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  • 24 Jan 2012

    Cynthia Nixon's 'choice' to be gay

    Cynthia Nixon has been catching some flack from some gay activists for saying she chose to be gay in an interview with the New York Times.

    I understand the wish for people to undescore that being gay isn't a choice - and it certainly wasn't for me! - but if Nixon's experience was different, who are we to deny her truth? Sure, it's simpler to argue for gay rights if homosexuality is always a given and never a choice, but it doesn't make gay rights any more or less righteous.

    I personally can't imaging being able to chose my sexuality - there was a time in my early teens when I tried desperately to chose to be straight! - but I think female sexuality can be a broader spectrum. We all know women who seemed to be happy heterosexuals for a long time before falling in love with a woman, but I have never - that I know of anyway - met a man in a similar situation. Gay men who were in longterm straight relationships always seemed to be struggling with their homosexuality. However, that's my entirely unscientific observation, and I will be happy to be corrected.

    Anyway, regardless, it's hard to argue with Cynthia when she tells the New York Times:

    "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."

     

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    • Posted By Bo 29 Jan 2012 14:53

      Each to their own experience and all that but the thing that picked my interest in this is your comment "- but I think female sexuality can be a broader spectrum." I'm not sure I agree with that. Certainly if that's your own personal experience you're entitled to it but I think it makes invisible the experiences of quite a few men whos sexualities are very broad. Unfortunately it's hard to come out as a bi/queer man because simply people don't believe you. In my opinion homophobia, the stigma of being labeled as gay, is what makes many men more afraid to embrace a more fluid sexuality if they have one. Doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

    • Posted By Peter 25 Jan 2012 17:38

      Cynthia Nixon is bisexual (not a choice), and prefers relationships with women (a choice). I think people are talking passed each other on the 'choice' issue, on what's actually a choice here and what's not. Now maybe there are some people who can change their fundamental sexuality on a whim, but I think they're extreme outliers if they exist at all, and I'm more inclined to believe Nixon is simply bisexual and choosing to be with women over men. I do agree with her, though, that it ought not to really matter either way.

    • Posted By Brian 24 Jan 2012 22:52

      The whole choice thing is obviously a red herring when it comes to gay rights. People choose lots of things that they ought to be allowed choose, and some people don't choose things that they are nevertheless prevented from acting upon.

    • Posted By Mark 24 Jan 2012 22:19

      I agree it's 'utterly ridiculous' Christopher but a cursory glance at the Republican nomination process illustrates my point. The polls are all over the place dependent on the latest innuendo and/or lie about any given candidate and this does illustrate the 'stupid' electorate that exists in large parts of America. Sadly, these people do need to be won over by playing their game. She makes a fair point, but it will get lost.

    • Posted By Confused 24 Jan 2012 22:03

      If she has a choice between getting with girls or getting wtih guys doesn't it just mean she's bi? Is bi not a thing anymore? I know I am completely incapable of choosing to be straight, I imagine my brother is equally incapable of choosing to be gay... so she's bi! Labelling aside, it can be that simple, you like one, you like the other, you like both! #overthinking

    • Posted By Christopher 24 Jan 2012 20:33

      Good for her- it's not something I can relate to but there is alot of things in others that I cant so I'm not going to condemn or criticize someone for their choices (or not choices). And Mark I think it's utterly ridiculous that issues should be painted in black and white so that stupid people can understand them- that is why she is so angry that supposedly enlightened fags feel so threatened by anything that can't be understood in simple slogans and shite songs by Lady CaCa.

    • Posted By John 24 Jan 2012 19:25

      When did "bisexual" become a dirty word? I've heard some people describe themselves as "pansexual", though I'm not quite sure if there's any difference...

    • Posted By Conrad 24 Jan 2012 18:21

      I've too much of a life to know the finer points of academic gayness buuuuuut.... to me it sounds like she's maybe bi? Isn't being capable of attraction to both sexes/happy in a relationship with either depending on the personality = the definition of a bisexual?

    • Posted By Mark 24 Jan 2012 18:00

      It's fair enough. But she's a prominent gay who gets lots of publicity and her point is much too subtle for the black and white bigots that constitute a large portion of the US public. It's naive and politically damaging to the advancement of gay rights in my opinion.

