Pageboy: A Memoir is a 2023 book written by Academy Award-nominated actor, producer, and director Elliot Page who is known for his work on the Netflix series The Umbrella Academy. This memoir is recommended for readers 18 years of age and older as Pages’ experiences include moments of drug and alcohol use, profanity, homophobia/transphobia, descriptions of sexuality, sexual and emotional abuse, and self-harm.
Prospective readers should be aware that Page chooses to use his former name only when referring to past events and calls himself “queer” on occasion, which may be uncomfortable for some people (IX). As he includes in the “Author’s Note,” Page was galvanized to write about his trans journey as a form of protest against the recent slew of attacks at the LGBTQ+ community (IX). Pageboy consists of a collection of essays presented in a non-sequential order that primarily covers the topics of the questioning of sexual/gender identities, coming out, as well as transitioning as a transgender man. Pages’ stories are set apart by the way he had to contend with his rising fame in the heteronormative world of Hollywood while also dealing with gender dysphoria, the fear of being outed by the tabloids, and a turbulent family life.
On the subject of gender dysphoria, Page started to feel uneasy in his body when he was in preschool. He recalls the times he tried to urinate standing up, would ask his mother if he could be a boy, wanted a short haircut, and requested a “boys’ toy” in his McDonald’s Happy Meal (15). These recollections correspond to the features of gender dysphoria—a condition that many transgender individuals feel. Over time, Page would relent to his family’s wishes for him to wear more feminine clothing and to date heterosexual companions. However, this type of gender expression and sexuality never felt right to him.
Similar to how he dealt with his family, Page initially went along with what the movie industry wanted in terms of a young actress by wearing beautiful dresses, wearing makeup, and having long hair. But he reached a point when he could no longer pretend to be what Hollywood envisioned. He turned down roles that would force him into ultra-feminine outfits and was once pulled aside by a production manager in an attempt to tone down his queerness for a role. After he initially came out as gay, six years later he came out again as a transgender man. Page reflects on this moment by stating the mantra that was in his head: “If you can do that, you have nothing to be afraid of” (201). Simply put, if he was able to come out like he did the first time as gay, coming out for a second time as trans should not be as daunting.
Following his second coming out, he felt a release of pressure from carrying around the weight of his trans identity, thereby making it easier for him to socialize with others. In the second to last essay of the book, Page takes the opportunity to acknowledge how fortunate he was to receive top surgery to create a masculine-shaped chest. Due to the cost, lack of availability and restrictions in certain areas globally, gender-affirming care is not always possible for many trans individuals.
By Page talking about the wider LGBTQ+ community, queer readers can identify with the constant struggle to fit in. To go along with this challenge, there’s the sense for some people to guard themselves in an attempt to hide their queerness. This is why it can be beneficial to take part in an LGBTQ+ space like Page discusses in his memoir. His first trip to a gay bar allowed him to find his community, where, as he puts it, there was “joy in the room” (3). Overall, Pageboy gives a compelling, at certain points, raw look into the life of a queer person as he learns to embrace his trans masculine identity in the face of personal and professional setbacks.
If you’re questioning your identity, want to come out, or need transgender resources, please contact the National LGBT Help Center through the support services listed below.
Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) National Hotline: 1-888-843-4564
LGBT National Coming Out Support Hotline: 1-888-688-5428 (1-888-OUT-LGBT)
LGBT National Youth Talkline: 1-800-246-7743 (1-800-246-PRIDE)
LGBT National Senior Hotline: 1-888-234-7243
You can also reach out online at www.LGBThotline.org/chat