Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay

Rate this book
Sure to become a modern LGBTQ+ pride classic, this “amazing” celebration of the pains and joys of growing up gay features personal stories from around the world ( The Huffington Post )

Based on the hugely popular blog of the same name, Born This Way shares 100 different memories of growing up LGBTQ+. Childhood photographs are accompanied by sweet, funny—and at times, heartbreaking—personal stories. Collected from around the world and dating from the 1940s to today, these memories speak to the hardships of an unaccepting world and the triumph of pride, self-love, and self-acceptance.

This intimate little book is a wonderful gift for all members of the LGBTQ+ community as well as their friends and families. Like Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project, Born This Way gives young people everywhere the courage to say, “Yes, I’m gay. And I was born this way. I’ve known it since I was very young, and this is my story.”

128 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 2012

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Paul V. Vitagliano

1 book11 followers
Paul Vitagliano (aka DJ Paul V.) is an institution in the Los Angeles and Silver Lake club scene, and whose eclectic club and radio DJ career has thrived since 1981, first in his hometown of Boston and in Los Angeles since 1988.

In January 2011, Paul was inspired to create the "Born This Way Blog" - a photo/essay project for gay adults of all genders to submit their childhood pictures and stories and share their memories of growing up LGBTQ - http://www.BornThisWayBlog.com

Paul's simple but powerful idea of letting the gay community tell their unique stories touched people everywhere from the US to South America and all over Europe. BornThisWayBlog.com has achieved more than 5 million views since its debut and was featured on CNN, ABC News, Salon, NPR, The Advocate, The Huffington Post, Sundance Channel and many more.

The "Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay" book - http://bit.ly/BornThisWayBook - features over 100 stories and photos, including contributions from the first openly gay Congress member, Barney Frank; Erasure's Andy Bell; acclaimed columnist Michael Musto; actor/drag performers Miss Coco Peru, Jackie Beat and Raja; actor Patrick Bristow; and other notable public figures from the gay community.


As co-creator and DJ at the beloved DRAGSTRIP 66 club (which at 20 years was LA's longest running underground dance event), Paul knows how to expertly work the CD decks with cutting-edge music and beats for alternative and gay/mixed dancefloors. He is also the go-to aficionado for mashups.

You can also hear him spinning tunes for various Goldenvoice concerts around Los Angeles, such as Robyn, OMD, Little Boots, Miike Snow, Jane's Addiction, Gang Of Four, Gary Numan, Nitzer Ebb, The Gossip and many more.

Paul brought music mashups to the masses on the LA airwaves in 2005 via Indie 103.1 FM with his "Mashup Of The Day" feature, and his electro/indie rock/mashups got heard every Friday afternoon via "The Smash Mix" and every Saturday night with his "Neon Noise" mix show - until they pulled the plug on the radio station entirely in 2009. His "Neon Noise" mix show is now back online on The Independent FM - Friday & Saturday nights from 9pm-12am pacific - http://bit.ly/IndieFMRadio

Paul has also been writing music reviews since 1988; he was In Mag LA's chief music reviewer since 1997, and is now a featured reviewer for Frontiers In LA Magazine.

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
163 (25%)
4 stars
232 (36%)
3 stars
180 (27%)
2 stars
52 (8%)
1 star
16 (2%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 121 reviews
Profile Image for Sarah.
1,172 reviews26 followers
March 31, 2014
When I bought this, I thought it was going to be real stories, in-depth accounts about realizing you were gay and coming out, but it was really just little snippets that took five minutes to read – I think I read the whole book in under 45 minutes. Still, the pictures in it were absolutely adorable, and although the accounts were short, they managed to convey an awful lot in a few words. It showed the diverse experiences that people had coming out, and even though it didn't get very in depth, it gave a snapshot (if anyone even knows what a snapshot is nowadays) of people's lives
Profile Image for Nora.
Author 6 books42 followers
October 16, 2012
This book is adorable! Even if you are illiterate, the pictures will make you smile, and some of them will make you laugh out loud.

It's all photos of gay people when they were children, with a short description by the person. Most of the photos are of boys, and a lot of them follow the script of "I was a very effeminate and fabulous child who hated sports and loved dressing up in girl's clothes and I was bullied a lot, but now I love my life." There are also a bunch of very different photos and stories that help to give the full panorama of gay/lesbian experience. There were a couple of photos where even after I read the name, looked at the picture, and read the story I still wasn't sure what gender the child was. Which is awesome! I also really enjoyed Congressperson Barney Frank's Bar Mitzvah photo. I would love to see a second book that has more girl photos.

