Born This Way: Childhood Photos of Gay Adults

Blogger poses an essential question about human sexuality.

February 23, 2011, 4:41 PM

Feb. 25, 2011 -- What has more influence on human sexuality: nature or nurture?

Paul V. -- a Los Angeles DJ, promoter and music writer -- says it's a no brainer: he was born gay; it was never a choice.

"I believe we are all born with our sexuality. It's part of our genes in the way that we're left-handed is part of our genes and having blue eyes is part of our genes," he said. "No amount of your upbringing can affect your innate sexual orientation."

To prove his point, he invited homosexual adults to submit childhood photos of themselves, "snapshots that capture them, innocently, showing the beginnings of their innate gay selves."

Click here for a slideshow of snapshots from the Born This Way blog.

Each photo is accompanied with the story behind it and cataloged online. The resulting blog -- called "Born This Way" in homage to the Lady Gaga single -- is a celebration of gay identity that is equal parts funny, touching and heartbreaking.

Some of the submissions feature boys with stereotypically feminine traits, others include tomboy-looking girls. Dennis, for example, stands in his plaid jumpsuit, hands on jutted hips with one foot cocked fabulously aside. He's only 3 in the picture.

Still, not everyone is convinced that this resolves the nature vs. nurture debate. Writing for the web site Sociological Images (and cross-posting at the Gawker property Jezebel), Lisa Wade asserts that posting these pictures only serves to reinforce gay stereotypes.

She also concludes that "genetic, hormonal, and neurological research has thus far failed to show conclusively that being gay is biological, let alone that it is biologically determined or that it manifests in gender non-conformity."

But Paul V., 48, maintains that certain stereotypes exist because they hint at some sort of fundamental or universal truth.

"I've never said 'I like your photo, but it's not gay enough'," he says. "The photos were just the touchstone for what you're going to read. The story part of it has become way, way more important than the photo."

And the stories underscore the fact there is no universal gay childhood experience -- some kids felt ostracized, some accepted, some confused, others less so. Indeed, more to the point, most of the childhood photos look like snapshots of kids. Run-of-mill, ordinary kids.

"This blog is really just a celebration of self-acceptance," Paul, who declined to give his last name, told ABC News. "After the rash of gay teen suicides in the fall, I was just very sad, very angry and very frustrated. I really loved what Dan Savage was doing with 'It Gets Better.'"

Born This Way appears to have hit a nerve: the site crossed the million pageview mark in just under a month.

"Gay kids need to feel accepted, need to feel loved," he said. "And the bullying stuff has got to stop."

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