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Born This Way
January 13, 2011 11:46 AM   Subscribe

Born This Way! Photo/essay submissions that capture men and women, innocently, showing the beginnings of their innate gay selves.
posted by hermitosis (78 comments total) 44 users marked this as a favorite

 
I think I looked damn good in a Jon Benet Ramsey meets Anita Bryant kind of way.

Oh, gods, I'm laughing so hard I am weeping.
posted by hippybear at 11:51 AM on January 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


There's nothing about having an outrageous sense of humor, a certain exaggerated flair for fashion, and feminine mannerisms that means you're going to turn out to be gay.

Says the one kid whose childhood photos looked exactly like this, but somehow grew up straight.
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:54 AM on January 13, 2011 [23 favorites]


This is very sweet.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 11:56 AM on January 13, 2011


We've been working on a cure for that Astro Zombie.
posted by The Whelk at 11:56 AM on January 13, 2011 [17 favorites]


I'm also loving how the "first famous-person same sex crush" entries for each person somehow can be seen in the photos. Like the guy in the KISS outfit who went for Tim Curry in RHPS.

This is great. It's nearly making me want to dig through my old photos to find a submission. Although I suspect that any of my actual childhood photos would be a my parents' house, and I only have stuff from when I was a teenager onward.
posted by hippybear at 11:57 AM on January 13, 2011


This is really cute and all, but I've got a picture just like this (as I'm sure we all do). It's of me and my brother, roughly ages 7 and 3, on a day that we swapped clothes. I'm wearing his little baseball jersey and jean shorts. He's happily mugging next to me in a dress and headband. This wasn't just some singular occurrence either.

Neither of us could be more straight.

I think the moral of the story is that little kids do things like this--because they're little kids. And kudos to the parents who let them.

For those interested in how adorable we are, picture is here.
posted by phunniemee at 12:01 PM on January 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


True Astro Zombie, but a lot of gay people had painful childhoods, and submitting photos here allows them to share with people who had similar experiences.
posted by Melismata at 12:01 PM on January 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think the moral of the story is that little kids do things like this--because they're little kids.

Well sure, but SOME little kids do this because there is something... else there. Which they are rarely able to fully understand at the time, but in retrospect seems amazingly obvious.

A website with photos of little kids switching clothes with essays about how they turned up to be TOTALLY STRAIGHT doesn't really do anything. But for people who had different experience, sites like "Born This Way" trigger really intense memories.
posted by hermitosis at 12:05 PM on January 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


omg, i have tears of joy and marvel (and yes, a bit of sadness and anger) gushing through my eyes. this is a lovely, lovely project. thanx for the heads up.
posted by liza at 12:05 PM on January 13, 2011


And for some reason, this thread needs a little Carl Bean. I Was Born This Way. (also kind of interesting of-the-time remix)
posted by hippybear at 12:05 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think I won't end up submitting my picture, but after looking at this I went to get some of mine, and I'm sitting with one where I am just... impossibly, heartbreakingly beautiful. Eyes like in a magazine. Maybe six years old? I don't know. One of the years before I realized that there was Something Wrong With Me. Before adolescence hit and I stopped doing anything I enjoyed because I didn't fit in anywhere anymore and my mother informed me that being gay meant you were irreparably broken and that I wasn't allowed to tell anyone about my uncle with AIDS.

A reminder I've needed lately, I think, and I'm glad this made me look at it. We are who we are. Even when we spend much of our lives trying to be something else, something of that remains. Trying to re-learn how to be that person after a lifetime of burying them in garbage is tough. It would be a better world if nobody ever had to do that again.
posted by gracedissolved at 12:06 PM on January 13, 2011 [21 favorites]


Astro Zombie: for what it's worth, and only judging by what you write here, you're one of the gayest straight men I know. And I love you for it.
posted by hippybear at 12:09 PM on January 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


It must suck to be a gay guy that doesn't fit the gay stereotype. It's like we only accept flamboyant gays and the rest should stay in the closet.
posted by doublehappy at 12:09 PM on January 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


Astro Zombie: for what it's worth, and only judging by what you write here, you're one of the gayest straight men I know. And I love you for it.

