Nate Berkus: I Didn’t Choose To Be Gay, Dad, I Was Born This Way


I felt everything that I had ever been through in my life kind of rushed to me in that moment to give me the voice that I needed to say to him, ‘Dad, do you trust me? Do you respect me? I’m your oldest son. Do you respect me in business? Do you see the decisions that I’ve made?  Do you see how I was listening at the dinner table growing up? Do you see how I have chosen to have some of your qualities and discarded other ones? Do you respect me?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’ Then I said, ‘Do you think I’m smart?’ And he said, ‘Yes.’

I said, ‘Dad, why would I choose to make my life more difficult — why would anyone choose to make their life more difficult? The truth of the matter is being gay is the way I was born. I believe this to the core of my being. I would never choose something to make my life complicated. We’re never going to have a relationship — a real relationship — unless you believe me…Do you think I would choose to have this hair? Do you think that I would choose to be 5’9″? I would have been 6’1″. It’s the exact same thing as my being gay.’”

Interior designer and former daytime talking head Nate Berkus discussing coming out to his father with den mother, Oprah Winfrey (via People).

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  • quetzal13

    ME: I Didn’t Choose To Be Gay, Dad, I Was Born This Way,…to.. I’m not ashamed, bat also is no cause for pride….At least in Portugal…

  • ho

    …because being gay is at best the equivalent of being short. Fuck you.

  • viveutvivas

    Who is he?

  • hf2hvit


  • Gigi Gee

    @ho: Why do you douchenozzles see everything as an attack? He was saying that neither thing is a choice – being gay or being born a certain height. In what world is this seen as a bad thing to say? Wait! I don’t want to know where that world is because I’d rather deny that it exists.

  • petensfo

    The thing about judging others so harshly, is that it becomes impossible not to have that same harshness become self-judgement.

    Anyone that knows anything about Nate Berkus knows that he’s a great guy, first. For those that don’t, Nate was a decorator that came to us in the States through regular featured segments on OPRAH.

    He became much more of a household name after having been swept away in the tsunami. His retelling on OPRAH of the moments when his lover, Fernando, slipped from his grasp went a long way toward humanizing gay relationships/experiences among Oprah’s viewers.

    Obviously, I like the guy & imagine that his comments in People Mag will likely have the same effect on many people.

  • the other Greg

    Oy – it’s sad when a cute guy has a classic case of Self-Hating Jew Syndrome!

    And 5’9″ isn’t even short, it’s about the US average.

  • the other Greg

    @petensfo: Agreed (& I like him too) but there’s a problem with the cringe-making statement, “Why would I choose to make my life more difficult?” In that case why choose ANY difficult path in life, ever?

  • goodpa

    Many people here are missing the point completely. Nate was obviously in conversation with his father – trying to build understanding in a way that the man could accept, responding to and negating the idea that sexuality is a matter of choice. I think this is about preserving and building a strong, loving relationship rather than demanding acceptance without understanding.

    The examples that Nate chose can be read in a negative context but are really rather beside the point. Do not fail to balance them with his accomplishments and his pride in them.

    Changing hearts and minds is hard work.

    It is also what is required to create a world where life actually IS no more difficult for gays than straights.

  • petensfo

    @the other Greg: but O’Greg… it’s not to say that we aren’t happy with the life we have. Because of the society we all live in, it is undeniably more difficult. We all make that journey in our own way, but we deal with a lot that others simply take for granted; hesitating before holding hands in the street, or before sharing a kiss… choosing where we would buy a home or go on vacation. Like most gay people, I recognize that all of my experiences make me the person I am today & I wouldn’t change a thing… but we definitely face a more difficult path that others do not.

  • RiBrad

    I understand this is Nate’s way of explaining it to his father and making his father understand that Nate’s homosexuality is felt as deeply and strongly as his father’s heterosexuality. But there is a danger in the gay community constantly saying, “We were born this way – it’s a gene – we didn’t choose it – why would we choose such a thing?”

