Because this is what Cynthia told The New York Times Magazine when the topic of people finding her midlife switch in sexual orientation disingenuous:
“I totally reject that,” she said heatedly. “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.”
Woo and doggy. I see the powder keg and I see the lit fuse. The smart thing would be to take cover and hope to avoid the worst of the collateral damage. Fire in the hole, save yourselves! But, no, like an idiot I’ve decided to walk toward the fuse and see if I can’t tamp it out before spark meets powder. God, I am so fucking stupid.
Here’s the thing. This is a complicated issue. That no one is denying that. Part of the driving narrative we, as a queer community, have used on our march toward full equality is that we should be equal because, in essence, we can’t help it. We were born this way, baby. And in this country and hopefully this world, people should have the right to life, liberty and happiness regardless of inborn differences like race, gender, sexual orientation, et al. We are born gay and we stay gay and we deserve all the same rights as people who were born straight and stay straight.
And for some of us, many of us, that’s 100 percent true. We’re 100 percent big-time gay from cradle to grave – do not pass go do not collect $200.
Make no mistake there is a definite advantage to presenting a public and united front where homosexuality is not a choice for anyone. Optics and perception matter. No one wants the “Ex-Gay” forces to feel justified or vindicated. Because for many, many, many queer people, we were born this way. Plain and simple. But the thing is, we humans are a lot of things. And we have this crazy thing called free will. And something like who we want to see naked and who we fall in love with, they can fall along that spectrum. Does that make being gay or acting gay wrong? Heavens no! It just makes the experience of it, the realization of it, the acting upon it different for different people.
I tend to look at the LGBT community as a big umbrella of sexual otherness. And I don’t care if you like to stand directly in the center of the umbrella or on the outskirts so your shoulder gets wet – as long as you’re happy and proud to be under the umbrella with the rest of us I’m happy to have you there.
What Cynthia said may rankle some, with reason because we’re nowhere near the finish line when the fight for equality. But something else she said rung even truer. “You don’t get to define my gayness for me.” And isn’t that, in the end, what we’re fighting for in the first place? To be able to love who we want to love free of discrimination or judgment or criticism and hate. But instead, people always try to define other people for them. Look, it’s hard enough to define ourselves as is, so don’t project your definition on me and then scold me for not conforming to it.
If everyone just realized that we weren’t all identical widgets from the widget factory, but individuals who deserve to be treated the same no matter what, the world would be a better fucking place and widgets could just happily do what widgets do. But everyone has to get up in everyone else’s nut.
And that, to me, is really fucking tiring. Fighting amongst ourselves about how to be gay isn’t helping anyone actually be gay. Policing other people’s gayness isn’t helping anyone actually be gay. Demanding people use one label or another label isn’t helping anyone actually be gay.
You know what helps people be gay? Saying I accept you no matter who you sleep with or fall in love with or want to make a home with. And as long as you treat me the same way back for the people I sleep with and fall in love with and want to make a home with, then the world will be a better place. And absolutely no one’s head has to explode. At least not today.