I won this book in a Goodreads giveaway. I was already a fan of the blog of the same name, as well as the sister blog "My First Gay Crush" which is also really fun. I will be proudly displaying this heartwarming book on my coffee table.
Profile Image for Matt.
14 reviews2 followers
November 13, 2012
Absolutely amazing book, full of touching stories of people coming to terms with being gay. Every page has a photo, and is captioned by the subject of that photo - talking about how they came to realize they were gay, coming out, and talking about how they feel now that they are out of the closet. A lot of the stories behind the photos are looked back upon fondly, while some take the time to share the real (and present) pain that is in their lives because of their own journeys.

It really humanizes what was once considered a dehumanizing abnormality, and gives a real voice to people who might have otherwise gone unheard. My only complaint was that it was so short - I could easily have read a book twice this size, and still not put it down without finishing it in one sitting. Highly recommended.
Profile Image for Allison L.
318 reviews17 followers
October 11, 2012
Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay is the sweet brain child of Paul Vitalgliano who is also known as DJ Paul V. Based on the popular blog of the same name, Born This Way features 100 photographs and narratives submitted by blog readers from around the world. Their stories and their photographs date from the 1940’s to today, and are paired with some very personal narratives about growing up LGBTQ. Some of these narratives will make you smile, some will make you laugh, and some will ultimately break your heart. It is truly a celebration of growing up gay, the innocence of childhood, and the importance of community.

Click link to read my full review: http://www.goodbooksandgoodwine.com/2...
Profile Image for Dzura.
190 reviews1 follower
March 13, 2016
"The truth is, our moms always know, even if they don't admit it right away" Buku ini selesai aku baca cuma dalam waktu 5 menit saja. Buku ini kumpulan cerita singkat laki-laki dan perempuan yang mengatakan mereka terlahir sebagai gay (bukan pilihan untuk menjad gay) dan dilengkapi foto masa kecil mereka. Bahkan ada satu cerita dari Indonesia yaitu Bali.
Profile Image for Jenn.
125 reviews3 followers
August 7, 2015
Sweet little book with small accounts of people being gay and when they knew. I myself am straight but i thoroughly enjoyed this book <3
Profile Image for CrabbyPatty.
1,588 reviews172 followers
December 5, 2020
This little book features childhood pictures and personal stories from 100 LGBGQ folks, from the popular blog of the same name. Some of the stories are little snippets of happy childhoods and supportive parents, others are bittersweet, still others are sad. So many of the participants offer words of advice about the joy of living an authentic life and the result is a sweet uplifting quirky book with some hysterically cute pictures.
Profile Image for Natalie.
163 reviews7 followers
July 4, 2020
Quick vignettes about growing up gay, which mostly focus on when each individual knew they were gay or queer. I enjoyed the humor and wit, but as a collection, it felt too quick and disconnected. Definitely recommended for young adults who may be wrestling with their sexuality or for parents as a whole!
Profile Image for Antony Simpson.
Author 135 books1 follower
December 23, 2015
From AntonySimpson.com:

Born This Way shares one hundred stories of people growing up gay from the 1940’s to the present day. Each of the contributors have shared a photo of them as a child and then wrote about their experiences.

Celebrity contributors include: Perez Hilton (Celebrity Blogger), Patrick Bristow (Curb Your Enthusiasm), Andy Bell (lead singer Erasure), Clinton Leupp (Drag Artist), Matt Baume (LGBT Activist) to name a few.

The book is aimed at the US market which is evident through the use of language using words such as “mom” and celebrities that are US-based. It was easy to get over this and relate to the contributors experiences including the feeling of isolation I experienced when I was younger, as back then being gay was taboo and there were no openly out gay role models in society.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading the longer stories in the book and indeed a few stick in my mind as emotionally touching. I felt grateful that the contributors choose to share their personal childhood experiences, to which anyone could relate too gay or straight. The shorter stories, with some contributors sharing a paragraph made them feel like anecdotes. I would of preferred the few shorter stories being removed and increasing the length of a few of the longer stories. There was no reference to bisexual or trans people, I’m not doubting that some of the contributors were bisexual and trans – just that some reference would have given me that unique context to their stories.