I wish it were otherwise, but I only have sex with men to remind myself how much I dislike it.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:11 PM on January 13, 2011 [17 favorites]


It must suck to be a gay guy that doesn't fit the gay stereotype. It's like we only accept flamboyant gays and the rest should stay in the closet.

I thought it was the normal, "straight-acting," non-rubbing-it-in-our-faces gays that everyone was so keen on accepting. Get your story straight, straight people!
posted by hermitosis at 12:15 PM on January 13, 2011 [8 favorites]


I am going to regret this buuuut

Me, age ...14? I wanna say? I built that computer from parts and yes that poster glowed in the dark

This was probably just before the hormones really kicked in and I grew like a foot in a month and had to start shaving which triggered a BURNING desire to re-paint my room dark green, hang brass mirrors and not only covet but own more then one type of ascot.
posted by The Whelk at 12:15 PM on January 13, 2011 [11 favorites]


btw: this is not a site that denies the fact kids cross-dress all the time. it's a site inviting people to share when, during those years of innocence and wonder, they in fact reckoned they were different in the queer sense of the word. no need to go into spasms of heteronormative corrections :P
posted by liza at 12:16 PM on January 13, 2011 [17 favorites]


I thought it was the normal, "straight-acting," non-rubbing-it-in-our-faces gays that everyone was so keen on accepting. Get your story straight, straight people!

No, they're what we say we want (we being NORMAL PEOPLE, I guess) because we want to show that we disapprove of flamboyance and gayness. But really, we're terrified that the straight seeming guy in the changing rooms at the gym is actually looking at our man parts and waggling his penis near our face when we're looking the other way. We like them flamboyant because it's easier to identify and ostracize them. I mean, imagine if black people interbred with white folk! You'd never be able to tell them apart!
posted by doublehappy at 12:20 PM on January 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


Little hermitosis, not fooling anyone.

Comparatively uplifting compared to Homecoming Dance hermitosis's obvious cry for help.
posted by hermitosis at 12:21 PM on January 13, 2011 [25 favorites]


You have no excuse for that hair herm.
posted by The Whelk at 12:21 PM on January 13, 2011


Please oh please let this turn into a thread where everyone posts their cute/awkard childhood photos! That would so make my day.
posted by phunniemee at 12:30 PM on January 13, 2011


Please oh please let this turn into a thread where I can spell awkward...
posted by phunniemee at 12:31 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wish I could find the home movie of my 9-year old self instructing my best friend, poor Robert, to "Daaahnce for me! Daaaahnce for me!" Or the photo my mom snapped of the time I wore her heels, rubbed vaseline all over my body, and tied a cape around my neck to become Fancy Woman.
posted by HotPatatta at 12:32 PM on January 13, 2011 [5 favorites]


You have no excuse for that hair herm.

Except TOTAL AWESOMENESS!
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:33 PM on January 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


Oh God, I need to go home and dig through photos right now.

True story: my parents (who, by evidence of this anecdote, must have wanted a gay child) bought me a record player when I was four or five. The only record they ever got me to go with it? "What's Love Got To Do With It?" by Tina Turner. I knew every word by heart and would run around the house belting it over and over. Certainly, no none could have expected me to grow up straight after that.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 12:36 PM on January 13, 2011 [7 favorites]


Please oh please let this turn into a thread where everyone posts their cute/awkard childhood photos!

All right. Here's me in the height of early 70s fashion. You'll note I had already master my come-hither look.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:38 PM on January 13, 2011 [15 favorites]


Aw, AZ. Five-year-old you and five-year-old me would have made such a cute couple.
posted by hermitosis at 12:42 PM on January 13, 2011


OK, these pictures might not immediately flag me as gay, but at the very least I was going to grow up to be either a pirate or a catalogue model. I could plausibly be described as the intersection of those two professions.
posted by Help, I can't stop talking! at 12:48 PM on January 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think there is a nudity/bird-size ratio in that first pic that definitely skews gay.
posted by hermitosis at 12:53 PM on January 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


That's a pirate who would have endless problems getting through revolving doors.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:53 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I dunno. These look just like kids being kids to me.

