Sex & The City star Cynthia Nixon is getting it in the neck at the moment for saying that for her, being gay was choice. Many have pilloried her, saying she’s fallen into a right-wing trap, as anti-gay nutters want to believe being gay is a choice, because if it is, it’s changeable and not an immutable part of individual human nature. They say she should have just said she’s bisexual rather than asserting she had an either/or choice to be gay or straight with nothing in between.
Nixon, who became involved with Christine Marinoni in 2004 not long after ending a 15-year relationship with a man, made the comment in an interview with the New York Times, saying “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.
“As you can tell, 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.”
Although many have got red in the face at Nixon, I have to say I kind of agree with her (although not entirely). Rather than it being a right wing trap to say some people might chose to be gay, by constantly making the argument over whether being gay is a choice or not (and not whether there’d be anything wrong if it was) is basically allowing the anti-gay faction to set the terms of the debate. Essentially, even if we did all choose whether we wanted to be gay or not (and I’m not saying at all that we do), what difference would it make?
After all, while for many being gay is no more a choice than being human is, why shouldn’t people choose to be gay or straight if they could? If a straight man decided he was going to only have gay sex from now and hate every minute of it because not one inch of him was homosexual, why shouldn’t he? If one of your straight friends announced tomorrow they’d decided to be gay and started a relationship with someone of the same gender, you might think they were more bisexual than gay or that they were making a mistake, but you wouldn’t stand in the way of the choice they’d made if everyone involved knew what they were getting themselves into. After all, why shouldn’t they?
The way both pro and anti-gay factions have got hung up on whether it’s a choice or not has frustrated me for years. You can understand why it seems important, because there’s a difference between innate sexuality and the expression of it, and it can be tricky in separating those out, with gay people and anti-gay people having very different takes on where the split between them is. But at it’s core it’s besides the point. If my gayness is a choice (whether conscious or not) or innate makes no difference to that fact that if I feel a strong attraction to somebody of either sex, why should anyone else be allowed to stand in the way of it, if both sides are consenting?
Maybe I’m wrong, and I do believe those anti-gay nuts who are obsessed with it being a choice are wrong. But rather than continuing to argue with them, perhaps we should try and move the debate onto something that’s on our terms rather than theirs. I don’t think Cynthia Nixon has it 100% right, but I think she’s thought things through further than those who jumped up to condemn her have.