Vitagliano originally started the idea of sharing childhood experiences on the Born This Way Blog. The idea behind the blog and this book is to reach out too gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans youth with the message that they were born gay, they are not alone and that they are perfect exactly as they are. The book encourages parents to accept their child’s sexuality as part of who they are and to love them unconditionally. These messages to gay youth and their parents are wonderful, the book conveys and reinforces them well.

The Contributors of the stories come from Western Countries with most of the stories coming from the US. I can understand the lack of stories from Eastern Countries due to the legality and attitudes towards homosexuality, but a story or two would have highlighted the issues gay people face in that part of the world and give gay youth the message that they need to continue to fight for their rights on an international level.

Overall the book is fantastically presented with truly inspirational stories that will leave you with a sense of admiration for the strength and bravery of the contributors. The book will make a ideal gift for any of your gay friends or parents of children or young people who are gay.
Profile Image for Gremrien.
497 reviews27 followers
March 8, 2016
This is a beautiful book, I loved it so much! My only complaint is that it was too short, with so many stories remained unknown... (luckily, they continue to be collected on the respective blog, see below). It contains so much fun, and extreme cuteness, and sadness, but mostly just swelling feeling of love and tenderness.

This book was created on basis of some stories collected within the project "Born This Way". The blog, of course, contains hundreds and hundreds of such stories, but the book is limited to only several of them.

The book was created with young gay people in mind who may be struggling with their identity and wonder about these stupidity about "choosing your lifestyle." Nobody from LGBTQ people CHOSE their identity. They were just born this way. This project does not intend to PROVE it somehow, but represents it in a simple and effective way -- through earliest childhood memories and even photographs of LGBTQs. There are more and more evidence that LGBTQ identity might be seen and felt (both from inside and outside!) as early as in 2-3-5 years, and this blog/book is just an upteenth reminder of it.

...Sometimes they just wonder -- how nobody could see even from these photos that I already was gay and always was? However, most memories include the typical "I didn’t even know what being gay was. Yet people at school called me names. How did they know I was gay before I did?" and "when I eventually came out, everybody said that they always knew it" -- even if "it took ME a long time to figure it out." It was always seen, known, perceived! Always! Since the most tender age, when we do not talk about any "sexual" feelings and intentions. They were born this way, in perfectly straight families with perfectly straight surroundings and perfectly straight "role models." Nobody "propagated" gayness for them -- quite the opposite, gayness was unambiguously despicable, shameful, and scary. And almost always it was complete loneliness in this regard ("I felt as if I’d be the only homosexual my friends and family would ever have to deal with"). But it was only of matter of self-recognizing and self-accepting their inborn gayness, often through a lot of pain and dispair.
Profile Image for Kayla.
1,582 reviews65 followers
December 14, 2012
I love hearing coming out stories. There is something that everyone can learn from a coming out story. The positive ones give hope. The negative ones teach the reader how to handle the situation. So when I heard that Paul Vitagliano, one of the more well known members of the LGBT community had compiled a book of short stories about coming out, I knew that I had to read it. Born This Way definitely didn’t disappoint. I learned something from every single one of the stories. Some of them made me laugh while others made me sad. I could definitely identify with some of the stories, especially about being bullied in high school because of your sexual orientation. However, the stories all come with a great message. It gets better. It might seem hard to deal with now, but the bullying does decrease and you will find like minded people to be around who love you for you. The book also brings up another great point. No matter what, always stay true to yourself. Otherwise you will never be happy with who you are. Once you start to love yourself you will care less about what other people think about you. I loved this book. The only thing is that I wished it would have had more stories about lesbians bisexuals and transgenders coming out as well. I think Born This Way should be required reading for everyone. Maybe people would think twice about bullying someone because of their sexual orientation. I will definitely be passing the book along to one of my LGBT friends in hopes it will encourage them to be themselves.
Profile Image for Alison.
450 reviews225 followers
January 8, 2013
Banned Books Week. Unfortunately, many of the challenged books in schools and libraries deal with GLBTX (Gay, Lesbian, Bi-Sexual, Transgender, Exploring) issues, such as And Tango Makes Three; The Perks of Being a Wallflower; Gossip Girls; My Sister's Keeper; etc.. Instead of banning these books, we should be celebrating them, reminding our GLBT youth they are not alone.

I got an e-mail last week from a friend at Quirk Books, who told me about a book that is hitting the shelves on October 9th entitled BORN THIS WAY by Paul Vitagliano. Allow me to steal a bit from the publisher's website.

Ellen DeGeneres has said many times that young people need examples. They need to see someone who has been there before them, and come out the other side okay. Much like the It Gets Better project, BORN THIS WAY lends to that example, not only within the GLBTX community, but far far beyond it as well.