If you predicted my adult sexual orientation/gender identity based on pictures from my childhood I should be a gay cross-dressing cowboy who doesn't wear pants. But only three of those are true. So ha.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:55 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay, I'm totally going to hell for this, but my brother-in-law took the greatest elementary school picture day picture of all time and I feel the compulsion to show it to as many people as possible.
posted by Alison at 12:56 PM on January 13, 2011 [69 favorites]


Oh, Alison. I had the same reaction when Cher said she was retiring.
posted by HotPatatta at 1:04 PM on January 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


People are looking back at these photos through the lens of their (later, fully-acknowledged) gayness, Lutoslawski. On the site itself, you don't see many people writing about how these photos or events "predicted" their gayness. It's more about what you see in the mirror, once you know what to look for.
posted by hermitosis at 1:08 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I've spent a lot of time in elementary classrooms lately, and I've gotta say, there's something heart-warming to the world I see sometimes, at least when I'm watching. Yesterday, a boy announced in a 7th grade classroom that his favorite color was pink. (No irony, no smirking--he was speaking out in a conversation about favorite colors.) Not a single kid commented or batted an eye. Last week, a first grade boy was terrifically excited to get his hands on the latest Barbie book. And today, in a kindergarten classroom, two boys announced they were "partners" and refused to let go each others hands for the rest of the day. By the end of the day, two other "couples" were holding hands in imitation. All boys. And no one batted an eye.

Now, I realize that as an adult in those situations, I'm modeling accepting behavior by not ripping the boys apart and saying, "stop it" or muttering "interesting color choice, bub" with a tincture of sarcasm. But it's still heartening (despite the fact that I expect 90% of boys who do this turn out to be ostensibly straight) to see a glimpse of a world where boys can transgress gender-wise and be okay with it.

It makes me feel a little warm and fuzzy inside.
posted by RedEmma at 1:09 PM on January 13, 2011 [36 favorites]


A friend of my wife's has a son, age 9 or 10, and you can totally tell he's gay from his pictures. There's just that twinkle.
posted by Joe Beese at 1:15 PM on January 13, 2011


I had the same reaction when Cher said she was retiring.

Would that have been the first time, or the twelfth time?
posted by hippybear at 1:21 PM on January 13, 2011


So I guess it was only inevitable I'd grow up to have drinking problems, judging from this one... On the other hand, if "twinklyness" and a certain verve for fashion is any early indicator of sexual orientation, this one I guess foreshadows my own more or less gloomy hetero-alignment.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:22 PM on January 13, 2011 [4 favorites]


But it's still heartening to see a glimpse of a world where boys can transgress gender-wise and be okay with it.

Yes, it's a far cry from when Mrs. H (name not given in full to protect the stupid) would give long lectures about butching up (not her exact terms, but that's what she was basically saying) to me and another kid in fifth grade during playground time.
posted by hippybear at 1:23 PM on January 13, 2011


oh, how i wish i had a pic of me at 8 wearing my white pinky tuscadero short-shorts and midriff-tied pink shirt
posted by fallacy of the beard at 1:30 PM on January 13, 2011


Aren't a lot of these pictures just kids cross-dressing? Not all gay folks cross-dress, and not all transvestites are homosexual. Seems to miss the mark completely, as cute as it is.
posted by explosion at 1:33 PM on January 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Man, I should totally scan those pictures of me from middle school where I wore my dad's red checker jacket or a flannel shirt every day - basically I looked exactly like Buck - add sleeves, remove trucker hat, add waist-length hair in a severe ponytail with a precise center part. I mean, if I had turned out to be a lesbian.

Seems to miss the mark completely

I think that maybe you missed the mark.
People are looking back at these photos through the lens of their (later, fully-acknowledged) gayness, Lutoslawski. On the site itself, you don't see many people writing about how these photos or events "predicted" their gayness. It's more about what you see in the mirror, once you know what to look for.
posted by muddgirl at 1:41 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is me back before I had any idea I was going to grow up and run for the Senate in Delaware. In retrospect, it all seems so obvious now.

seriously, this is an adorable and hilarious site and I cannot believe people are so steadfastly missing the point (or taking issue with the point). Thanks for posting this, hermitosis!
posted by scody at 2:18 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Yes, it's a far cry from when Mrs. H (name not given in full to protect the stupid) would give long lectures about butching up (not her exact terms, but that's what she was basically saying) to me and another kid in fifth grade during playground time."

