Despite the fallout from Jussie Smollett’s allegedly staged hate crime in Chicago, anti-LGBTQ violence is real and must be addressed, writes actress and producer Ellen Page in an op-ed for The Hollywood Reporter.
The Juno and Tallulah actress and producer of the docuseries Gaycation writes that she had “no reason” to doubt Smollett’s truthfulness when he first claimed that he was attacked by two men who beat him while yelling racist and homophobic slurs, and told him “This is MAGA country!”
But Page notes that the decision to charge Smollett with disorderly conduct for allegedly paying two Nigerian brothers to stage the attack “has led us all to examine hate violence and its implications and aftermath.”
Page notes, as have other commenters, that if Smollett did indeed stage the alleged hate crime against himself, it could make victims of real hate crimes more reluctant to report the crimes for fear of not being believed. Social conservatives, in particular, have long been skeptical of the idea that a “hate crime” is different or deserves special recognition beyond any other violent crime, with political pundit Ann Coulter going so far as to say “all” hate crimes “are hoaxes.”
But Page says that she has met real victims of hate violence in her travels, particularly during her work on Gaycation, which chronicles LGBTQ stories in countries where homosexuality is criminalized or not widely accepted by society.
“While the media and public debate [Smollett’s] case and await more information, we must not lose sight of the very real, endemic violence that LGBTQ+ people, people of color and other underrepresented communities face every day,” Page wrote.
“I ask you not to question our pain, not to draw into question our trauma, but to maintain, wholeheartedly, that hate violence exists,” she added. “The merits of one case should not and cannot call that into question. The media coverage does not convey the reality and totality of the cruelty and danger we face. This is the story that must be told.”
Page cites FBI data from 2018 showing that hate crimes in America rose 17% during 2017, the third year in a row that the number of incidents has ticked upward.
She also points to recent study from the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs reported that 2018 was the deadliest year on record for the LGBTQ community as evidence that hate crimes are a real problem that need to be addressed.
“As a queer but white cisgender woman, I benefit from the protections and safety that my income and status afford me. But I do not and have not escaped the threats of violence and the very real acts of violence and harassment that threaten and endanger our community and other underrepresented people,” Page writes.
“I endured bullying and sexual violence as a child and teenager on the street and in my professional life. My heart breaks for the people I’ve met who cannot protect themselves and who are objects of scorn, hatred, discrimination and violence because of the social and political context in which they live.”
Page says the increase in anti-LGBTQ violence is, in part, fueled by hateful rhetoric — from politicians, religious leaders, or even family and friends — that trivializes LGBTQ people and promotes disrespect for LGBTQ people’s lives.
“Queerphobia/transphobia is violence perpetrated on our children, our families, our friends and neighbors and the forgotten among us who have no voice. We all have to work together to end the normalization of anti LGBTQ+ sentiment and rhetoric,” she concludes. “No child, no teenager, no adult — no one deserves to be victimized because of who they are. No one should feel shame for who they were born to be or to live their life in fear.
“I am going to use my voice and visibility to continue speaking and — as storytellers and members of an industry with a global platform — I implore you to join me.”