By Mark Joseph Stern
“Baby, you were born this way.” As soon as Lady Gaga sang these words on her smash hit "Born This Way," they became a rallying cry for gay people around the world, an anthem for sexual minorities facing discrimination. The shiny, catchy song carries an empowering (if simple) message: Don’t be ashamed about being gay, or bi, or trans, or anything—that’s just how you were born. Gaga later named her anti-bullying charity after the same truism, and two filmmakers borrowed it for their documentary exposing homophobia in Africa. A popular "Born This Way" blog encourages users to submit reflections on “their innate LGBTQ selves.” Need a quick, pithy riposte against anti-gay bigotry? Baby, we were born this way.
But were we? That’s the foundational question behind the gay rights movement—and its opponents. If gay people were truly born that way, the old canard of homosexuality as a “lifestyle choice” (or “sexual preference”) is immediately disproven. But if gay people weren’t born that way, if scientists were unable to find any biological basis for sexual orientation, then the Family Research Council crowd could claim vindication in its fight to label homosexuality unnatural, harmful, and against nature.