Actress Cynthia Nixon, responding to criticism over comments she made to The New York Times Magazine saying that she chose to be in a gay relationship, has issued a statement clarifying that she believes being gay or bisexual is not a choice.
“I believe bisexuality is not a choice, it is a fact. What I have ‘chosen’ is to be in a gay relationship.
“As I said in the Times and will say again here, I do, however, believe that most members of our community — as well as the majority of heterosexuals — cannot and do not choose the gender of the persons with whom they seek to have intimate relationships because, unlike me, they are only attracted to one sex.
As previously reported on Care2, Nixon, in reference to being in a same-sex relationship, told The New York TImes Magazine that:
“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,” Nixon said while recounting some of the flak gay rights activists previously had given her for treading in similar territory. “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.”
These comments immediately drew criticism from LGBT rights commentators who said that Nixon risked advancing the notion that being gay is a choice that everyone can make, and adding fuel to the fire over the “ex-gay” meme, that one can choose to change one’s sexuality.
Also raised was the issue of representation of bisexuality, and how Nixon initially seemed to shun the label of being bisexual.
I have been asked to write my personal opinion on this incident. Instead, I believe I will also demure to those useful things called facts.
First let me establish that it is not for me to say how Cynthia Nixon, or anyone else, should publicly identify. I can say, however, that the erasing of bisexual identity on the wider stage and within the LGBT community itself is a significant problem, so any discussion therein is significant.
I would also agree that Nixon, as a high-profiled celebrity, could have been more careful in how she chose to express this opinion because her words might have been used to suggest that gay people can change their sexual orientation, something that is not supported by scientific consensus.
That said, Nixon in fact appears to have been making a comment that for her, as a bisexual woman, she did have choice to be in a same-sex relationship — a reasonable assertion that perhaps was stated in a way that was, unfortunately, unclear.
So while maintaining that we do not have the right to tell Cynthia Nixon how she may identify herself and her experience of her sexuality, I maintain we do, and always have, had the right to point out the impartial facts that underpin our understanding, and in this regard they are rather clear:
Wherever one may sit on the spectrum of sexuality – gay, straight, bisexual, or some other label that better fits (or no label at all) – science tells us it is not a choice. This should be the definitive word until the facts, if they ever do, say otherwise.