You need to act more like that straight Tom of Finland character. No one bosses him around!
posted by klangklangston at 2:30 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Complaining about post hoc ergo propter hoc is boring.

But if there's any thread that needs the img tag back, it's this one.

here I am.
posted by klangklangston at 2:35 PM on January 13, 2011



I was about ten when this picture was taken in my front yard in Bakersfield.


Yeah, you don't know me but you don't like me . . . but you that sit there and judge me ever walked the streets of Bakersfield . . .
posted by nola at 3:04 PM on January 13, 2011


Hating clowns means you're gay? I'd better go and get some dick up m'bumhole then I suppose.


Who likes clowns?
posted by Not Supplied at 3:10 PM on January 13, 2011


It's interesting that the perponderonce of pictures are of boys. I imagine that it has something to do with a more obvious stereotype for how gay men will look vs. how lesbians will look. Although, if I can find the picture of me with toy trucks sitting around in my overalls, seems I should send it in...
posted by stoneweaver at 3:41 PM on January 13, 2011


Well, they're doing science wrong: just 'cause some flamboyant kids turned out to be gay doesn't mean all will. And of course we all know that not all gay people are flamboyant. And we're all a complicated mix of both nature and nurture.

But once I get over my knee-jerk annoyance with the overblown premise, I love this a lot.
posted by rosa at 3:44 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm just dumbstruck by that Andy Gibb poster. What was he thinking? Who actually signed off on that? How many were sold?
posted by Ideefixe at 4:07 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wish that sexual orientation and gender expression were less frequently conflated.
posted by Rudy Gerner at 4:47 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Even outside the context of the wonderful blog, this picture is fantastic.
posted by you're a kitty! at 4:47 PM on January 13, 2011 [11 favorites]


This is me back before I had any idea I was going to grow up and run for the Senate in Delaware. In retrospect, it all seems so obvious now.

Is this a euphemism?
posted by doublehappy at 5:51 PM on January 13, 2011


This project is very sweet and this thread has made my day. I'd love to see the same thing done with transgendered folks.

Also, how is it that all of you have such incredible childhood pictures? Seriously! Whelk, I have to single you out to say you were 300 times the more graceful teen than most will ever be and, more importantly, you had a glow in the dark Metroid poster. I had a glow in the dark Metroid poster! Clearly, some kind of glow in the dark Metroid poster club is in order here.
posted by byanyothername at 6:12 PM on January 13, 2011


I still don't like getting my picture taken, but I usually handle it better.
posted by kirkaracha at 6:58 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Clearly not just about cross-dressing, just funny, cute and a teensy bit heartbreaking.

AZ: I only have sex with men to remind myself how much I dislike it.

It is difficult to not see that as a challenge.

posted by mediareport at 7:13 PM on January 13, 2011 [3 favorites]


It is difficult to not see that as a challenge.

I too felt challenged upon reading it, but decided that I fear the zombie plague more than I relish the idea of advancing the homosexual agenda.
posted by hippybear at 7:45 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well, they're doing science wrong

They're not doing science at all. You're doing reading wrong.
posted by hermitosis at 9:03 PM on January 13, 2011


A bit earlier

yes those are power rangers pajamas thanks for asking.
posted by The Whelk at 9:34 PM on January 13, 2011


The Whelk - but you got pussy at a young age.

Y'all some cute little freaks. Thankfully all photos of me were destroyed to protect the universe.
posted by yesster at 9:42 PM on January 13, 2011


Rather than sharing my favorite genderbendy childhood photo of myself (I'm a knight! In sparkling "chain mail" armor!), which I think I've linked to before I want link, instead, to Gay As A Whistle, which was made by Darren Stein and his friends, who, according to the This American Life episode about it, all turned out to be gay. The plot is awesome. There's a gay superhero in a jumpsuit who makes manly men smell flowers and turn fey! It just makes me want to hug them. And the kids in this post, too, despite the fact that my initial response was a lot of grumbling about gender prescriptivism.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:54 PM on January 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Thanks for this, hermitosis. I've a pic in a dress AND pants, willingly donning one and refusing to take off the other. It's hideous and my favorite pic with my sister. I won't be posting it there.

