Lately, I’ve thought a lot about the sentiment of “Born This Way”. Yes, it’s the title of the latest Lady Gaga song (which, FYI, is awesome); it is also the name of a fantastic blog / campaign that invites gay adults to send in representative pictures of themselves as children and describe when and how they knew that they were gay. In the spirit of anti-bullying, Spirit Day and the It Gets Better Project, I think this blog effort is so powerful and will hopefully go a long way in overcoming some of the ignorance and misconceptions about what makes PEOPLE who they are – gay, straight or otherwise.
The words “Born this Way” apply to every single person walking the planet. There are just some things about us – personality, likes and dislikes, emotions – that we are born with. It’s who we are and always have been, and there is nothing anyone can do or say that’s going to change it. For better or worse, our individual good, bad and ugly are part of our DNA, along with eye color and blood type.
Reflecting on “Born this Way” got me wondering about my brother and people with mental illness. While I know that mental illnesses rear their ugly heads at all different points from childhood through adulthood, I am curious as to whether there was a turning point in his youth where he felt that he was “different”. Be it depression, bipolar, or whatever you want to call it, was this always with him from day 1, or is it something that manifested over time? While I personally didn’t see him as being depressed or manic when we were growing up, what we see on the outside and what someone feels on the inside can be very contradictory. Regardless of when he started feeling his pain, I wish that he realized that it was all right to feel how he did – and had the confidence to understand that things would, in fact, get better.
Thinking about my own adolescence, it sucked. But who’s doesn’t? Between the hormones, physical changes, bad teeth, skin and hair (or as my adolescence was in the 80s, REALLY BAD hair) how anyone can get through it without tremendous insecurity and self-doubt is beyond me. For me personally, some of those feelings took a long time to outgrow. But even through the insecurity, I knew that I wasn’t born that way – it was something I experienced and dealt with, so I could go back to being my (mostly) fabulous, born-this-way self. It wasn’t easy, and the journey continues each day. Of course I fully realize that I drive some people crazy, but it’s who I am. Take me or leave me.
So in the spirit of “Born this Way”, below are two pictures of me as a child that even 30+ years ago, represent who I am and who I became (unfortunately I had limited choices as most of my childhood photos are with my parents). Enjoy – and I would love to hear your own “Born this Way” experiences. Please comment!! (and for my gay readers, please send your stories to “Born this Way” to help LGBT youth embrace who they are!).