Today’s food for thought:
Sex and the City actress Cynthia Nixon was widely praised for coming out a few years back, but in a recent New York Times interview, she made comments about her sexuality that have drawn serious criticism - and some praise - from the LGBTQ community.
To avoid paraphrasing poorly, here’s the entire section that’s got everyone worked up:
“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.”
It’s pretty obvious why people would be angry with Nixon for making this statement. Saying that being gay is a choice negates the “born this way” argument of equality by implying that a person could just as easily choose to be straight. If gays are choosing the identity, this implies, why give them equal rights when they could just opt out of being gay altogether?
The Slate article above digs deeply into the issue that’s presented here: not necessarily whether being gay is a choice or not, but whether we can accept choosing to be gay as a legitimate way of embracing the identity. Is it bigoted to be angry with someone who says they chose their sexuality? Do we have the right to define someone’s “gayness”?
I honestly don’t know how I feel about this yet, but I was definitely caught off guard at first read. What do you all think?
Of course it’s no one but Nixon’s choice to decide how she defines her sexuality, but I think the word “choice” is completely incorrect here. I don’t think it’s possible to choose your sexual preferences any more than it’s possible to choose who you crush on.
Some people, like Nixon, believe themselves to be attracted to one gender at one stage in their life, and then find themselves attracted to another later on. That’s totally normal, but to say that that is a choice (that you decide “I’m going to be attracted to women for a while”) is absurd. Whatever determines your sexual preference does so without your consent, so to speak, and saying that you “choose” your sexual preference delegitimizes the repressed who do not force themselves to be attracted to the gender society dictates they should be.
Being attracted to different genders throughout your life does not make your previous relationships any less legitimate if you were in love. People change, sexualities change. Some find that they have been repressed their true preferences, so find that their preferences has simply changed. But no one “chooses” to be attracted to men, women, or anything.
The word “choice” panders to some really idiotic homophobic notions, and it absolutely does not define sexual preference. Let’s be more careful with our words next time.