Just the Way You Are
BY Ross von Metzke
January 14 2011 7:20 PM ET
They say a picture says a thousand words — and that’s exactly what D.J. Paul V. is hoping happens with his new blog, Born This Way.
Yes, it shares a title with a yet-to-be released album by a little-known pop star named Lady Gaga. But the title, Paul says, has been brewing in his brain since California’s Proposition 8 passed in 2008.
Frustrated by all the antigay rhetoric he was seeing on TV, Paul says he wanted to create a project that allowed people to celebrate what it is that makes them special — something photos prove takes shape long before puberty kicks in. To all the people who think gays aren’t “born that way,” Born This Way is Paul’s unequivocal answer — yes, we are!
The Advocate: Seeing photos of all these kids looking happy, totally at peace, and gay really put a smile on my face. Where did you come up with the idea for Born This Way?
DJ Paul V.:I’ve had the idea since just after Prop. 8 and seeing so much antigay rhetoric on the news — people like [the National Organization for Marriage] talking about choosing the “gay lifestyle” — just those two words drive me insane. My gay lifestyle is I wake up every day, I go to work, I pay my taxes, and I’m an American citizen. That’s my gay lifestyle. And so I thought, there has to be a way to show we are born gay. We don’t have a choice. The impetus for it was actually ... every once in a while a friend on Facebook would put up some funny photo of them as a kid. And that’s when I got the idea. This is the way to show this stuff, to show that we’re gay, innocently. When we’re kids, we may not know that we’re gay, we may not know what it means, but we know what’s inside us. And that’s what comes out, innocently, with the photos. They run the gamut — we have a little boy ironing fabric in a pink tutu.
That’s actually a friend of mine.
So did you originally conceive this as a blog?
My original idea was to have a coffee-table book of photos with the words of the people, their thoughts, how they felt as gay kids. I talked to a few people who know publishing and everyone was like, “Oh, God, this is not the time.” So I just sat on it, and it’s been burning at me to do it. And then, of course, after all the gay suicides, that really touched me. I really loved what Dan Savage has done with It Gets Better. I will forever support the Trevor Project. But like I say on the blog, it’s an experiment in sociology. It’s sort of like, you can’t argue with black and white.
When I look at the “More About Born This Way” page, you have a great photo of a kid in a pantsuit, but it isn’t you. Where is your pic?
The problem is that my sister — my mom died 10 years ago — my oldest sister has this big hatbox of all our photos. She’s in Boston; I’m in L.A. I literally don’t even really have any of them. I’m at the mercy of my sister, and she’s like, “I’ve been meaning to scan so many photos.” And I’m like, “Well, get off your ass and do it.”