Born This Way


A photo blog from Paul V for which readers submit personal photo evidence of their earliest gay inclinations.

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  1. Oh, if I only had photographic evidence of, at age 4, I would cut out the pictures of mens' pants from the Sears' Catalogue and paste them on construction paper. When I came out to my mother, it was the first thing I asked her: "didn't you wonder about that?"

    Posted by: SortOfAnon | Jan 13, 2011 6:53:07 PM

  2. My best friend and I used to dress in drag in preschool, and the teacher thought it was adorable. But my mother destroyed all the pictures. I also won a Halloween contest when I was 5, dressed as Betty Rubble (Flintstones). Which I had those pictures.

    Posted by: Paul R | Jan 13, 2011 6:56:47 PM

  3. When you visit the website, you learn that Robert Conrad is a popular early gay crush.

    I kind of concur with that sentiment.

    Posted by: Latebrosus | Jan 13, 2011 7:11:20 PM

  4. Also, Paul V. makes great mashups.

    Posted by: Latebrosus | Jan 13, 2011 7:12:45 PM

  5. What a treat...

    You can't help but love every one of those little innocents.


    Posted by: pete N sfo | Jan 13, 2011 7:46:53 PM

  6. Everybody, I am FLOORED by the response to my blog, which only started this past Sunday afternoon! The response has been beyond incredible, so thank you all for not only sending in the submissions, but by doing that - STARRING on the blog!
    xo Paul V., LA CA

    Posted by: Paul V. | Jan 13, 2011 7:59:49 PM

  7. Paul R, :-(

    Posted by: Rowan | Jan 13, 2011 8:09:53 PM

  8. Am I the only one that has a problem with the implication that dressing up in women's clothing or acting feminine as a young child means you'll turn out gay, or that each person's experience of being gay started with some moment like this? It only gives straight people something to point to and say, "if my child starts acting like this, it's behavior I want to discourage because I don't want him to end up gay." I think kids are kids, and expressions of cross-dressing, femininity, and same-sex affection is common among all sexualities, and not an authentic indicator of sexual orientation. But that's just my opinion.

    Posted by: Anthony | Jan 13, 2011 8:37:17 PM

  9. @Anthony The blog is requesting "snapshots that capture them, innocently, showing the beginnings of their innate gay selves." You get to decide what that is. I think Jackie Beat's snapshot above of him kissing a male bust is a great example of that.

    Posted by: Aman Chaudhary | Jan 13, 2011 8:59:01 PM

  10. @Anthony, I don't think dressing in drag has anything to do with being gay. it's more common than one would think for children and lots of straight males have those pictures as well.

    However, it's rather cute and it is pretty culturally gay, if not sexually. Also, in some of those photos some of those kids are pretty fierce. More than anything else, it's about a celebration of gay culture and pointing out cute evidence of kids being attracted to gay culture at an early age.

    Posted by: Joe | Jan 13, 2011 9:25:36 PM

  11. I never dressed up in drag as a child, and know plenty of gay men that I don't want to know those things about. In fact, that's pretty much the assumption I go with, like how ugly people are all asexual and old and overweight people are fictional characters told to frighten young people into behaving.

    Nahh, this is, something.

    Posted by: TANK | Jan 13, 2011 9:35:56 PM

  12. @Rowan: thank you, that's sweet. I'm not really hurt that she destroyed them, more disappointed because they'd amuse me and because they obviously reflected her fears. She didn't destroy them until I was in my teens and it became clear that my female friends were simply friends. She also refused to take pictures of me from ages 13-16 because I had dyed hair and, later, earrings. But despite their crazy religion, she and my father fully accept me, and my long-time ex was always included on family vacations. People change, thankfully.

    @Anthony, when I dressed in drag as a child it was for the reasons Joe noted: it was just fun to put on costumes, not some indication that I was gay. And the gender and other lines that adults recognize and enforce don't occur to kids (I was 3 or 4; my brother's son also often wants to wear his sister's clothes or ribbons because they're "more fun"). It was also a practical issue---most of the clothes in my preschool's play bin were for girls, so we just went with it. The Betty Rubble costume came about because my mother had inherited a wig that looked like Betty Rubble's. (I didn't have some obsession with Betty or anything; I think my mother just went along with it because it was easy.)

    What children do (or don't) provides little indication of how they'll turn out as adults. I've had acquaintances from a dog park who I've seen several times a week for years, and only recently did several of them find out I'm gay. One guy I'd known for four years was telling his girlfriend that he'd been talking to Paul, "the only other straight guy in the park," and she had no idea who he was talking about. Once he said my dog's name, she broke the news.

    Anyway, the nicest thing about Paul V's collection is how many posts mentioned that their parents were supportive and didn't try to make them be "manly." That said, after the Betty Rubble incident I realized that boys were supposed to dress like boys and never did drag again until I was about 30---and that was with my ex on Halloween, dressed as Spice Girls from Beyond the Grave, with lots of fake blood and such. But who cares? Doing drag as an adult or a child, for whatever reason, hurts no one.

