Cynthia Nixon | News

Cynthia Nixon: For Me, Being Gay is a Choice

In an interview about her new Broadway show, a revival of the Margaret Edson play Wit, Cynthia Nixon tells the NYT's Alex Witchel that for her being gay is a choice, and nobody's going to take that belief from her:

Wit“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. 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, but I also find it offensive to all the men I’ve been out with.”

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  1. While I think she could have made her point better, I agree with Cynthia. Sure, one can't choose one's desires or orientation, but one can choose how to act on them. When she says she's chosen to be gay she's talking about who she loves, not all of her desires.
    The right knows the difference between desire and action. They want everyone to act heterosexual, to have only heterosexual contact and relationships, regardless of what desires they have. It's unfortunate the simpistic "born this way" v. "lifestyle choice" view has become the terms of the debate about gay rights, because to rest the case for gay rights on some notion that we are inherently gay (and we just can't help it) has put the fight for gay rights in a defensive position. Whether or not we can act differently (some of us can, some of us can't) we should have the right to make choices about who to have sex with and/or who to love, and to have society give those choices as many rights and as much respect as they do conventional marriage.

    Posted by: MichaelJ | Jan 23, 2012 6:51:15 PM

  2. I was offended by her article, but I took some time to mull it over and it does make sense for a certain segment of the population. She obviously enjoyed the company of men and decided to settle down with a woman. Isn't this what most bisexual people end up doing, at least those inclined towards monogamy. At some point they choose someone and they have to be of one gender or the other, for her this person is a woman. She is living as a lesbian by the choice she made. Then there are those like me - I have no say in the matter, I am the classic Kinsey 6. No women, no how, no way. For me the choice was whether to be a closeted person or not. I chose to be open about those I love and my sexuality.

    Posted by: ladi | Jan 23, 2012 6:51:46 PM

  3. I always say that orientation is innate and automatic, behavior is a choice.

    Your orientation is automatic. It doesn't require an act of choice. Choice occurs when you choose to put your orientation into practice in some form of behavior.

    The bisexual orientation is just as much an orientation as the homosexual and heterosexual orientations. There is no choice involved in having a bisexual orientation.

    As for Cynthia's comments, I think she's doing the classic female thing of extending the choice notion - which women use to empower themselves in relation to abortion rights - to her sexuality. What she fails to understand is that what applies to females does not apply to males.

    Even when totally naked, females have the ability to fake their sexuality. Men do not have that ability. Think about it. It's important to understand this important gender difference. The gay rights movement needs to consider gender differences before deciding whether it's worth having women on board.

    Posted by: jason | Jan 23, 2012 6:56:01 PM

  4. So she's Bi and she get's to choose if she likes the hole or the pole. SHe's right about that at least.

    Posted by: David | Jan 23, 2012 6:56:35 PM

  5. @JS and @ADAM: You are commenting as though she said something other than what she actually said. She did not say that sexual orientation is a choice for everyone, and certainly not for you. She said, "I understand that for many people it's not, but for me it's a choice..."

    I am also disturbed by the ignorance and misogyny inherent in comments like "Everyone knows women don't count when it comes to concrete sexuality. They're always changing teams. ALWAYS" (MATTCA181) and "[women] just [have] to lay there in any sexual situation" (ADAM).

    I'm pretty much a solid 6 (gay) on the Kinsey scale, but clearly some people are bisexual in that they find some women and some men attractive. I think it's important to understanding some of our political opponents, too, because when some right-wing nutjobs vehemently insist that sexual orientation is a choice, it just might be...for THEM. Some - maybe even most - just can't deal with the fact that they're really gay. But I'll bet some are, really, bisexual, and when they say they choose not to have sex with members of their own sex they mean it. Which is why they have such a hard time understanding why someone like me (or ADAM or JS) CAN'T just make the same choice.

