'Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay' - Photos of Budding Queer Women

'Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay' - Photos of Budding Queer Women

“Born this Way” - it’s a mantra made famous by Lady Gaga’s hit off her album of the same name.  It’s also the namesake for Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation, which, according to its website, was founded in 2011 “to foster a more accepting society, where differences are embraced and individuality is celebrated.”  

The slogan has been adopted by many in the LGBTQ community as a call for equality and a stance against bullying, and it’s also the name of a successful blog with over 4 million hits since its inception in January 2011.  On October 9, Quirk Books released, Born this Way:  Real Stories of Growing up Gay, written by the blog’s creator Paul Vitagliano. The book features over 100 photos and accounts from men and women around the world, about their experiences growing up LGBTQ.  The contributors include US Congressman Barney Frank, Grammy-nominated performer Sia, Erasure’s Andy Bell and other gays and lesbians eager to tell their stories to young people growing up gay.

Many of the photos are of kids who haven’t yet learned that there’s anything different about them or anything they feel in their hearts that some people ignorantly think is wrong. In one, a young boy holds his mom’s purse under his arm where, traditionally, other boys his age might tuck a football.  In another, a little girl looks miserable in a frilly dress on school picture day, having wanted to wear her plastic fireman’s hat.

Some of these stories are sad accounts of broken relationships, as the writers talk about their families’ struggle with acceptance.  But what rings truest in the book is how these photos, weighted against preconceptions associated with what a little boy and a little girl are supposed to be, represent a society that still has so far to go.  Many of the men and women who reflect upon their individual photos are proud to see that, at such a young age, they refused to hide who they truly were. Still, some faced judgment from their classmates, being called “queer, fag, and dyke” even before they knew what these words meant.  All they understood, albeit falsely, was that these terms implied something that was weird, different and wrong.  One man writes about the damage caused by this name-calling, saying, “The hardest part of being called names like that was knowing they were right.”

Born this Way confirms the sad fact that many of us already know – every day, young LGBTQ kids in this country are bullied incessantly for being different.  They are labeled as outcasts by their peers, and sometimes by their families.  While the book reassures these young people that “it does get better,” it identifies the need for greater understanding within many of their communities and shows us all that we still have far to go.

Born This Way illustrates for young gay kids that there are plenty of others like them who grew up realizing they were different, and it affirms that they can be themselves and still lead healthy and happy lives.  The book calls on all of society to reflect on the words we say, the people we mock and the reasons we do it.   But more importantly, it tells these young people to embrace themselves, and remember:  they were born this way.

Enjoy a few images of women from the Born this Way book, which would make an awesome, last-minute holiday gift by the way! 



Sia, age 3

Adelaide, S. Australia (1978)

"Today I call myself an art fag, a lezzie, a dyke, and straight. 

But the truth is, all those labels don't matter."

Sia is Grammy-nominated singer and songwriter, Sia Furler


more on next page...





Diana, age 4

Verona, Italy (1980)

"I've always been a bit of a tomboy, and I'm thankful for my genes every day.

Just be authentic, and people will love you in spite of their prejudices."

more on next page...





Kelly Jo, age 10

Seabrook, Texas (1975)

"Yes, it was hard growing up gay. But looking back now, I wouldn't change a thing.

It made me who I am today: a strong, creative, and caring person."


more on next page...






Liz, age 6

Buffalo, New York (1961)

"When I developed a huge crush on my butch gym teacher (didn't we all?), 

my mother told me that crushes on other girls were perfectly normal."


more on next page...




Michelle, age 5

Limerick, Ireland (1998)

"I never chose to be anything. I was just a carefree little gay Irish girl from day one."

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