    • Posted By Bobby Fine 24 Jan 2012 15:54

      Story of life, sigh....

    • Posted By Tim 24 Jan 2012 15:48

      So Lady Gaga was wrong?

    • Posted By Una 24 Jan 2012 15:43

      That is such a Miranda thing to say.

    • Posted By Carrie Bradshaw 24 Jan 2012 15:37

      Who gives a fuck who the woman chooses to love, sleep with. Really, who? Una, the 1990s just called. They want their Gender Studies essays back....

    • Posted By Una 24 Jan 2012 13:14

      AHHHH. Here is the article.

    • Posted By Una 24 Jan 2012 13:14

      That Guardian link I posted didn't appear properly in the post. Here's the article: http://www.guardian.co.uk

    • Posted By Una 24 Jan 2012 13:12

      I think Nixon is really brave to be honest like that. I often feel there's a huge paranoia in the lesbian community about women "going straight" or identifying as bisexual. Female bisexuality is totally undermined by many lesbians, who tend to role their eyes at someone identifying as sexually fluid. The whole 'bi now, gay later' mantra is true for loads of people, with bisexuality categorised as a bufferzone in the coming out process of straight to gay (or as a friend of mine puts it "being bi is just a bus stop on the way to Gaytown.") I think much of this is to do with the collective insecurity of gay women, that if someone says they choose to be gay or if indeed a previous lesbian becomes a hasbian by entering into a relationship with a man they are somehow betraying lesbian sexuality as a whole. The hasbian thing is just as common as the late-lesbian thing, but I think a lot of the reasons the former happens are biological. Some weird grenade related to procreation goes off in a woman that men don't seem to experience. I guess as society becomes more comfortable with lesbian couples raising children, this grenade will direct towards lesbian family units, but oftentimes I've seen women gravitate towards heteronormative set-ups to achieve this biological goal. There was an interesting article in the Guardian a couple of years ago on women coming out later in life (http://www.guardian.co.u which certainly seems to be some sort of phenomenon. I'm not sure thought whether it is a sexuality thing or a gender thing. Women's roles in society have always been dictated as subordinate to men's. Our life path is dictated from an early age to be one that involves marriage and children, to be the carer, and for independence both financially and otherwise to be stripped by familial obligations at some stage early enough in life. I think because of this, it takes longer for many women to come out. It's not just a question of being closeted, more that the thought never even crosses their minds because perhaps the sexual urges weren't as immediate or as strong as they appear to be with gay men, and also because of what society has planned for women from such a young age, the idea of subverting that by entering into a non-traditional relationship is often contained as a fantasy, not a realistic option. It is also far less controversial for 'straight' women to have lesbian dalliances and to experiment sexually. Nearly every straight woman I know has had some sort of lesbian experience at some stage. But the converse is true for straight men that I know - or maybe they're just not admitting to it. This tolerance for women being more sexually explorative for men creates a greater sexual fluidity for women I think. Women are allowed be more intimate with their female friends than men are with their male friends. Women holding hands or walking down the street arm in arm in Western society aren't necessarily gay. The acceptance of a 'girl crush' is also another method society uses to allow women to express their sexual fluidity without having to 'deny' their heterosexuality, and is blanketed in benign language to also allow men not to be threatened by it. Then you have the constant delegitimization of female sexuality; that female sexuality exists for men and men alone, that gay female sexuality exists for male gratification, the constant mockery lesbians have to endure from both straight and gay men (and straight women) that their sex isn't 'real', as if all sexual behaviour must revolve around a dick. As a result, you have this reality - and fear - that lesbianism is often deemed 'a phase', a piece of vocabulary that is rarely ascribed to gay men. So I can see why gay people - men and women - might get annoyed at Nixon's use of 'choice', it's an insecurity, as if gayness constantly has to be legitimized in one form, that everyone was born that way and that's it, and anyone who states otherwise is somehow denying this absolute truth that we're meant to propagate in order to legitimize gayness in society and strengthen the gay rights movement. But as Nixon says, while that might be true for lots of people, it's not true for some. Sexuality, especially for women, is not a black and white issue. In a community that constantly bleats about valuing diversity, we should embrace these shades of grey - and every other colour for that matter. And I say this as a dyke.

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