    Posted by: JOE 2 | Jan 23, 2012 6:57:54 PM

  6. The truth is who cares whether it's a choice or not. The problem is our enemies do care and they use it against us. In the long run, the goal is equality for all and we will have a much easier road ahead of us if we can convince people that for the majority of us there is no choice and if the laws aren't changed we will never be with someone we truly can be happy with. Speaking as a man who was married to a woman for many years, I had a choice and I was mostly happy with my wife and I love my children. But I am way happier with my husband and in hindsight there really never was a true choice. Women's sexuality has been scientifically shown to be more fluid so I am sure she is telling the truth for her. The problem is her need to say it at all because it "annoys" her. Not to make sweeping generalizations but it's pretty typical.

    Posted by: Jonathan | Jan 23, 2012 7:05:36 PM

  7. I've always said it doesn't matter if it's a choice or not when it comes to equal rights. In the U.S. we have equal protection based on things that are biological, such as race, biological sex and protection based on issues of choice, such as religion, political affiliation. So the nature vs. nurture or biology vs. choice argument is an interesting academic discussion but should play no role in our rights as gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender citizens of the United States.

    Posted by: scollingsworth | Jan 23, 2012 7:06:37 PM

  8. She's just expressing what probably a majority of lesbians feel. I'm not sure what exactly the statistic is, but most women feel that it's a choice and most men feel that it isn't. It's just one of the many differences between lesbian experience and gay male experience.

    People should be allowed to define who they are.

    Posted by: KevinVT | Jan 23, 2012 7:08:57 PM

  9. Rather confusing. If she can choose, and be happy/content/in love, doesn't that just make her bisexual? Sure I can choose to be with a woman but I'm going to be unhappy and sexually frustrated because every cell in my body is saying "You're not physically or emotionally attracted to women that way!".

    I don't get it. Maybe I'm not supposed to though. No judgement.

    Posted by: daws | Jan 23, 2012 7:12:46 PM

  10. I can understand people disagreeing with her comments, but the animosity being expressed toward women (gay, straight, or otherwise) in general is more than a little disturbing.

    Posted by: Jane | Jan 23, 2012 7:17:27 PM

  11. Ummm, note to Cynthia: you're bisexual (GAY 101 honey). Shocked and disappointed at her ignorance. The bigots will be quoting her now left and right....thanks girl.

    Posted by: anthony | Jan 23, 2012 7:19:07 PM

  12. I sense a bush-league Anne Heche in the wings. I hope I'm wrong, but I bet I'm not.

    Posted by: Yeek | Jan 23, 2012 7:20:51 PM

  13. She's limiting being gay to an action and I think confusing terms a bit. I don't really care about that so much as all the wingnuts that will avoid the subtlety here and abuse gay youth over words like this.

    Posted by: John | Jan 23, 2012 7:27:29 PM

  14. Seems like there is a lot of projection and misplaced animosity in these comments. She wasn't defining my sexuality, she was defining her own, as she honestly views it. There really isn't even anything to argue with. Not only does she see her sexuality as a choice, but it's indisputably her choice whether to label it, or not. We may call her bisexual, but if she doesn't call herself bisexual, then what's the point of assigning it to her?

    She needs to acknowledge that for many people, lgbt/staight/whatever, sexuality isn't a choice. (It wasn't for me, yet I had a long relationship with a woman while I defined myself as gay.) And she does acknowledge that her experience isn't necessarily typical. In my non-scientific experience, many (not all) women have a much more fluid sexuality than men. I know very few men who are attracted to either a man or a woman and who have fallen in deep romantic love with both a man and a woman.

    But sexuality is a complicated human thing. Ultimately, while the lack of choice can be an argument in our favor--since many people, including many straight people, clearly don't choose--it shouldn't be our only argument, because obviously it's not always true.

    Posted by: Ernie | Jan 23, 2012 7:30:47 PM

  15. Bryan Fischer of the homophobic AFA is going to lap up Cynthia's comments.

    I think she has done us men a disservice. She fails to understand that a woman's choice to fake her sexual interests (for monetary or other gain) does not apply to us men. We men cannot fake it.

    A man needs to achieve an erection stemming from arousal before the act of intercourse can occur. The woman doesn't have to be the least bit aroused.

