By Richard Ammon
January 22, 2012
The American actress Cynthia Nixon is currently starring in a Broadway play ‘Wit’ for which she has received high praise. The play is about a life-changing experience with cancer.
In the past recent years Nixon’s has experienced her own, but different, life-changing experience that few other people understand. She has moved from a heterosexual relationship–with kids–to a homosexual partnership–with a kid.
She is both pleased and proud of this change and does not look back, or at least does not look back with regret. In an interview in the New York Times today, she offers a unique view of sexual orientation, not one usually heard in these politically and culturally charged times: she says her relationship with another woman is a conscious choice, not a deep life-long inclination. Some have argued that she is bisexual in order to explain the switch. But she rejects simplistic labels like that and insists she is fully in charge of her life and not the bearer of a any closeted sexuality.
For many LGBT people such an action is confusing because sexual orientation is anything but a choice; it is an inherent attribute of authentic self that emerges in the first two or three decades of an individual’s as naturally as any personality trait, such as introverted or extroverted social behavior.
In an unusually frank, clear and unapologetic speech she gave recently to a gay audience she said the following:
“I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.” Continuing, she explained that “some tried to get me to change that, 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, and I also find it offensive to all the men I’ve been out with.”
I think this is one of those truths that often goes unspoken because it is not politically correct and not psychologically mainstream. The rallying cry of the gay rights movement, and the position of most clinicians, is that sexual orientation is not a choice and therefore a protected status in need of civil rights anti-discriminatory laws. I do not dispute this position because the vast majority LGBT citizens–including myself–experience sexual/romantic/emotional desire as an immutable inborn trait.
But being born into such a fine state is clearly not the only way into the gay world. As with some people born into wealth, it’s not the only way to be rich. Others work their way, by choice, into affluence. Cynthia Nixon is making a similar claim to sexuality and it is not false, insincere or any less gay than being born into it. As she says, it doesn’t matter if we fly in or swim in, we are all in this together. Well said.