For anyone who isn't gay, I still think books like BORN THIS WAY are extremely important. I hope it inspires understanding, acceptance, and support of the GLBTX youth around us who might be looking for a little kindness. Together, let's erase the hate, and make the world a better place.

I recently saw an interview with the mother of Matthew Shepard, in which she said that parents of gay teens are often not surprised when their children come out. If you think, or know, your son or daughter is gay, have this book on the shelf for them. It may bring great comfort to them, not only in reading it, but as another small gesture of acceptance they need from you.
Profile Image for Sheila DeChantal.
632 reviews71 followers
January 25, 2013
Paul Vitagliano knows first hand what it is like to grow up gay. Even in today’s day and age it is still hard to find acceptance without judgement so in 2011 Paul started the blog site “Born This Way” which is a place to share stories and support for the LGBTQ community. The blog exploded with responses, so much so… Paul wrote this book, Born This Way, filling it with pictures of boys and girls at young ages and their stories about when they knew and what it was like when (and if) they came out and told their families and friends.

The short stories share what growing up was like. In some cases there was name calling and bullying which led to many of these children keeping to themselves and doing anything they could to avoid conflict.

The book is a quick read, the stories are short and sometimes funny, and sometimes heart breaking. In many cases, by the time they told family and friends, they had known and were just waiting for them to tell them. In other more heartbreaking (and thankfully rare) circumstances, families turned their backs… not understanding. Yet story after story no matter what the outcome, each person said life was so much better once they said it out loud and were their true selves.

This book is a short read but a powerful one. I smiled at the stories, occasionally laughed, and yes, at times my heart broke a little too. Everyone deserves to be accepted and Paul Vitagliano has taken great steps towards doing just that.
Profile Image for Elizabeth.
Author 1 book7 followers
December 6, 2019
This is not an in-depth account but instead a collection of personal vignettes (each by a different author) of a paragraph or two, each accompanied by a childhood photo of the vignette's author. The strengths of the book include the number of different voices (around 100, though I didn't count), the supportive message, and the humor with which these adults looked back on difficult moments of their childhood. Weaknesses include the superficial nature of the vignettes (unavoidable given the format and perhaps not a real problem given the audience--I imagine mainly teens with worries about their own sexual orientation and needing a quick snippet of reassurance along the way) but more seriously (despite the promise of diversity in the blurb) the skewing of the voices towards white, middle class males (some lesbians, a few Hispanics, at least one African American that I noticed, but mainly the experiences of white boys). I hope that this last problem is something that can be fixed by more publications like this (or maybe even a new and expanded edition). Meanwhile, I hope that this ends up as a coffee table book (I read the electronic version) some place where teens might stumble upon it (doctor's office, community center, etc.).
Profile Image for Sharon.
1,232 reviews9 followers
March 25, 2014
Fantastic book, I just love the stories contained within, and some of the photos that accompany the stories are just fantastic as well.
Most kids in the book look like every day children, and it just goes to show that they really are the same as everyone else, so why there seems to be this section of the community who seem to feel that they are not because "well, they are gay" is just beyond me.
Some photos you look at them and they scream stereotypical gay, you have to wonder how the parents could not see it.
All in all, I love how each contributor is happy in their sexuality, and glad that they can live as themselves, not what society or their families feel they should be. I loved the stories of the families who took the family members coming out in their stride, and did not make a fuss about it. My heart broke a little for the family stories where the contributor is estranged from their families because they could not or would not accept the child for what they are.
This is a great book.
Profile Image for Carolyn.
74 reviews2 followers
November 29, 2012
An engaging book filled with childood photos of gay men and lesbians, accompanied with short explanations of the photos. Generally, the respondants (some well-known, some not) were sharing their early awareness of being gay and the response of those around them. Spreading over 50 years (1948-1998), the increased level of acceptance over time can be noted, sometimes depending on the location or family's faith. For me, the major "take home message" was how absolutely CRUCIAL family support and acceptance is for GLBTQ youth. As a school nurse at a continuation high school, I've seen how completely destructive rejection can be...regardless of where a child's path in life leads them. I received "Born This Way" as a Goodreads giveaway, but this book is a true GIFT! I'm going to have to go shopping...so my peeps can have their OWN copy!
Profile Image for Tom.
106 reviews6 followers
January 5, 2014
A short cute book about people who've grown up to be gay. The book features a photo from the childhood of a person, some celebrities mostly just ordinary folk, and on the opposite page is a sentence, upto a few paragraphs, of reminiscing about the photo and their early lives knowing they were different at an early age. Some had no words to describe who they were, and some still reject labeling, which is fair enough. But all people featured have accepted who they truly are, and are happy succesful adults, and this book is very affirming and encouraging for any young person who is worried there's no one like them or no one grows up happily gay. My only critique is that I'd have like to have seen just a couple of photos from present day, would have made the book even more powerful but the, sometimes camp, pictures of kids and young adults were still great.
Profile Image for Lynne.
176 reviews11 followers
February 22, 2013
I have a few gay friends and relatives. As did just about every contributor to the book, my cousin knew she was gay - or at least "different," since she was too young to know what gay meant - when she was 5.

