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Adam Polaski

LGBT References Missing in 'Born This Way' Performances

Filed By Adam Polaski | May 28, 2011 10:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Entertainment
Tags: Born This Way, Glee, Kurt, Lady Gaga, lesbian, LGBT, Malaysia

When Lady Gaga released "Born This Way" earlier this spring, she heralded the song as a "message song," one to tell people to just be themselves. She told Gaga.jpgVogue that Elton John called it the "gayest song" he had ever heard. And over the past few months, it's become something of an anthem for the LGBT community, even for people who aren't huge Gaga fans.

It's surprising, then, that the most overt reference to accepting the LGBT community has been left out of recent performances of Gaga's No. 1 hit. Yesterday, she performed the song as part of her Good Morning America concert, and a few weeks ago, Glee featured the song in an episode by the same title.

In both instances, a key verse is missing: "No matter gay, straight, or bi / lesbian, transgender life / I'm on the right track, baby / I was born to survive."

What gives, Gaga?

The reasons for censoring those lyrics to the song made more sense when it happened in Malayisa, an incident that made headlines in March when the song was released. While the censorship is still inexcusable, the radio broadcasters who chose to render the LGBT-accepting verse unintelligible were complying with strict government decency laws. The broadcasters in the Muslim-majority country said they were taking precautions to avoid government fines or other penalties.

But on Good Morning America and Glee, the verse was excised without great fanfare or outrage. Aside from this piece on La Figa, I found hardly any mention of the missing lyrics. In both performances, lyrics referencing racial diversity- including "You're black, white, beige, chola descent / You're Lebanese, you're Orient" and "No matter black, white or beige, Chola or Orient-made..." - were not removed.

In a March interview with The Daily Express, Gaga specifically addressed the "Born This Way" editing in Malaysia:

What I would say is for all the young people in Malaysia that want those words to be played on the radio, it is your job and it is your duty as young people to have your voices heard.

Consider this article, then, a young person in the United States saying that I want those words to be played on TV. I'm not sure whether the missing lyrics were a producer's decision, Gaga's own choice, or simply an irrelevant cut that had to be made for the sake of time. But if it's the latter - did they really have to cut those specific lyrics?

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I left a message on her Facebook page regarding that missing verse, and tweeted her about it as well (No matter gay, straight, or bi, lesbian, transgendered life, Feeling invisible baby @ladygaga cut that verse for GMA) I noticed other people on her Facebook page who were also disappointed about the missing verse.

Radio stations in the US are also deleting those lyrics from the song.

I saw it used for a promo for one of those awful toddler beauty pageants. Is that what she intended her song to be used for? Or was the money just too good?

Either way, how interesting that the LGBT-inclusive language was cut, but "Chola" and "Oriental" (or all the derivatives of "Oriental") were kept.

I'm sure I've said it before, but unlike those non-Gaga fans for whom "Born This Way" became an anthem, I turned from a person with a favorable opinion of her (if more or less unimpressed) to someone with disdain for her lack of lyrical talent, lack of awareness or willingness to acknowledge her "mistakes", and the rabid, extremist apologeticism of her fans.

If I ever hear one more time that "she was just reappropriating the pejorative for Latinos and Asians" I will go ballistic.

That performance, as well as her acoustic performance of Hair (which was cut off half way through) had to be cut down because of time constraints. They had to cut off during Hair because it was 9am on the dot.

The lyrics were also edited on the group performance of the song on American Idol.

I actually think that was less of an issue - on Idol, the song was pretty much pared down to the first verse and chorus, juxtaposing "Born to Be Wild" from the guys as the girls sang "Born This Way." They didn't mention the racial references on Idol either, so there, I think it really was a decision based on length and song message. In the Glee and GMA situations, I think there's something more behind it - censorship from ABC/GMA or someone higher up at Fox.

Glee has consistently cut any positive mention whatsoever of transsexual people out of the show, so I'm pretty sure that was their move here as well. Glee is very gay-positive, but distinctly biphobic and transphobic.

I strongly encourage everyone who is holding her to account on this, and at the same time remind everyone to remember that all of us, Allies included, need to have slack cut for us from time to time.
I can be perfectly perfect in a blog post, but speaking truth to power on a grand scale requires strategy from time to time.

Given that the Idol and Glee performances of "Born This Way" weren't actually *by* Lady Gaga, I fail to see why it makes any sense at all to blame her for them.

She's savvy enough to threaten to sue a tiny shop in the UK for selling breast milk ice cream because it's called "Baby Gaga", but she's suddenly too removed to take issue with some of the biggest shows and performances in the country to use her "God-sent/Alexander MacQueen-sent" song and gut it of its "divine and sacred" purpose for cheap commercialism?

...

I think her Fame Monster is showing.

It's a song, not a political perspective. I'm confused why there's a discussion about this and not a discussion on HRC's well-known perspectives. "Why is this verse not there" vs. "Why did HRC insist queers present themselves as patriotic, homo-nationaistic warmongers instead of as principled antiwar people demanding equality in the largest employer in the US" or "why does HRC refuse to push a Democratic President and Congress for the passage ENDA when queers most need it because of their Wall Street bailouts?" If ENDA doesn't pass this year, it's not because GMA deleted a verse.

I suppose I understand that the line is more controversial, but if the song is meant to define an accepting attitude, then deleting the verses that are less accepted defeats the whole purpose.

Agreed. It'd be like using Grateful Dead songs to promote anti-marijuana legislation. It's just not right.