Sunday, February 19, 2012

On Cynthia Nixon's "choice to be gay"

This post is a few weeks late, but oh well. Let's just go with it.

On January 19, the Times posted a profile of Cynthia Nixon.  Here's an excerpt from the article:
“I totally reject [the idea that her change in sexual orientation is somehow a lie],” she said heatedly. “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.” Her face was red and her arms were waving. “As you can tell,” she said, “I am very annoyed about this issue. Why can’t it be a choice? Why is that any less legitimate? 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. I also feel like people think I was walking around in a cloud and didn’t realize I was gay, which I find really offensive. I find it offensive to me, but I also find it offensive to all the men I’ve been out with.”
A few weeks later, a friend of mine directed my attention to Nixon's comments, and I said to her, "Wow, I've actually said that exact thing before. 'Gay is better.' It really is! I totally understand where she's coming from."

Then, not a day later, another friend directed me to an article by Lindsay Miller, written in response to all of the criticism Nixon received after the Times piece ran.  I literally got chills reading her words.  So much of what she wrote has either literally passed through my lips in this past year as I have worked to explain my change in sexuality to my friends, old and new, or so closely parallels my own thoughts about sexuality and where I fit in to it all that I was...stunned. And moved.  I really understand where Lindsay Miller is coming from.  To wit:
So what difference does it make whether or not I call myself bisexual? My story and my life are too complicated to be summed up and dismissed in that one little word. What is crucial to me is that I chose the relationship I’m in today, and I chose to align myself, personally and politically, with the lesbian community. If I’m a bisexual, I’m a bisexual who is only interested in dating or sleeping with women. I’m a bisexual who thinks John Barrowman is insanely beautiful, but has zero interest in putting any part of my body on any part of his body. I’m a bisexual who would rather lick a clitoris than literally any other activity in the world. I’m a bisexual who is practically indistinguishable from a great big lesbian. 
I’m not saying that homosexuality is a choice for everyone. Obviously, it isn’t. But for those of us whose sexual attraction is fluid, or shifting, or somewhere in the middle, or directed towards people who are not unambiguously men or women, devoting ourselves exclusively to same-sex partners can be a choice—a choice many of us make joyfully and with our eyes wide open. What’s so scary and infuriating about that?
Preach, Lindsay. Preach.

Here's a link to the article again: My Love, My Choice: On Cynthia Nixon and Why Gay is (Sometimes) Better. That's how much I really hope you read it. It's long. And it's really good. And it's kind of....well... me.


  1. Brilliant!! All around. I think it IS important that it be "ok" for being gay to be a choice, especially in the gay community. I think there is a lot of fear that admitting what are tenuous and newly acquired civil rights, for example, for gays to have children and marry (in some places). Cythnia Nixon is brave and awesome for putting this out there. She should also keep in mind that her privilege of being rich shields her somewhat from what may be very scary concerns for others. Not at all saying it's right to feel we have to try to make "gay" palatable by claiming it's always inborn, or that gays are "just like straight people." But I can understand why for some, it feels politically problematic and in some cases even scary to do so. These are the same kind of arguments that tore apart second wave liberal feminists who wanted to make change politely through the legal system and more radical ones who wanted to start lesbian separatist movements and refuse to reproduce with men until societal occurred. One other concern I have is that IN SOME CASES, it can also be the status of bisexuality that causes people to choose to label themselves as gay or lesbian. It doesn't sound like that's the case for either of these women, because they are saying there preference is clearly for women (even if that is a choice). But I think there is also sometimes a feeling in the gay community that bisexuals aren't out yet, are confused, or aren't "real" such that people may feel forced into one camp or the other to be seen as legitimate - much as biracials struggle with straddling two or more camps. I think it is equally problematic to enforce that being gay has to be inborn as to enforce that one is either gay or straight and anything in between is confusion on the part of the person claiming that identity. I guess the take home message is people need to be able to define themselves and others needs to accept it on that person's terms - the LGBTQQIAPP community will probably be the role model for doing so. Thanks for posting this, it's awesome to have someone to hash this all out with.

  2. YES. I feel the same way. I first fell for a girl when I was 22 and haven't looked back since, but before that I considered myself super straight. I dated and slept with guys and at the time thought I liked it. I had tons of lezzie friends so felt like in comparison to their lives/experiences, I was definitely straight. I think that in the general LGBT discussion there's so much "I always knew," "I was lying to myself my whole life," "the signs were there but I was too ashamed/afraid/religious/etc etc"…but because I did NOT experience that, I don't feel like I can call myself a lesbian. Even though I've been in a serious relationship with a woman for 3.5 years, and have dated and slept with a few others since the first, I identify my sexual orientation as a "woman who dates women that date women." While most people are like, uhhh so you're gay," I feel like there's a difference. The fact that I'm only attracted to "dykey" looking girls (stylishly tomboyish but not quite butch and not sporty and not femme and not stereotypical "hot" girls) and I for all intents and purposes was straight until the age of 22 (i'll say it again, I liked boys and never ever was attracted to girls) makes me just not feel like a lesbian. In the depths of my soul, I just don't feel like a lesbian. But I'm not bisexual (no penises ever again, please).
    Anyway, I feel the same way as cynthia nixon. I could definitely make the choice to date men and lavish in the perks of hetero-privilege but I know I'd be happier and more sexually/emotionally fulfilled by being with a woman. I did not have a choice to be attracted to the first girl I fell for, believe me I was so annoyed that I could not stop thinking about her and that I wanted to be on her, but I did make the choice to enter into a relationship with her and then continue to pursue women in the future. and as much as not having the same privileges as straight couples SUCKS, being with the lady I'm with is so much better than the alternative.

  3. I mean...yep. I feel like for whatever reason, I DO feel that I'm a lesbian now, even though I of course had the same kind of experience you did, not being attracted to women at all until WHAM, I was. But it *does* feel right for me to say I'm a lesbian now, and I think it's totally fine for you to feel like that's not really the right fit for you! I totally get what you're saying re: feeling like your experience, compared to others who "always knew" is drastically different, and so how can you be "the same thing" or whatever--and I struggled with that at first too, but--I feel that I have now had my fair share of feeling outside, afraid, looked at strangely, because I now walk around holding a girl's hand, and I also identify strongly with some of the political implications of the word "lesbian"--it feels strongly feminist to me as well, which I like. Whether that's really true or not, or how most people think of it, I don't know, but that's how it feels for me.
    Anyway, glad you found my blog, and even gladder that you "talked" to me :) And glad you found your girl! xx

  4. I am LOVING this blog. Love love love.