After reading this book, it breaks my heart to learn what gay kids endure, the emotional turmoil of thinking they have a "disorder" or "illness," as well as the taunting and bullying by schoolmates. It's hard enough to be a kid, but to be gay can add tremendous suffering and ridicule.

What I got from each contributor, though, is that the challenge made them stronger, that eventually coming out and being true to themselves helped them become better people.

Short book, easy read. I read it in one day.

Bought for my Kindle
Profile Image for Debbie.
607 reviews
March 10, 2016
What a fun little book that absolutely confirms our sexuality is not a choice but a fact from birth.

I am a fan of photography and the stories told through photos. These pictures shared not only tell a thousand words, but many more. The poses, the attire, the attitudes of the toddlers clearly speaks of their future.

My only disappointment in this book is the length of the narratives. They were quick reads that didn't give me more insight. With that said..the stories were uplifting because each person had found their way and was happy in their own skin.
Profile Image for Michelle.
787 reviews
February 14, 2013
It was a cute book. It was pictures of gays and lesbians and bis as kids and a little story about their childhood or the picture. Cute but most of the submissions were white guys. Could have used more lesbians and people of color. There wasn't even an Asian person and only two or three black people. The lesbians were also more geographically diverse.

Other wise it's acute quick read but you're better off checking out the website/blog.
Profile Image for Shauna.
367 reviews3 followers
September 4, 2013
Such a cute book! I loved the photos, in fact I showed so many off to friends. I thought the stories were great, and it's just more evidence that people do not "turn" gay, they are born that way. The only complaint I would have about this book is I wanted more! I wanted to hear more about each individual, hear more about their stories. These are very short inserts on each person, and I would have liked more.

Great book!
Profile Image for Elaine.
117 reviews41 followers
March 10, 2013
This is a lovely book full of hope and optimism. No one should endure bullying or cruelty for being the way they were born and I really hope this book will help young generations of gay people to accept themselves ... no, to love and celebrate who they are.The photos were charming and the stories touching. I would certainly recommend it to young people at my high school.
Profile Image for Nicole.
147 reviews
December 19, 2013
This book is great! It's a bunch of short (one or two paragraph) stories about people discovering gayness or acting gay as a child. The pictures are hilarious and the stories that go along with them are even better. I found it in the online library catalog so it is available through free, easily accessible sources.
September 10, 2017
I like the idea of this book and think it would be great for teens who are just coming out and the loved ones who support them. Unfortunately, the stories were mostly white men and I would be interested to read more from people of color and women. Also, these stories are very short--often just one paragraph--and I'm curious for more details.
Profile Image for Nikki.
1,030 reviews17 followers
December 13, 2012
Very quick read...for the ebook version every other page was a photo. I enjoyed the stories and came away feeling both happy and sad. I hope one day everyone will realize that gay or straight, we are all people that deserve kindness, respect and love.
Profile Image for Martha.
113 reviews
October 19, 2012
Such a great idea... a childhood photo with each short essay about their experience... bullying, denial, parental acceptance vs nonacceptance, and so on. Doing a great service... especially for children who think they are the only one.
Profile Image for Alisa.
705 reviews66 followers
November 7, 2012
This book had me laughing out loud and Awe-ing at others. Each picture has a story, short sentences in some cases, about growing up and just "knowing " that they were gay or lesbian and that they were "Fabulous!!!!"
248 reviews37 followers
November 11, 2014
A true, inspiring, funny at times, and enlightening book about growing up gay. It felt wonderful to read these short excerpts of people telling about their experience of growing up gay, coming out to their parents and their life today. I cannot say how much I loved it!
Displaying 1 - 30 of 121 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.