Born This Way

Begin by placing three signs on the wall. The signs should read “Given,” “Chosen,” or “?”. The signs should be spaced far enough apart so that students can stand by the posters to indicate their answers during this activity, which will be explained later in this write-up.

Read the story below to your students. Do not read the information we have included in brackets: Click here for a .pdf of the story.

Hello, all! I’m Michael Flores, a gay teenager [sexuality] from the Bronx, New York [geography]. There’s a lot of my childhood I don’t remember. Unfortunately, what I do remember is viewed very differently by my birth father, who in the subsequent years would badger me on why I was a boy [gender] couldn’t defend myself at school [ability]. Or why I had so many girls as friends [sociology], my affinity for female pop-stars, or why I had no interest in sports [preferences]. Why couldn’t he see what my two older sisters and my mother saw when I danced in my 4th grade school play? I was gaaaaaayyyy!

There’s a stigma to being gay and Hispanic [sociology]. For many of the adults around me, gay men and women play a secondary role to the lives they surround. The flamboyant ones [behavior] are expected to entertain, susceptible to becoming the butt of the joke. While our humanity is talked about as little as possible.

It’s only more recently that young gay Hispanics are able to see transcendent figures who are not only gay, but fulfilled.

I grew up resisting what I thought would be my fate, if I “admitted” to myself what I was. Even though I already was, always had been, and always would be – gay. It was tough because my family was Catholic, and religion played a pretty big part in our lives. [religion]

I became fully aware of my sexuality at age 13 – when kissing a girl only did it for me when I was thinking about a boy. I came out at age 17 – when I fell in love with my best friend. [passions]

I’m about to graduate high school and will be going off to college in the fall to study creative writing. [talents] When I look back on my closeted, younger self I see an incredibly intuitive boy [ability], a boy who loved music videos, Michael Jackson, and penny loafers. [preferences] A boy blessed with friends who would become family, and support me when coming out. And a resilient little boy who wouldn’t give himself the appropriate credit later on for being a survivor – but eventually would.

I’m realizing that by resisting my “fate” I created an inner turmoil I wish on no one. But, it prompted me to define what being gay was on my own terms, by being myself. Being gay isn’t about fulfilling any preconceived notions or fitting into a mold. It’s about loving yourself with the added bonus of falling in love with the world around you.

After you have finished reading the story, go back to each piece of information that has a bracket after it (for example, where it says “gay” with the word [sexuality] bracketed). Ask students whether each of these pieces of information reflect something “given,” something “chosen,” or whether students are undecided. Instruct them to stand by the poster that reflects their answer. Tell students that they can also stand in between two posters (for example, if they feel like it is most likely given but are not certain, they can stand between “given” and “?”).

Feel free to stop and ask students why they answered how they did whenever you see fit (For example, if students seem to be really divided about a topic).

Consider reading this as a “debrief” for the activity:

Our identity is a combination of things that we choose and things that are chosen for us. Part of our challenge as LGBT people is to build an identity that is uniquely ours – not one that is limited by our circumstances or one that conforms to a stereotype. We are building a character that is truly ours.