    What happens when a gay gene is discovered that can be excised? Or a part of the brain that controls homosexual feelings that can be cauterised? How do we then turn around and say, “Oh, but we do actually like it this way.”?

    We should be arguing that people are free to live together how they please as long as no one is being hurt. Even if being gay is a choice, it’s a valid, healthy, happy choice!

  • Kieran

    Nate is making the point that people don’t choose homosexuality rather than heterosexuality anymore than they choose to be left-handed rather than “right”-handed. Too often we still hear talk of sexual “preference” as if its a matter of preferring one “lifestyle” over another. We never hear such foolish talk about some people choosing to live a left-handed lifestyle. It’s terrific to have attractive spokespeople like Nate help educate and inform the public.

  • Nixter

    @RiBrad: Exactly. The being “born this way argument” is to take the stance of victim mentality- ” I can’t help myself”. And in effect says that nobody would choose homo/bisexuality because it’s so terrible! We rarely hear how homo sex is hot and enriching to life. Almost never. Part of the reason is because many gay men do live recklessly, believing their lives have no value.

  • LadyL

    @RiBrad: I think I get your point. You’d rather Nate have explained his sexual identity to his father in happier terms. The problem is Nate’s dad would not have understood words like “Even if being gay is a choice it’s a valid, healthy, happy choice”– and a bridge of understanding is what Nate was trying to build for his dad.(And the word “choice” might probably have only complicated tnings, implying that Nate did indeed “choose” to be gay and could therefore “choose” not to be.)
    I think it’s important to not be afraid to be honest with people. As others here have stated, most of us (especially those of us in our 40s and 50s) have had to struggle with
    what being sexually different means because of what we were taught and how we were treated growing up.
    In my life I’ve used those “why would I choose this” words too, first, admittedly, because I was confused and ashamed; and later because I was becoming impatient with the walls of denial, ignorance, and willful cluelesslness of others. As a way of getting someone to consider the illogic of their assumptions those words can be very effective.

  • Kasnar

    @the other Greg: So was that the comment about his not having chosen his hair? Is that referring to his being Jewish? I understood the height comment but the hair threw me.

  • Kasnar

    @Nixter: Not to mention presumably sympathetic allies from the straight world telling us constantly that there’s no advantage to our orientation. I once knew a member of the tribe – once married with a daughter — who declared it was more “interesting” to be gay. Because of other traits he possessed that turned me off — something like borderline psychopathy — I never fully found out what he meant by “interesting”.

  • the other Greg

    @Kasnar: Isn’t it a little odd that he’s complaining (kvetching?) about his height and hair to his own father? In a coming-out conversation?

    For a lot of gentile boys, that would be dangerous territory. It would hardly be an obvious way to make the coming-out conversation go well. The father might even punch the kid.

    But Nate walks boldly into that little guilt trip? I don’t want to overanalyze it, or be overly facetious, but it just made me chuckle. I think his hair is cute too.

  • the other Greg

    @RiBrad: @Nixter: Thank you both, you both raise vitally important points. A gay person coming out will of course be unfamiliar, yet, with those points, but gay people as a whole need to think about what you say.

    I’m always puzzled by the apparent yearning for discovery of a “gay gene,” as if that alone will somehow certify our rights. Unfortunately it would more likely do the opposite – cause straight parents to abort almost all gay fetuses – so I hope the scientific answer is much more complex than a matter of a gene or two.

  • viveutvivas

    I think people should really stop and think twice about the “born this way” defense. They are really implying that they think inborn characteristics deserve more respect and protection than things we freely choose in life, and that is a bad, bad, bad argument for countless reasons. Maybe this can be better understood in the case of a bisexual who can actually choose. If a bisexual man chooses to date a man instead of a woman, does his choice deserve any less respect or protection for that reason?

  • multitasker

    Being 6’1″ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be either. lol
    Nothing fits. Head smushed into the ceiling of most cars. The only way to get shirts long enough is to buy tents. One-size-fits all makes us feel like oversized goliaths. But then again, I’m 6’1″ AND gay, and I WOULD choose to be both for numerous good reasons. They’re just characteristics. They don’t define me.

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