Let’s Not Waste Our Energy, Okay?

Nixon and Marinoni with their son, Max Nixon-Marinoni

The rainbow-hued wires have been buzzing this week with bitching and tsking over actress Cynthia Nixon’s interview with the New York Times Magazine, where she told writer Alex Witchel that for her, being gay is a choice.

Her comment was made while telling a story about how she prepared an empowering speech for a gay audience, and was counseled to edit out the line, “I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better”. Event organizers felt that Nixon’s statement implied that homosexuality can be a choice which was not a message they supported, to which she replied, “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.”

Immediately, Nixon began to be pecked at by the self-righteous peckers of gay rights organizations and the gay press, who hopped up and down and said her statement fuels the conservative belief that gay can be prayed away.

Today, Nixon made a statement to The Advocate, in an attempt to clarify and contextualize her comment:

“My recent comments in The New York Times were about me and my personal story of being gay. I believe we all have different ways we came to the gay community and we can’t, and shouldn’t be, pigeon-holed into one cultural narrative which can be uninclusive and disempowering. However, to the extent that anyone wishes to interpret my words in a strictly legal context I would like to clarify:

“While I don’t often use the word, the technically precise term for my orientation is bisexual. I believe bisexuality is not a choice, it is a fact. What I have ‘chosen’ is to be in a gay relationship.”

So there. We made her turn in her gay card so she could be reissued a bi card. Now that we’ve forced the woman into clarifying her sexual orientation for us, we can all feel better about our own gayness.

Why does the LGBT community continually act like it’s Gay Day at Disneyland and the gayest amongst us will go to the front of the line at Space Mountain?

Nixon, 46, was in a 15-year relationship with a man that started in her early 20s. The two have two children together. Since 2004, she has been in a relationship with education activist Christine Marinoni. Marinoni gave birth to the couple’s son in 2011.

Nixon’s story isn’t that different than mine (well, except for all her talent and fame). I also came out in my 30s. I was married to a man, and together we had a child. Since I’m confessing: it was actually my second marriage to a man. I was involved in two opposite-sex relationships that totaled nearly 27 years, the first a right-after-college-graduation marriage to my high school sweetheart.

No one, especially  not a reporter, has ever sat me down to ask if I think my lesbian identity is a choice. But I’d probably say “yes”.

Make no mistake, I’m as gay as the next dyke. But somewhere back before the turn of the century, I made a clear-cut decision to come out and live the rest of my romantic life in the company of women. Life with men wasn’t awful. I suppose I could have kept doing it – and millions of women have, for reasons of security, religion, and fear of being ostracized.

But the question of could I do it again is a much tougher one. There are just too many variables. I’ve never identified as bi because I never pictured myself returning to relationships with men. And, admittedly, I’m the first one to rankle when Dan Savage starts talking about the sexual fluidity of women. I don’t think of my sexuality as all that fluid. Before I came out, I just hadn’t considered my options.

I thought of myself as perfectly straight, right up until I met a woman who rang my chimes harder than any man ever had. While I didn’t have a relationship with her, I was so unnerved, I was compelled to look deeper into myself. It was my own dark night of the soul. But unlike Jonah, I wasn’t coughed up in a ball of whale spit. Instead, I landed on the beach covered in lube and waving the rainbow flag.

So I was married to men. Does that make me less gay now?

Consider this: With the exception of a very few Gold Star Lesbians, every lesbian woman I know has slept with more men than I have (three).

I understand why we don’t want to give haters any more ammunition to use against us, but the sort of backlash aimed at Nixon fractionates us. It divides our own community into gay, gayer, gayest, bisexual, and so forth. It’s a complete waste of energy that could be better spent scaffolding our community, not tearing it down.

This type of reactionary thinking panders to conservatives and will ultimately hinder the gay rights movement.

For example, in a 2006 article in Pediatrics: The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics supporting gay marriage, the Academy stated  that the vast majority of children with parents in same-sex relationships were conceived in heterosexual relationships. So when we talk about gay families, should we exclude them from our numbers? Make them draw a bi card? No, we need to coax these moms and dads out to be counted. We need to encourage them to come out to their family doctors. Then, perhaps the estimated number of kids being raised by gay parents won’t be so wide-ranging, anywhere from 1 million to 10 million in the U.S., and will settle near the higher end (and probably more realistic) figure.

That’s how we gain political clout.

For political recognition, we don’t need fractions, we need whole numbers. We need to throw our gay arms open and embrace the entire damn rainbow.

While we’re at it, let’s all apologize to Cynthia Nixon. She tries to do right by our community. And, she’s more than gay enough for me.

9 responses to “Let’s Not Waste Our Energy, Okay?

  1. Well written post which I fully agree with. She was telling her personal story and has a right to her opinion, gay fascists need to be quiet, homophobes don’t need ammunition they don’t like us and nothing will change that. The gay community needs to appreciate diversity within it’s ranks and stand together to make things happen esp you guys in the US where the religious right has clout.

  2. Thank you for that.
    After reading the article in the NYT, I posted a link saying: “a few more reasons to love Cynthia Nixon”.
    And now I say: one more reason to heart you.

  3. So well said, I found that whole thing completely ridiculous & frustrating!!


  4. Right on! Labels only limit! We are space and atoms vibrating to each others frequencies 🙂 Thanks for a luvverly post. Ria

  5. 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.

  6. Thanks! I passed this on to my family and friends.

  7. A-freaking-men! I wrote about this too but not nearly as eloquently as you did.

  8. Completely agree with you – who cares about the labels and boxes. If she is with a woman now then as far as im concerned she’s gay – if tomorrow she isnt then so be it but theer isnt a test you have to pass is there? Like you I dont think ‘gayness’ is a club we should or can restrict access to, anyone who identifies as gay is good enough for me. Whether they choose this or just are really doesnt matter.

  9. Hear hear. The denigration of choice as an explanatory narrative for gayness is really perplexing. I *love* Nixon’s line (“I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better”). As Magda Szubanski says, if there was a pill to cure gayness, I wouldn’t take it (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jQ_5puTDOYI). That makes it for me now–regardless of whether I was born this way or not–a choice I actively and proudly choose every damn day of my life.

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