An interview with Born This Way's Paul V.

A submission on Born This Way

I had the chance to ask the man behind my new favorite blog, Born This Way, some questions.

Who the heck are you?
My name is Paul V. (aka DJ Paul V.), from Los Angeles. I’m a longtime club and radio DJ, music reviews writer, and general music biz “Promosexual.” You could also say I’m a bit of a Facebook activist and outspoken mouthpiece for gay rights and equality. Also, “Born This Way” is my first ever official blog.

What made you create the blog?
The idea had been brewing in my head for about 3 or 4 years, after seeing the original pic of the little boy in the plaid jumpsuit. Who I finally located – it’s my friend Dennis Skeen, from Long Beach, CA. After originally seeing his pic on his MySpace profile, my immediate thought was: If there’s any doubt that gay people are born that way, this pic absolutely proves them wrong! And that’s when the idea of a coffee table book featuring pix and stories just like his, was hatched. However, what prompted me to get the blog going has been more recent current events, like Prop 8 passing here in CA, the gay marriage debate in general, and most importantly – the terrible news of all the suicides of those gay kids last year. Dan Savage’s It Gets Better project was a major inspiration too, for my blog to be another place to try and help gay kids struggling now, who might see themselves in these pix and stories.

Who were your first submissions? How have they grown?
The blog started on 1/9/11 with me basically begging my gay Facebook friends for submissions (and about 6,000 page views on 1/12/11), to now 286,000+ page views! In just 7 short days, the response has been astounding – like, of TSUNAMI proportions. It also means I have to open and close the submissions every few days, just to be able to catch up and get people’s pix and stories posted up. It’s a bit overwhelming, but I’m doing my best to get on some kind of set schedule that I can devote to the blog.

Has there been any theme to the photos you’ve received? Anything repeating in the images?
Some things repeat in the pix, such as Halloween pix (usually of young boys doing some kind of drag), as well as just simple family or “class pictures” – where there’s just something in the subject’s eyes, smile, pose or energy that’s revealing. But it’s the stories that seem to share the most themes, such as “I was a ‘different’ kind of kid whose parents always encouraged me to just be myself” kind of thing. But there’s also sadness too, about bullying and pain. I think both those positive and negative things (and all each person wants to share about their experience) is really important to see. One great commonality is how even the kids who were bullied or very unhappy as gay kids, are now very happy, healthy, and vibrant gay adults. And that’s what I hope gay kids of 2011 can take to heart in the blog.

Something charming about your site is its simplicity: the layout, the images, all of it. Was that intentional?
Yes, pretty much. I knew the blog needed to be easy to read and navigate, and that each submission needed to solely be that person’s picture and their story, which seems to be the biggest resonance with people who’ve discovered the site. I added the “Famous First Crush” element just for fun, and to see if there’s any themes or patterns on that level too. Apparently, actor Robert Conrad stirred many a gay boy’s “imagination” back in the day!

What do you hope to accomplish with Born This Way?
On a small scale, I’d love to see the original idea of a book version to come true. Or perhaps, maybe even some kind of a gallery presentation. On a much bigger scale, I’d like the blog to save some lives of gay kids, to finally help end the notion that gay people “choose” their sexual orientation (ahem – they don’t!), and to just be another sledgehammer that helps to knock down the wall of homophobia and inequality against gay people.

Lastly, do you still have a love for plaid?
Haha! You need to ask Dennis that question, not me!