Just the Way You Are
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.”
So who’s the lucky kid that made the cut?
It’s a guy I know — a friend
of mine in Long Beach, and I can’t locate him. I need to because I’ve
got his photo on the blog, but ... it was on MySpace, that’s how long ago
it was. He posted it, and I just died. I looked at it and I said, “This
is the photo.” He’s like 3 years old. I’m sure his parents did not say,
“Cock your knee and put your hands on your hips.” It just spoke to me.
It said everything. I have to locate him. I forget his name. He might
even be my friend on Facebook. I’m sure he won’t mind that the photo’s
there, but I’m a stickler for permission.
The blog just launched this week. So are you running every submission you get right now or are you being selective?
now I’m running what I get. I want to show kids in Nebraska, kids in
Kansas. Red states, blue states, fuchsia states, gay states ... gay kids
are born everywhere in this country. So if the submission has everything
I need, if I have the time, I’ll just do it right then and there. on the
spot. I added the layer of “Who was your first crush,” because to me,
that’s another layer. As kids, it’s not about sexuality. It’s about
attraction. We don’t know why were drawn to people on TV and magazines. I
just wanted to see, in a generational way, what was that innate
What celebrity would you like to see submit a pic to the blog?
I think in terms of a gay person that has so much visibility and is so
beloved, and I love that little by little, she’s brought her
relationship out into the public eye. That and we need more girls.
photos are all very cute, and I see that on the site, you address the
concern that some people might think you’re perpetuating stereotypes.
Did you give that a lot of thought?
I did, and you know, the more I
thought about it, the less I cared. We’re all stereotypes. We might be
straight and be a butch baseball player. There’s no right or wrong with
this blog. The photos and the words say it all, but the end message is we’re gay kids. We know what’s inside us. One kid, I think maybe he’s 2 years old, wearing a wig. He said, “When I had the wig on, I was
happy. When they took it off, I cried.” The other things is ... when I was a
kid, the photos of me that made me look a little gay were not the
photos my mom had in her wallet, showing people and boasting. So it
gives us a chance to be proud of our childhood and things we did and the
way we expressed ourselves.