By Jonathon Van Maren
In 2015, 17 million people watched Diane Sawyer interview Bruce Jenner about his decision to come out as Caitlyn. It was a TV event, heralded by many as a crucial tipping point in the battle for transgender media visibility. Cultural lightyears have elapsed since then — most media outlets covered the interview as a discussion with Bruce Jenner and referred to the former Olympian as he.
Six years on, referring to Ellen Page as “she” in the wake of her interview with Oprah about her transition to “Elliot Page” would be considered a hate crime in many quarters. “Deadnaming” now gets you unpersoned on social media.
Jenner broke the way; Page is using her celebrity status to consolidate transgender gains and push back against those seeking to stem the tide. “Coming out” is not just self-expression in an era where constructing the self is everything — it is the use of weaponized personal testimony to gin up empathy for a political agenda.
When Page sat down with Winfrey, it was not just for one of the intimate interviews the TV host is famous for. It was, much like Winfrey’s interview with Harry and Meghan, a power move calculated for maximum effect.