Oh, Cynthia Nixon. You sure know how to put gay people in a tizzie. In case you aren’t yet aware of what Ms. Nixon, also lovingly known as Miranda from Sex and the City, said last week, here’s a brief 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.” – actress Cynthia Nixon, speaking to the New York Times.
People have had plenty to say about this, ranging from the confused to the horrified to the irate. And I get it. But I think it is actually Nixon who is confused, and may have used some words that didn’t accurately sum up her feelings.
Falling in love is not a choice, in the same way that the initial attraction you feel to someone when you lock eyes and just want to know more about them is not a choice either. The heart-racing feelings, the desire to stay up all night with someone and the inability to think about anyone else is something that is beyond human restraint. Straight people can testify to this just as well as gay people, and if you need further proof, please see any Top 40 song- ever- to see how crazy and uncontrollable the feelings of love and lust are.
I see where Nixon is coming from. No, I don’t agree with her statements, but I see the point that she was trying to make, both about the right-wing extremists that try to dictate just what our feelings are, and about the issue so many people have with the term “bisexual”, whether as a member of that community or an outsider who sees that identity as impossible or wrong.
We shouldn’t allow the extreme conservatives to take charge of our fight for civil rights and social justice. Regardless of whether someone realized their true sexual orientation after 40 or as a young teenager, whether a person has been married for years or is trying to ask his crush to his high school prom, all of these people deserve validation that their feelings are real and worthy of respect. Being a “late-in-life lesbian” is not a crime, and there are just as many queer folks as conservative bigots who could learn this lesson.
I think that is what Cynthia Nixon was trying to get at when she says “it doesn’t matter whether we flew here or swam here”—being a part of the queer community means being a part of this community regardless of the circumstances leading up to it, and it is our job as part of that family to respect everyone’s story, especially when we have ignorant pricks who threaten that community every day.
Of course, this is all well and good, but it is very problematic for Nixon to say that she’s “been gay, and…been straight, and being gay is better”. While on the one hand, I love that she’s realized the rainbow side is infinitely more fun- because hey, it’s totally true! But this is a tricky way of demonstrating her experiences of being a member of the heterosexual community and the queer community.
Why didn’t she just say she was bisexual?, so many of us wondered and pleaded.
I kinda get it.
Bisexuals get a lot of crap in the queer community, whether for being too wishy-washy with their preferences, or too heteronormative to fully commit to the gay lifestyle, or just plain slutty. Furthermore, I understand that Nixon doesn’t want to weaken her relationships with men as being “just a phase” or even something that wasn’t totally fulfilling for her at that point in her life, like those relationships were just fillers until the main attraction, a woman, showed up.
The term “bisexual” carries with it a lot of baggage, and it is my personal belief that the word is actually on the way out of the queer terminology because of the complications it brings. Even if Nixon was aware of her not-totally-straight identity when she was with a man, it is very likely that she would not have wanted to tote around that information at every press release or interview she partook in, because being a bisexual woman in a relationship with a man says two things: first, this man doesn’t fully satisfy me because I am also longing for a woman, and secondly, although I am technically part of the queer community, I’m not actively involved in it because I’m working my straight-ish privilege at the moment. Basically, bisexuals can’t win.
So should Cynthia Nixon have said those things? Probably not. I don’t think she had a choice when she fell in love with a man, and I definitely don’t think she had a choice when she fell in love with a woman, so stating that it was a choice is just inaccurate, and yes, a little harmful for our community as we work to make people see that we don’t have a choice in our feelings of love and lust.
But part of Nixon’s trepidation with labeling herself a bisexual or a late-in-life-lesbian or any other fancy term we can find on Tumblr, is our fault. As a community, we want everyone to be on the same level of outness and pride and gayness as everyone else. But that’s not possible; some people have had to hide their sexuality their whole lives, others aren’t fully ready to embrace it, others didn’t realize what their honest sexuality was until their third failed marriage. And that is all okay. In fact, it needs to be okay in order for our community to succeed; if we want everyone fighting for our rights, we need to have everyone, even the closet cases, even the fag hags, even the people who believe their same-sex love is a choice, to be working toward equality and acceptance. Cynthia Nixon is a valuable part of that fight, and as a community, we cannot forget that.