It’s not easy being gay. In a world where heterosexuality is the norm and homosexuality has often been seen as more than just a religious taboo throughout history—you know, when legitimately recognized at all, that is—the LGBT community has worked tirelessly to declare that sexual preference is not a “preference” at all; instead, the nature vs. nurture arguments now lean more toward a “I’m on the right track, baby, I was born this way” mantra. However, is it necessarily a winner-takes-all conclusion in the homosexuality debate? According to Sex and the City actress Cynthia Nixon, maybe there’s more than one way to be gay. And ton of people are pissed off about it.
I’m pissed off too, to be honest. I’m pissed off at the people who are pissed off about it. In this week’s Hot Button Issue, I invite you to read the following carefully, because a lot of vocal opinions on the Internet are getting it all just a little bit twisted…in my opinion.
Actress Cynthia Nixon, whom we know as Miranda Hobbes on Sex and the City, has always been a peculiar case study for the LGBT community: she was happily in a relationship with a man for 15 years (they even had two kids together), but she’s been dating a woman since 2004. Though her sexual orientation seemed to have made a switch, she has said in the past that she didn’t feel like she was necessarily lying to herself or hiding anything. “I’d been with men all my life, and I’d never fallen in love with a woman,” she told The Daily Telegraph in 2007. “But when I did, it didn’t seem so strange. I’m just a woman in love with another woman.”
Many gay activists call her midlife switch in sexual orientation disingenuous, and Nixon chose to defend her relationship by controversially stating that for her, homosexuality is a choice. She explained to the New York Times Magazine:
“I gave a speech recently, an empowerment speech to a gay audience, and it included the line ‘I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.’ And they tried to get me to change it, because they said it implies that homosexuality can be a choice. And for me, it is a choice. I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me. A certain section of our community is very concerned that it not be seen as a choice, because if it’s a choice, then we could opt out. I say it doesn’t matter if we flew here or we swam here, it matters that we are here and we are one group and let us stop trying to make a litmus test for who is considered gay and who is not.”
Opponents argue that defining Nixon’s gayness isn’t about Nixon at all; it’s about how she’s abusing her elevated platform as a celebrity with comments that can not only further confuse young people who are struggling with their sexuality in silence, but also give conservatives some free ammunition to use against the LGBT community as they continue to fight for equal civil rights. Unfortunately, this is partly true, as people who are famous for something seem to automatically become spokespeople and advocates for something else (Demi Lovato fighting eating disorders, Rihanna speaking up against domestic violence, etc.). Cynthia Nixon just wants to worry about Cynthia Nixon, but she may have given up that right when she signed on for her first big acting role.
The thing about Nixon is that she refuses to call herself bisexual; she genuinely states that she was straight before, but she’s gay now. Political blogger and gay activist John Aravosis called her out on the supposed misnomer of her sexual orientation: “It’s not a ‘choice,’ unless you consider my opting to date a guy with brown hair versus a guy with blonde hair a ‘choice.’ It’s only a choice among flavors I already like. And if you like both flavors, men and women, you’re bisexual, you’re not gay, so please don’t tell people that you are gay, and that gay people can ‘choose’ their sexual orientation, i.e., will it out of nowhere. Because they can’t.”
Supporters of Nixon’s views say that whether people of the LGBT community say their sexual orientation is rooted in nature or nurture, it won’t actually make a positive difference in fighting the good fight. “Ask African Americans if they think being ‘born that way’ helped during the hundreds of years they fought for equal rights, or ask women about being born that way and how that helped get the right to vote or other rights,” wrote Windy City Times editor Tracy Baim in The Huffington Post. She also pointed out that religion is also a ‘choice’ that right-wing opponents seem to recognize, but ignore that of gender or sexuality. “If they hate us, they hate us, and how we got this way just doesn’t compute in their narrow minds.”
And after seeing both sides of the Hot Button Issue and agreeing with all the good intentions on the table, I feel like these members of the LGBT community are simply arguing over technicalities at this point. If being gay means something different to Cynthia Nixon than it does to John Aravosis, then can’t both definitions exist? She isn’t attacking anyone else’s sexuality; she’s only speaking out about her own. Why attack a fellow soldier whose sword isn’t even threatening you at all? Like Tracy says, there’s a different enemy that the community might be losing sight of, because of this.
Actually, both sides seem to still have a common goal in mind: so many say that these comments will confuse young kids who are currently debating and simply trying to figure their way around what they’re feeling, but what seems to be more confusing to me, a straight person in shock of all this controversy, is how these people of the LGBT community seem to be attacking each other’s worth. Does this environment seem like a safer place than the world where one is held against a harsh heterosexual standard, a place where you won’t be judged by your sexual orientation? Even more so, maybe Nixon’s controversial comments will actually help those young people out there who actually hope to choose to be gay but didn’t know they could! Can people still explore their sexuality after being in a heterosexual relationship or two? Yes, says Cynthia Nixon, you can, and it doesn’t necessarily negate the love you had for those of the opposite sex at the time.
And if we’re gonna get technical about timelines and titles, is a virgin who has never been in a relationship still straight, even if she’s never found a man she’s been attracted to? Just a thought.
I know it’s an important conversation, but it’s not that important and worth fighting over to the point where people forget what is actually worth fighting FOR. And sadly, that greater fight is still far from over. Whether “born this way” or bred into another, Cynthia Nixon is simply saying that we are who we are, right here, right now, and that’s all that matters. That’s all that needs to be accepted, at any point. “Why can’t it be a choice? Why is that any less legitimate?” Nixon asked in the NYT interview. “It seems we’re just ceding this point to bigots who are demanding it, and I don’t think that they should define the terms of the debate.”
Who is to say who we’ll be attracted to tomorrow, and who is to blame for who you were attracted to yesterday? Whether straight, gay, bisexual, or still figuring it out, your sexual orientation is yours and yours alone, and the only person who could ever have any kind of definition on the matter is the one you love, because that person’s gender—not their opinion—might change that label.
Can homosexuality be a choice for some people? Are Cynthia Nixon’s comments completely out of line, or are John Aravosis’ blogs overstepping personal boundaries?
Ashley is a UC San Diego grad who is holding on way too tightly to a potential career in magazines and goes to Vegas all too often. She’s fascinated with celebrities and strawberry beer and doubles as a pathological texter/emailer/blogger. Feed the addiction with tweets @cashleelee. Thanks in advance.