    Posted by: Paul R | Jan 13, 2011 10:06:52 PM

  13. this is awesome!!!

    Posted by: Emma | Jan 13, 2011 10:18:08 PM

  14. Oh Anthony -- You're So BUTCH!!!!

    Posted by: David Ehrenstein | Jan 13, 2011 10:40:11 PM

  15. ANTHONY, I completely agree with you that cross-dressing and other behavior that doesn't conform to gender stereotypes doesn't necessarily indicate a lesbian or gay sexual orientation in a child. But I think the blog is funny and amazing and moving, and I think that parents who are going to say "If my child starts acting like this, it's behavior I want to discourage..." are going to say it regardless of these images or this blog. People either get it or they don't, IMHO.

    Posted by: JOE 2 | Jan 13, 2011 10:53:51 PM

  16. This is a remarkably sweet (non-cloying) set of photos and text. My own early pictures look more like a potential ax murderer, so I'm a bit jealous. I was a Robert Conrad fan at an early age, but also liked (lusted for, thought I didn't understand it then) Guy Madison and most especially Nick Adams in THE
    REBEL. And, as a 2nd grader, I thought the high school boys across campus were gods--well, 3rd graders were hot, too. Again, no idea what I wanted to do with them , i just wanted to do it. Never did, sadly.

    Posted by: CoMo'mo | Jan 13, 2011 11:21:30 PM

  17. OMG! I just discovered Guy Madison in an old movie. That man was sex on two feet.

    Posted by: Mike in the Tundra | Jan 14, 2011 12:35:39 AM

  18. Yep, a little hindsight bias going on, but identification with atypical gender norms seems reasonable as a point to consider. I don't know. I never wanted to be a girl. But girls are the ones allowed to like guys. As a child, how does one work that out?

    To more important matters - the early celebrity crush. For me, the defining, electric moment came while watching the movie "Camelot" on tv. Lancelot holding the fallen comrade. As he embraces the comrade, Lancelot's face touches his. His lip lingers, gets caught, on the comrade's cheek. The hot, unsettling, crackling flush was like an orgasm.

    Posted by: TJ | Jan 14, 2011 2:57:20 AM

  19. I spent half an hour scrolling down through, and the best word to describe it truly is 'sweet.'

    I'd be the first to point out that kids are hardly as innocent as adults like to think, but these images of children for the most part just blissfully doing what they enjoy doing--dressing dandily, sitting on a motorbike, twirling a baton--has a quality of innocence, a guiltlessness that is radiant.

    Posted by: Vincent | Jan 14, 2011 3:19:45 AM

  20. Makes the heart sing.

    Posted by: Bill Perdue | Jan 14, 2011 4:56:07 AM

  21. awww the innocence of childhood.

    Posted by: Chris | Jan 14, 2011 4:57:01 AM

  22. On Halloween, I always got dressed in drag, not because I liked dressing as a girl, but because it didn't cost anything to use my sister's clothes. I guess it was not always the best idea. As a freshman in High school, I was sent home on dress up day, because I dressed up as a pregnant girl, wearing my sister's maternity outfit. Now how many guys OUT there can say they were kicked out school for being pregnant?

    Posted by: jerry pritikin | Jan 14, 2011 6:55:09 AM

  23. "ANTHONY, I completely agree with you that cross-dressing and other behavior that doesn't conform to gender stereotypes doesn't necessarily indicate a lesbian or gay sexual orientation in a child."

    I'm sure MAJORITY of kids who do that are gay and I'm sure you know that too.

    Why obvious things like that bother gay people?

    Posted by: Matt | Jan 14, 2011 7:50:02 AM

  24. Would a picture of me circa 1972 in a cranberry colored leisure suit fit in? I'm afraid that is the best I have.

    Posted by: Ted | Jan 14, 2011 9:37:15 AM

  25. @Matt: Obvious things don't bother me at all, but I played dress-up with three other boys, all of whom grew up to be straight. There's a big difference between what a 4-year-old will do and what an 8-year-old (much less, say, 11) will do, because in the intervening years kids start attending school, learn and/or are forced to conform, and tamp down their natural impulses to have fun.

    Even 5-year-olds quickly learn (though don't understand) the negative repercussions of not being like everyone else, especially if they act like a pansy. Children and adults alike will (at the least) openly mock them. In most cases it's got nothing to do with gay or straight, which is genetics, and everything to do with external/environmental influences.

    Not to mention, in adults transvesticism (basic cross-dressing; not transsexualism) is more common among straight than gay men, and among the straights is more closely linked to kinks and sex, whether fantasized or realized.

    Posted by: Paul R | Jan 14, 2011 10:12:00 AM

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