Elliot Page Shares the Moment He ‘Felt Like a Boy’ Before His Breakout Role at 9 Years Old

Just because a celebrity is in the spotlight doesn’t mean they owe the world their personal stories and innermost thoughts, but some do choose to share because they know their journeys can help fans looking to them for guidance and inspiration. 

The LGBTQ community has been especially represented by celebrities who know all too well that many LGBTQ people — especially kids — don’t always have support in their own lives. Their willingness to talk about their experiences has provided a roadmap and hope for many young fans watching from home. 

Elliot Page is one of those stars who willing to share his own story in order to make others’ experiences a little easier, and that includes revealing the moment that he most felt like himself as a child. 

Elliot Page is an award-winning actor

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Page began his acting career at a very early age. Born in 1986 in Canada, Page was just 10 years old when he appeared in Pit Pony, a dramatic film about a young boy who befriends a work pony set at a coal mine in the early 20th century.

That TV movie sparked a Canadian series based on the same premise, and Page reprised his role for the two seasons it aired as well. Small parts in Canadian films like Marion Bridge (2002) and Touch & Go (2003) helped Page hone his skills. 

Soon, he was getting buzz for his starring role in the 2005 American film Hard Candy, a film in which he portrayed Hayley Stark, a teenager who lures a sex offender into a deadly trap for a dark and chilling revenge.

Soon after, Page was launched into the spotlight for his portrayal of the title character in Juno, an independent film that gained tremendous popularity and acclaim. More recent appearances include TallulahFlatliners, and The Umbrella Academy

Along the way, he’s picked up one Oscar nomination (for Juno) and two Emmy nominations (for Gaycation) as well as several awards from smaller organizations. 

Elliot Page broke from his private past to come out as transgender

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While Page has certainly been a celebrated and accomplished actor, he also tended to stay out of the spotlight and live a relatively private life. He did make some waves when he announced he was gay in 2014, and the star’s openness was largely heralded as a great sign for the LGBTQ community, especially since he had previously felt coming out would ruin his career. 

Still, Page told TIME that the announcement didn’t fully allow him to live authentically: “The difference in how I felt before coming out as gay to after was massive. But did the discomfort in my body ever go away? No, no, no, no.”

That bridge was not crossed until Page made the announcement that he is a man and changed his name. He pointed to transgender trailblazers like Janet Mock and Laverne Cox as providing inspiration and noted that he’d been reading work from trans writers to understand his own identity more fully. 

One moment in Elliot Page’s early childhood sticks out

As Page talks about the ups and downs of trying to feel comfortable in his body over the years, he opens up about one early experience that has stuck with him. He recalls, “I wanted to be a boy. I would ask my mom if I could be someday.” When he got a short haircut and was perceived by others as a boy when they saw him, he felt right, but the experience didn’t last. 

Pit Pony was a breakthrough role for the young actor, and he wore a wig in the TV movie, but when it came time to film the series, he grew his hair out for the part. Page knew that a career as an actor would require a certain degree of sacrifice over his looks, but when he was 16, he played an anarchist in the film Mouth to Mouth and once again got to cut his hair. In fact, he shaved it off completely. It was still gone when he auditioned for Hard Candy, and the creators asked him to send in the audition tape again — this time with a wig. 

These roles and red carpet events left Page feeling disconnected from himself: “I just never recognized myself. For a long time I could not even look at a photo of myself.” That’s changed now, and Page is ready to be who he truly is.