Elliot Page is sharing his story in his first interview since coming out as transgender.
During a conversation with TIME, Page opened up about his journey, including a pivotal moment when he got his hair cut short at age 9. "I felt like a boy," Page told the magazine. "I wanted to be a boy. I would ask my mom if I could be someday."
Months later, he landed his first role on Pit Pony and had to grow his hair. "I became a professional actor at the age of 10," he added. "Of course I had to look a certain way."
Over the years, Page went on to star in a number of other movies, including Hard Candy and Juno, earning an Oscar nomination for his performance in the latter. But dressing up for red carpet events that go hand in hand with acting only made him feel further from his truth. "I just never recognized myself," Page said. "For a long time, I could not even look at a photo of myself."
As his star rose and he started nabbing parts in major blockbusters like 2010's Inception and 2014's X-Men Days of Future Past, he began battling depression, anxiety and panic attacks. Page said he didn't know "how to explain to people that even though [I was] an actor, just putting on a T-shirt cut for a woman would make me so unwell."
But come last December, he felt ready to share his truth, coming out as transgender in an Instagram post, in which he announced his pronouns are he/they and shared his name is Elliot. "I was finally able to embrace being transgender," he told the publication, "and letting myself fully become who I am."
At the time of the post, as he told TIME, he was also in Toronto recovering from top surgery. While Page noted being transgender isn't all about surgery—and for some the surgery is unnecessary—he said it allowed him to finally see himself in the mirror and feel comfortable with himself: "It has completely transformed my life."
Though Page anticipated to receive love and support after his announcement, he also prepared himself for a "massive amount of hatred and transphobia"—and that was, unfortunately, the case. As for how Page is feeling today? "This feeling of true excitement and deep gratitude to have made it to this point in my life," he said, "mixed with a lot of fear and anxiety."
Now, Page is on a mission to help other people in the transgender community. "My privilege has allowed me to have resources to get through and to be where I am today," he said, "and of course I want to use that privilege and platform to help in the ways I can."
And The Umbrella Academy star is ready to show who he really is on screen. "I'm really excited to act, now that I'm fully who I am, in this body," he said. "No matter the challenges and difficult moments of this, nothing amounts to getting to feel how I feel now."