At 6:00 a.m. EST on February 11, 2011, I jolted out of bed and ran around my college home pounding gleefully on my roommates’ bedroom doors, waking them up like it was Christmas morning. Lady Gaga had just released the song “Born This Way,” and I needed to dance. One by one they emerged – drowsy, but understanding the gravity of the moment – and we did just that. We held each other while bopping up and down, letting each celebratory lyric wash over us. I knew it back then, and probably even said it – this is the anthem of my life.
I had only come out two years before . . . to mixed reviews. In my small Appalachian town, this was expected. The journey toward acceptance for some folks in my life was difficult and still is, but we’re getting there. Growing up Queer, the road was rough, disappointing, and lonely at times, but this overwhelmingly supportive group of like-minded, compassionate friends found me along the way. They celebrated my entire identity, and their constant affirmation set me on a path toward self-love.
As we approach the tenth anniversary of the Born This Way album, I’m reflecting on everything it meant for me and my journey to slowly, but surely learn to love and (subway kid) rejoice my truth. In the year that followed the album’s release, I experienced my first true love, my first true heartbreak, and so much self-discovery. Whenever I felt myself sinking into a dark place, I’d turn on the album and the ferocious courage in her lyrics, the driving beat in “Scheibe,” the breakdown in “Marry the Night” all would inspire me to dance and keep me here. Back then, this album was an anchor and continues to be to this day.
On the tenth anniversary of Born This Way, I invite you to join me in this reflection. Click here to share with Channel Kindness and Lady Gaga what this song, album, and self-love movement means to you. We’ll share each of your submissions with our co-founder Lady Gaga and some of your stories may be published right here on ChannelKindness.org (with your permission!)
Recently, my partner and I were watching one of our favorite shows, Veneno, which chronicles the life and death of Cristina Ortiz Rodríguez (better known as “La Veneno”), a Spanish trans singer and television personality. In the penultimate episode, while Veneno is signing copies of her biography near the end of her life, she hears one of her favorite songs on the dance floor and stops everything to go lose herself in it.
As the camera pans around her on the dance floor, every incarnation of her younger self – Veneno at the height of her fame, Veneno as a teen, as a child – appeared alongside her. While watching her dance with her former selves who had experienced so much pain and joy simultaneously, it hit me. I know that feeling. The freedom of self-celebration that comes with dancing with abandon, like nobody’s watching, is empowering and exhilarating.
This moment resonated with me in such a way that immediately brought tears streaming down my face. Now whenever I hear a song from Born This Way, I too, have to stop what I’m doing to dance. I lose myself in each track and dance for little Josh – who was told he was too feminine, told he shouldn’t dance that way. I dance for 2011 Josh, discovering what it means to really accept yourself. I dance to celebrate my true self now, and the message behind Born This Way empowered me to do it.
Little Josh would be so proud of me, and I want to thank him for sticking it out. It got lonely out there on the dance floor sometimes, and it took bravery to keep going. To you, the wonderful person who chose to channel kindness today, I hope you are proud of your bravery too.
This message behind Born This Way continues to resonate with me into adulthood and ultimately led me to Team Born This Way Foundation, where I’m honored to help young Queer kids who grew up like me find their place on the dance floor and learn to love and celebrate their own unique rhythm.
Keep dancing, keep loving yourself and each other.
Rejoice and love yourself today, ‘cause baby you were born this way.
Click here to share what Born This Way means to you with Lady Gaga or use this form: