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25 Jan 2012

Cynthia Nixon's 'gay by choice' remarks spark online debate

Former Sex and the City co-star Cynthia Nixon has sparked a backlash after saying that (her) being gay is a choice – a viewpoint that many in the gay community oppose.

Actress Cynthia Nixon, who came out as gay in 2004 and has a son with her partner Christine Marinoni in addition to two children from the former's previous relationship, told the New York Times in an interview about her new Broadway play Wit, she had been subject to a backlash after telling a gay audience: "I've been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better."

Cynthia Nixon and her partner Christine Marinoni

The 45-year-old was quoted in the Times article published on Jan 19 she was pressured to retract a statement that was in a speech she had given recently "because they said it implies that homosexuality can be a choice", she said.

She said: “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.

Preempting critics, she added: “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. 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 realise 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.”

Her comments have drawn criticism from some quarters including gay celebrity blogger Perez Hilton who wrote on his website: “We totally hear her out and true, we cannot define her ‘gayness,’ but it wasn’t a choice for us. We were BORN gay. And millions of gay people around the world feel the same way.”

Gay activist and political blogger John Aravosis who also disagreed with her choice of words suggested she used the term "bisexual."

"If you like both flavours, men and women, you’re bisexual, you’re not gay, so please don’t tell people that you are gay, and that gay people can "choose" their sexual orientation, ie will it out of nowhere. Because they can’t," he wrote in AmericaBlog Gay.

“And when you tell the NYT they can, you do tremendous damage to our civil rights effort. Every religious right hatemonger is now going to quote this woman every single time they want to deny us our civil rights. Thanks.”

In an interview with the Daily Beast posted on Tuesday, Nixon who has notably been an outspoken advocate for gay rights and marriage equality says that she doesn't like using the word "bisexual" to describe herself.

“I just don’t like to pull out that word. But I do completely feel that when I was in relationships with men, I was in love and in lust with those men. And then I met Christine and I fell in love and lust with her. I am completely the same person and I was not walking around in some kind of fog. I just responded to the people in front of me the way I truly felt.”

Tracy Baim, Publisher and executive editor of Chicago-based LGBT publication Windy City Times defended Nixon’s remarks in a Huffington Post column In Defense of Cynthia Nixon: Why 'Born This Way' Doesn't Matter.

Baim highlighted while “there are some who advocate a ‘nature made us this way’ argument to help us accept ourselves, others still try to get gays to suppress their sexuality, or transgender people to suppress their gender identity, no matter how they got that way.”

She also warned against basing the quest for gay civil rights on the 'nature' argument saying: “I also do not believe we should base our quest for civil rights on an argument that we ‘can't help ourselves’ because of our genes. This is a very dangerous and slippery slope. There have been fictional books and films made about this topic: if there is a gay gene, should it be eliminated, or a child aborted, if it's found? Science fiction isn't usually very far removed from science.”

She added: “I don't think Nixon is wrong to "choose" how she defines her own life. If the right wing does use her words as a way to attack our community, I don't think it will be any more vile than what they already do. They try to ‘cure’ us and deny our civil rights no matter what the basis of our true selves. We have a common enemy here, and it is not Cynthia Nixon, or those like her who come out as proud in their own unique identity.”

Nixon was in a relationship with Danny Mozes – who she first met in high school – for 15 years and had two children, Samantha, 15, and nine-year-old Charlie, with him before beginning her current relationship with long-time partner Christine Marinoni.

She is currently starring as a woman undergoing cancer treatement in the Broadway play "Wit." Nixon herself discovered she had an early stage of breast cancer in 2006.

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