Call me naive, but when I read Cynthia Nixon’s by-now famous comments in the New York Times Magazine about how being gay has been, for her, a choice, my only reaction was, “Yes! Finally! Someone has the guts to address the annoying ‘We Can’t Help It’ defense!” Sadly, it seems that much of the rest of LGBT World has reacted with anger and shame, and a closed-minded fear of hateful homophobes.
For those of you who missed it, here’s the controversial (awesome) excerpt:
“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.”
I was so proud when I read this, not only because she was brave enough to say it, but because I felt she spoke for me, as well. I spent the first half of my dating life being serially monogamous with men—lovely, smart, handsome, sensitive, sexy men. I allowed myself to consider the option of women once I was about halfway through college—something I’d thought about from time to time growing up, but always pushed away because it seemed impossible and unacceptable and awful. But once I got brave enough to cross over to the dark side, there was no going back. It just felt, to quote Cynthia, “better.”
Did it mean all those hetero relationships had been lies? Absolutely not—not for me, and I am the only one I can speak for. Obviously I get that many queer people spend much of their existences living a lie. For me it wasn’t like that, but more of an organic evolution. Does it make me less legitimate in the eyes of most LGBT activists? Perhaps. The “choice” perspective is uncomfortable to some gays because they feel it weakens the argument that we deserve civil rights. And maybe it does, since the homophobes who want to keep us from being legitimate citizens will certainly not be able to wrap their tiny little evil brains around it; it’s just not black-and-white enough. I’m sure it’s strange for straight folks, too (especially, I’d imagine, parents), who cannot begin to imagine why it’s a choice that anyone would make and stick with, especially when the world makes it so damn hard.
I’m not quite buying that the LGBT community kerfuffle is quite as big as the media is making it out to be, since the only angry gays quoted in all of Google’s 172 related articles in a search of “Cynthia Nixon gay choice” are blogger John Aravosis, who has the gall to write that she is “wrong”; celebrity chef Cat Cora; Perez Hilton; and various Tweeters—not exactly the collective Queer Voice, in my humble opinion. But in any event, I’m not completely surprised at the criticism, as our community is not known for its overwhelming open-mindedness; just ask transgender folks, hasbians, bisexual men, or any other number of not-quite-ideal-enough queers.
When Lula is old enough to ask about all this stuff (goddess help us), I plan on being honest about it all, as best as I can. And when she’s old enough to start dating and falling in love, I hope she’ll make the best choice—or stay true to the unmovable way that she was born—in the best, most honest way she knows how to do.