The actress Ellen Page wrote an op-ed published Wednesday to remind the world that ― regardless of whether actor Jussie Smollett staged a racist and homophobic attack against himself ― hate violence against members of marginalized communities is very real.
“We, as LGBTQ+ people, are forced to fear for our safety because instances of hate violence... happen. They happen to us all the time,” the actress and LGBTQ activist wrote in a guest column for The Hollywood Reporter.
Page addressed allegations that Smollett, an actor on Fox’s “Empire,” orchestrated a fake attack last month in Chicago. Smollett told police that two masked men yelled racial and homophobic slurs, beat him up, tied a rope around his neck and poured bleach on him.
After a monthlong investigation, Chicago police charged the actor with filing a false report and said he staged the attack because he was “dissatisfied with his salary.”
“The conversation around Jussie Smollett has led us all to examine hate violence and its implications and aftermath. I had no reason to doubt Jussie,” Page continued, adding that through her recent work on her TV docuseries “Gaycation” she has met many survivors of hate crimes.
“I know how prevalent and pernicious it can be,” she added. “If this situation was staged, it could make victims even more reluctant to report these crimes. Very real crimes.”
Hate crimes, like the one Smollett said happened to him, are on the rise: The FBI reported last year that hate crimes increased 17 percent from the year before.
“While the media and public debate the 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.
People of color are disproportionately victimized by hate violence. In 2017, the country’s population was 13 percent black, while 28 percent of all hate crime victims were black. LGBTQ people, especially trans women of color, are at a greater risk as well. Twenty-nine transgender people were murdered in 2017, the deadliest year on record for the community.
Page added that Smollett’s story, whether true or not, does not change the very real violence that members of marginalized communities experience every single day.
“I ask you not to question our pain, not to draw into question our trauma, but to maintain, wholeheartedly, that hate violence exists,” she wrote. “The merits of one case should not and cannot call that into question.”
Head over to The Hollywood Reporter to read Page’s full op-ed.