The Met Gala felt like a lurid dream to me, serving as a stark reminder of the wealth that celebrities possess. It was, for the lack of a better word, glitzy. The dresses were deliberately gaudy, ostentatious and even outright contradictory to the theme of “American Independence”. I also noticed that among the men, there was a lot of focus on wearing clothing that was not traditionally considered masculine. As evidenced by Lil Nas X’s choice, the gaudiness and glitz included gender-mangling too.
However, there was a lot of criticism directed towards the men who showed up in an old-fashioned black suit. They did not excite, dazzle, or dare to break the rules. There was nothing new about them. Elliot Page was however an exception. This was his first gala since he came out as a man, and hence his first official public appearance. He did come dressed in a plain black suit. Does he warrant criticism too? I would contend that he does not. For a transmasculine person, an actor no less, who has had to perform the assigned role of a cis-woman, stewing in dysphoria and acting all the while, it is hardly a stretch to think that he wants to be comfortable and relaxed in his public appearance. It is not a cause of criticism.
I think it is a cause for celebration when a trans-man wears a simple black suit. It is a stark icon set against the systemic lack of support that trans people receive from the wider society. But Page’s suit holds more symbolic meaning than just that. On the lapel, he sported a green rose. It was likely meant to be something that might have been just another accessory purely for aesthetics: on any other celebrity it just might be. But it has a hidden meaning. In the times of Oscar Wilde, when being gay was punishable by a long prison sentence (what’s changed?), to mask their identities in public, gay men used to wear green carnations to mark them out as queer to other gay men. It was a secret symbol within the community, one that indicated welcomeness. It was a sign that was popularized by Wilde himself, who was punished for being gay and sentenced to prison, a trial which ultimately killed him.
But Elliot Page was wearing a green rose, not carnation. Does that still indicate something? Yes. It is likely a reference to the line “Give Us Our Roses While We’re Still Here”, a line from an art piece by B. Parker, a trans person of colour from New Orleans who made it for the Transgender Day of Remembrance. They made the piece, and wrote the quote, because,
“Roses can be a symbol of friendship, love, and acknowledgement of achievement, but are often associated with mourning the loss of someone close to us. Reframing the giving of roses in relation to trans lives immediately lets people know that we want to be cherished and honoured while we walk the earth.”
This incredibly melancholic and hopeful message resonated in the rose worn by Elliot Page. It was a representation of their transness, and in their first public event as a transmasculine person, wearing a suit is not a bad start.