Fact checking “Born This Way”


Oh, homos — how’d you get to be this way? The source of what makes people gay has long been a debate in our society, with everything from “gay-reversing” therapists, to the make of up of one’s genes, to the popular question of what each gay person’s “root” is. Lady Gaga’s latest single, “Born This Way,” hoped to smash all of the nurture nonsense with the very simple idea that we are born this way. So Salon.com’s PopRX column, which pairs a medical professional with some pop culture phenomenon, decided to fact check Lady Gaga’s tune and ask, are gays really born gay?

It’s hard not to immediately respond to the question with a resounding “Duh,” but the column goes on to give a lot of sound medical back story on the issue. They first cite the difference between a person’s sexual orientation (which is fixed), and a person’s sexual behavior, which can fluctuate. But most of the discourse around what makes people homo came from Freud’s earliest ideas:

The real controversy has been around what determines sexual orientation. Freud, unlike Lady Gaga, took the position that it was environmental, the result of child-rearing. If you were a boy, and your mother was overbearing or your father cold and distant, you were more likely to be gay.

This explains why my mother wonders if her being the breadwinner in my family made me queer, but doesn’t explain anything beyond that. The column notes that in Western culture specifically, homosexuality has always been frowned upon as something unnatural. “Anything that was not strictly procreative in nature tended to be viewed with suspicion to outright attack,” the article points out. They then give the movie But I’m A Cheerleader a shout out as a great satire of the various movements to “convert” gay people back to normal.

At the end of the day, though, does science prove Lady Gaga right? The answer is yes, as Dr. Michael Bailey breaks it down. He points out the possible confusion caused by Freud’s ideas, and what factors actually do contribute to sexual orientation: “As lay people understand it, ‘environment’ means the social environment. But in this case, it’s intrauterine environment. Factors during pregnancy have definite outcomes on sexual orientation. Most likely, the fundamental factor is hormonal, and how hormones influence areas of the brain that determine sexual orientation.”

Hear that, haters? It’s in our brains!

The wild card, in all studies, though, appear to be us women. The article goes on:

Leading researchers are beginning to believe that female sexual orientation is a bit more flexible than that of men. Women have a higher rate of bisexual feelings than men. It’s not uncommon for a woman who has been in a lifelong heterosexual relationship to become attached to and develop a physical relationship with another woman.

Tell that to the litany of hetero best friends I’ve fallen for over the years! Just kidding. (Kind of.) There’s loads more research to be done about genetics and sexual orientation. But for now we can rest easy. And the next time you’re on the dance floor and Lady Gaga comes on, you can sing along with confidence. We were born this way.

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