“Pageboy: A Memoir” and the odyssey of remembrance

Book cover of
Book cover of "Pageboy: A Memoir" by Elliot Page

In 2014 at the Human Rights Campaign’s Time to Thrive Conference, Elliot Page came out as lesbian. Before this, there were times in his career where he felt as though he would be jeopardizing his livelihood, told by others in Hollywood that it would be career suicide to be openly gay.

He spent all of the car ride and hours beforehand practicing his speech over and over again, playing out the scenario and words in his head, anxious of what the reception would be to his coming out. And even in 2014 with the climate of politics on LGBTQ rights in the United States being in an ever perpetual sorry state, it still did not prepare Elliot Page for his coming out as a transgender man in 2020.

The response to his coming out by right wing media and constituents was his main concern, and rightfully so. The level of anti-trans rhetoric in the current political landscape of the U.S. frightened Page, and left him wanting to “U-turn” constantly, delaying the inevitable. And though there was the rightfully worry about backlash, the freedom to live openly as his true self, truly present and alive, outweighed anything that could have attempted to dissuade him.

Pageboy is as gut wrenching as it is uplifting. At times disturbing as it is inspiring, Page recounts his life in a non-linear manner. Sometimes he goes forward years into his 30s, then takes it back to his teen years. Though it is surprising at first, this non-linear way of narration perfectly fits in line with the way remembrance works. Sometimes we think of one memory in our childhoods that reminds us of a time only a month ago. Then that moment a month ago makes us think of another time back in our pre-teens.

Narratively, this book ties all themes and messages together in pieces. Moments of sadness and joy meet each other respectively, regardless of the stage in Page’s life that they occurred.

Page grew up in Halifax, in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia. In one moment, he tells the story of the Halifax Explosion of 1917, where two boats collided sailing out of port, causing one that was carrying over six million pounds of cargo to explode. It caused the deadliest and most catastrophic explosion to ever occur pre-nuclear capability. The landscape for 2.5 square kilometers (0.97 square miles) was destroyed, a rocky, rubble filled land. Eventually it was rebuilt, much of the buildings changed to stone instead of wood as a precaution against any future incidents. Page sat at a monument for this disaster, kissing his then boyfriend.

The land being forever changed and rebuilt into something new and alive once more is juxtaposed to the dark moments within Page’s life and his ability to recreate himself anew. His experiences as a young actor in Hollywood, exploited and abused by those with power, being in the closet, dealing with family issues, and not living truly as he is all culminated a destructive and self abusive environment for him mentally and physically.

But through it all he found himself a way to live his own life, with his own romances, and live in his own skin without shame, and most of all, live presently and free.

Pageboy: A Memoir by Elliot Page ISBN 9781250878359

Siegfried Schaefer is a senior at Montclair State University. He is a German major with a minor in Myth Studies. He enjoys reading and watching sci-fi and fantasy in his freetime, and loves to analyze the themes of gender, queerness, and neurodivergence in these stories. Out In Jersey is the first publication Siegfried has worked with.