By Stephan Lee
October 20, 2012 at 03:02 PM EDT

Every gay adult has those photos — the ones from childhood you never want your relatives to dig up. A charming and inspiring new book, Born This Way: Real Stories of Growing Up Gay, shines a light on those photos and celebrates what they signify. In the book, more than 100 adults think back to the time they knew they were gay. For most of them, the notion came to them early in childhood or adolescence — and there’s photo evidence to prove it!

The photos can be funny, cute, or awkward, but they all emphasize that being gay is not a choice. A personal example: In pretty much all photos of me from ages five to seven, I’m standing with my ankles crossed, hands firmly on my waist, chin down, and looking up seductively. I just instinctively knew that pose would make me look amazing.

Click through for photos and testimonials from Born This Way!

FIRST UP: A mini-fashionista grows up to be a successful writer

André, at age 4

1972. Baton Rouge, Louisiana

“I’m holding a tiny purse that my grandma made from an old margarine container combined with her delicate crocheting. When I shared this photo with my mom, she remarked at how cute my little sister was. I pointed out that the photo was not of her daughter, but rather of her proud four-year-old son, and she silently turned the page. Growing up, my sexuality was the proverbial elephant in the room. …

“I have a terrific job as a writer. I have a wonderful partner and a cozy home with three cats. It’s exactly the kind of life I was told would never be an option for me.”

NEXT: A tomboy finds love

Gabi, at age 7

NEXT: Jeffrey knows his angles

Jeffrey, age 4

NEXT: Jerome exudes old Hollywood glamour

Jerome, age 8

NEXT: Kevin was born to perform

Kevin, age 4


Maureen, age 9

NEXT: The only boy in dance class

Sam, age 8

NEXT: Highly editorial poses

Marc, age 8

1967. Scotch Plains, New Jersey

“I was always out to everyone but my parents. I am embarrassed by how long I kept the additional “roommate decoy” bed in the living room for when my parents visited me. Much to my mother’s credit, when I told her of another friend who’d died of AIDS, she asked me if Scott and I were “more than roommates.” I’ve been with my partner, Scott, for 33 years now. Although we do not have children, we share a song-writing career that has given birth to many proud accomplishments. I have never had a day in my life when I didn’t feel it was a blessing being born gay.”

NEXT: Classy gay

Marco, age 6

1961. Chianciano Terme, Italy

“This photo was taken at a café in an Italian spa town. My mom, dad, brother, and I all sat down in these modern 1960s chrome chairs; however, I was the only one who crossed my legs in such a flirtatious way! As children, we almost never censor ourselves …

“It is important to show who you really are without fear, because your photos will always show it anyway.”

Follow @EWStephanLee on Twitter.

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