By: Emma Shealy ’22
We’ve all seen those hot pink packages of Lady Gaga-themed Oreos by now. As The Yowl recently explained, inside those hot pink cellophane packages are hot pink cookies with green icing. They’ve gotten mixed reviews, but the overwhelming takeaway seems to be that they are mediocre at best. You might be thinking, why are people still talking about these Oreos? They made birthday cake, red velvet, and mixed berry flavors (which taste terrible, I do not recommend them) so why wouldn’t they make some sort of color and flavor combination that looks radioactive? Well, if you’ll bear with me, dear reader, I think we’ve got a little bit more to get out of these Lady Gaga Oreos. How about…a metaphor? Metaphors are always fun, especially when they’re a stretch. Let’s dive in!
To start, let us examine the Lady Gaga element of these Oreos. What is she known for, besides wearing a meat dress that one time? The first thing I think of is the song “Born This Way.” If you’re not familiar, it’s a pretty popular song released in 2011. For reference, it’s the song that Jojo Siwa sort of came out to on TikTok. “Born This Way” has become quite the queer anthem and is in itself almost a crash course in what we call biological determinism — the idea that most human traits have a hereditary root. In Gaga’s case, the phrase “baby you were born this way” insinuates you were gay from birth, and your queer identity has always been a part of you.
Queer movements of the 20th century used this ‘justification’ for queerness in order to combat anti-queer sentiments about sexuality and gender identity being “choices” or “lifestyles.” In other words, the “Born This Way” narrative can be equated to that hot pink packaging. It’s pretty, it gets the message across, and it serves its purpose. But why do queer people have to cling to the fact that they were born a homosexual in order to justify their existence? Constantly having to justify oneself as queer suggests that just being queer would never be something that anyone could want for themselves. Queerness is framed in this bright pink packaging as the explanation for why someone is the way they are, but it implies that queerness is a burden to bear.
What if you haven’t “always” known you were queer? What if for most of your life you considered yourself to be cisgender and straight — a plain old Oreo kinda person — and then suddenly something in your life changed drastically? Or maybe you met someone who made you question how you identify yourself? What if a global pandemic hit and you were suddenly left alone with your thoughts inside the walls of your hot pink childhood bedroom, where the walls kept screaming at you like the packaging of those Lady Gaga Oreos (not to get too personal or anything)? Perhaps one day you arrived at the grocery store and were stunned by the variety of Oreo options available to you (Ever heard of fruit punch Oreos? Now you have). Here’s where the metaphor gets to be a bit too much of a stretch. Coming into one’s own queerness is certainly not as simple as selecting a new unique flavor of Oreos, peanut butter, or any other product. No one just picks queerness out of a hat of human characteristics. But being queer certainly cannot be reduced to some sort of simplistic biological factor. No one comes out of the womb with “gay” or “trans” stamped on their forehead. So whether you consider yourself “born this way” or someone who is just figuring out how to be happy, whatever Oreo flavor speaks to you is the one you ought to get.
Emma is a junior GSS and English double major from Columbia, SC. Emma can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.