    Posted by: jason | Jan 23, 2012 7:31:59 PM

  16. Textbook bisexual erasure.

    Posted by: Sonneillon | Jan 23, 2012 7:39:21 PM

  17. Hi...I'm an openly bisexual 27-year old man. I have been in healthy loving sexual and romantic relationships with both men and women. For me, being gay is a choice. Being in a gay relationship is a choice. Should I choose to settle down with a man one day because that man is who I love, then that will also be a choice. It just so happens a person's genitalia is incidental to my attraction to them.

    Posted by: Alex | Jan 23, 2012 7:41:20 PM

  18. Does she realize how ignorant and dangerous her comments are? She needs to wake up and call her orientation what it is, bisexuality. Gay people do NOT choose to be gay. Her words are perhaps the most f'd up quote I have ever heard any LGBT person speak. She can not really be so foolish to not realize the implications her words may have.

    Posted by: Michael | Jan 23, 2012 7:43:21 PM

  19. I was gay when I first started reading this article, about half way through, I chose to be straight, then towards the end I chose to be gay again, and right about now I'm asexual. Woops! Spoke too fast, I'm straight again. My bad: gay. Er, I mean now I'm...

    Posted by: Eddie | Jan 23, 2012 7:44:53 PM

  20. I think I'm in love with her brain! She is one person I listen to intently and of course every single letter is placed correctly. It shouldn't matter whether it's a choice. It should matter if my pursuit of happiness that involves this choice is trampled upon. If I find love and warmth with a sheep and it makes me happy without scarring my neighbor, I should be granted my rights and left alone.

    Posted by: SSCHIEFRSHA | Jan 23, 2012 7:47:03 PM

  21. For many of us being gay was not a choice. For her, and for some, it is a choice. Why do we have to argue about this? Why do some need to denigrate or totally discount the experience of others? Really, are we that terrified of the holy right? It is a choice for some people and for others it is not. Get used to it or get out of the way with your gay piety! Puhleeze!!

    Posted by: Francis | Jan 23, 2012 7:52:48 PM

  22. to Alex | Jan 23, 2012 7:41:20 PM

    you are confused, you open with "..i'm an openly bisexual...", then went on with "for me, being gay is a choice...". You are NOT gay (attracted to ONLY men), you are bisexual (attracted to both sexes)

    this is the same thing that happens with some biracial people, they choose to the black (Obama, Halle Berry) or choose to be white (Rashida Jones,Zoe Kravitz) but the fact is they are BIRACIAL (both races), stop confusing yourself and people.

    Posted by: johnosahon | Jan 23, 2012 7:54:23 PM

  23. The misogyny in the comments section is absolutely ridiculous. Everyone's sexuality is different, stop trying to put people into gay/straight/bi boxes. The REAL way of holding a movement back is not by what she's saying, but by the backlash she's received by the gay community over these comments.

    Posted by: Gonzalo | Jan 23, 2012 7:56:57 PM

  24. oh Cynthia...I didn't realize that you are just another Anne Heche

    Posted by: Jamie | Jan 23, 2012 8:03:19 PM

  25. I find that women tend to use their sexuality as a marketing ploy. This is also reflected in the way they dress when compared to men. If you go to any cocktail function, the women's clothing will always be more revealing than the men's.

    Another important fact is that women don't need to be aroused in order to have sex with a man. She can fake it, basically. Therefore, a woman's sexual interplay with a man does not always reflect the fact that she is sexually interested - or indeed, oriented - towards him. The biological basis for this cannot be challenged . Therefore, don't accuse me of misogyny. If you want to blame somebody, blame Mother Nature.

    Therefore, I think what this illustrates is that women are not good spokespeople for sexuality in its honest, most purest form. Only a man - especially a gay or bisexual man - is capable of being the best spokesperson. A woman tends to conflate her ability to fake a sexual interest with her sense of true sexual self. In fact, her ability to fake is a choice permitted by biology, and not a true part of her sexuality.

    Posted by: jason | Jan 23, 2012 8:03:19 PM

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