But my crush was James at 15. James, at 15.... (I was 15.)
posted by wallabear at 10:04 PM on January 13, 2011


(sigh)
posted by JHarris at 1:09 AM on January 14, 2011


These photos mostly just make me feel old. No one snapped a picture the time or 2 I dressed in drag. Pity. I was young, and was going for the camp. I didn't know the word 'camp'. I didn't know the word 'drag'. The word 'homosexual' wasn't in my vocabulary. But i had a comic intent, and understood the target trope perfectly. And I was going for a good excuse to smite my enemies...with a purse.
posted by Goofyy at 4:03 AM on January 14, 2011


Thank you, so sweet! And timely -- looking at school pics of my daughters over the holidays and we had them lined up on the dining room table. The photos of my gay daughter are Hi-larious -- even from kindergarten, she of the jaunty caps and many-pocketed vests and cargo shorts stuffed to the gills with snips and snails and puppy dog's tails. Her outfits get more and more boi-esque each year (and she's now the hippest lesbian hipster in Williamsburg). It's amazing how clueless I was, and I was buying the clothes!!
posted by thinkpiece at 4:28 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's me on the right with my cousin on the left. Neither one of us turned out gay though.
posted by ianK at 4:32 AM on January 14, 2011


Straight people really seem to have a deep desire to be able to identify gay people for some reason. Perhaps they think it's safer that way? Less uncertainty to deal with?
posted by Poagao at 7:21 AM on January 14, 2011


Because we have a deep desire to set them up with our other gay friends (just like we have a deep desire to set up our straight friends together).
posted by klangklangston at 8:19 AM on January 14, 2011 [3 favorites]


Straight people really seem to have a deep desire to be able to identify gay people for some reason.

Well, gay people do too. But for a different reason.

(As one of the "normal, 'straight-acting,' non-rubbing-it-in-[y]our-faces gays"--but one who appreciates flamboyance! go team queer!--it's sometimes hard to get a date.)

And to all the straight people out there: Yes! You're just like us! But different! Still!
posted by kittyprecious at 8:56 AM on January 14, 2011


And to all the straight people out there: Yes! You're just like us!

Just less fabulous!
posted by hippybear at 10:11 AM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was thinking more "The gender-expression criticisms you weathered as a kid were for acting different whereas ours were for being different," but that maybe works too.
posted by kittyprecious at 10:25 AM on January 14, 2011


The gender-expression criticisms you weathered as a kid were for acting different whereas ours were for being different

Well, if gender expression and sexual identity are different (which I believe they are), then this isn't quite true either. I was different as a kid - I don't believe I was acting different.

I guess it would be "It may have been easier for me to weather gender-expression criticisms because I had straight-privilege, while you may have had a double-whammy."
posted by muddgirl at 10:52 AM on January 14, 2011


(Though I did have a funny conversation with a gay coworker about that:

"Look, it's not like I find every other gay guy attractive."

"But you have hooked up with every other gay guy who works here, right?"

"My sluttiness is not the issue!")
posted by klangklangston at 11:32 AM on January 14, 2011


I don't know if bisexuality is obvious in childhood photos, but here's evidence that 1990 was a bad year for Easter dresses.
posted by sonika at 2:49 PM on January 14, 2011 [1 favorite]


We still don't know if glow in the dark metroid posters correlate to anything.
posted by The Whelk at 6:56 PM on January 14, 2011


We still don't know if glow in the dark metroid posters correlate to anything.

Oh, we know... Be assured, we know....

*makes notes in file, gives long meaningful glance at The Whelk*
posted by hippybear at 7:13 PM on January 14, 2011


Comparatively uplifting compared to Homecoming Dance hermitosis's obvious cry for help.

You were an extra in a John Hughe's film, weren't you? 'Pretty in Pink.' AMIRITE?
posted by ericb at 8:03 AM on January 15, 2011


The photos of me carrying a purse, forcing my G.I. Joes to make out with each other, redecorating my sister's Barbie house (oh my GOD you can't put the throw pillows THERE), thoughtfully applying nail polish, and dressing up as a witch (not a wizard, not a warlock, a witch, okay, mom?) for Halloween aren't online, but this is an eerily prescient peek at both my 21st-century dress sense and lifelong air of smug self-satisfaction.
posted by Zozo at 8:36 AM on January 20, 2011


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