanding of transgender experiences. However, some people related to the book despite having different experiences and that it might have contributed to changing their perspective on transgender issues.
Page's mission is to help people open their minds, learn from everyday experiences, and create space for growth and expansion. He acknowledged the power of memoirs and stories from individuals with diverse backgrounds in fostering empathy and understanding among readers.
Different Angles on Love
Elliot Page shared with Jay Shetty how he used to be a serial monogamist, seeking love as a means of escaping difficulties and feeling a sense of relief. But after transitioning, he now values the exhilarating sensation of being alone and has discovered the joy of self-sufficiency.
Page emphasized the importance of entering relationships from a solid and embodied foundation, seeking love for mutual growth and exploration rather than clinging to it out of necessity. He is single and seems to enjoy this newfound perspective on love and independence.
Transgender as a Public Figure
Elliot Page opened up to Jay Shetty about the differences in transitioning in the public eye versus privately. Such a personal transformation can be quite challenging while dealing with public scrutiny, comments, and assumptions about his life.
Page was privileged and had access to resources to protect him in certain aspects of his journey, such as hiring security or accessing medical procedures quickly. However, many other transgender individuals may not have. The transgender community faces many other challenges, particularly black transgender people, who often experience higher rates of unemployment, poverty, incarceration, and violence.
Jay Shetty asserts that it's essential to consider the broader societal context and challenges different individuals face within the transgender community. Recognizing and addressing these issues is vital. Storytelling can help create understanding and empathy.
Page's book about his journey ends with a story from when he was 16. It depicts a moment of self-love and joy. The actor concluded the story with a moment of happiness and a sense of community he had experienced at that age, attending a Peaches concert. The atmosphere was palpable joy and electricity, making it a special moment to conclude his memoir.
More From Jay Shetty
Listen to the entire On Purpose with Jay Shetty podcast episode on “Elliot Page ON How to Turn Self-Hate into Love & Navigating Societal Gender Norms” now in the iTunes store or on Spotify. For more inspirational stories and messages like this, check out Jay’s website at jayshetty.me.
1Rasmussen SM, Dalgaard MK, Roloff M, Pinholt M, Skrubbeltrang C, Clausen L, Kjaersdam Telléus G. Eating disorder symptomatology among transgender individuals: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Eat Disord. 2023 May 26;11(1):84. doi: 10.1186/s40337-023-00806-y. PMID: 37237320; PMCID: PMC10214585.
Take my new quiz to discover your deeper purpose.Take the Quiz
Looking for greater meaning? This quiz shows you how to live with purpose every day.Take the Quiz