Common wisdom tells us than most communication is non-verbal. A frequently quoted statistic indicates 93% of communication is non-verbal; 38 percent is voice quality, such as tone and strength of voice; and 55% is conveyed in body language, such as gestures, posture, and facial expressions. Only 7 percent is conveyed in the actual words we say. Writers know this. We work to keep our readers from having to venture too far into Adverb Hell. We use sights, sounds, and even scents to build the world we want you to see, and listen to the conversations we want you to hear.
I thought about these things as I watched the speech Ellen Page delivered at the Human Rights Campaign, Time to Thrive conference. If you only read the words of her speech, you missed out on the power of the moment. You missed out on the power of watching a tiny woman, standing in front of a podium that seemed to swallow her frame, delivering a speech that she knew would change everything about her life. You missed the quaver in her voice, and the movement of her hands, waving a bit out of sync, moving faster as she grew close to her moment of truth. You missed the fact that the words she was about to say scared the hell out of her, but she chose to say them anyway.
Of course I don’t know Ellen Page at all, but I do know she is a talented actress. When she walked onto the stage that night, I’m sure she could have brought someone else to deliver her message. She could have brought the cool, pipe smoking character she played in Juno, or the gritty, determined dynamo she played in Whip It. Instead she brought Ellen Page, Ellen Page who stood in her vulnerability and spoke her truth. Some may question why she was so nervous in those moments. After all, she knew she was safe in that room. But, she also knew what was going to happen the moment she walked out of it.
And it did. Many said, “So what,” or “yeah, I knew already,” or “big yawn, who cares?” Some folks reacted as we have seen before, going so far as to respond with indignity that Ellen felt the need to make this announcement, like it was some big deal. After all, straight people don’t go around announcing they are straight. Like it is even close to the same thing. I have to wander if people who say these things are really that clueless. Do they really believe we are living in a “post-gay” world?
In many ways our journey has just begun, my friends. So long as state legislators take valuable tax-payer time to pass laws so the neighborhood baker won’t have to put two fellas on a wedding cake, we are certainly not living in a “post-gay” world. So long as even one person has to run through the endless mine field of coming out, we are not living in a post-gay world. There is still so much education to do and so many conversations that must take place. And when we do, we must listen with our eyes as much as our ears.