Wednesday, January 25, 2012


One of the fastest ways to make a group of gays mad is to talk about what it means to be gay. Queer identity and how we label ourselves makes some people’s heads explode. It really does. And don’t pretend it doesn’t. I know it does because a) I write for the Internet and b) I read all the comments in the AfterEllen article about Cynthia Nixon saying that “for me (being gay) is a choice.” Heads exploding like rockets on the Fourth of July. Boom! Boom! Boom! KABOOM!

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.


no-one said...

While she's right that no-one has the right to define her sexuality, I would have been more comfortable with the whole thing if she'd said "I'm bisexual and I'm currently choosing to be with a woman"

MakingSpace said...

Ms. Nixon says "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 wonder if the real danger, according to the social conservative movement, would be that to whatever degree it is a choice, to whomever it is a choice, folks would choose to opt IN. And it could be as simple as that. No fanfare, no disowning of children, no trying to change anyone, just a simple choice.

I write as one who does feel that I had my head in the clouds until I got much older and figured out the truth about myself. But I agree with letting each person define their own truth.

And again, I think this is where the social conservatives really go bonkers. Defining our own truth, choosing our own best way to live that truth (even, for some people, among other reasonable options) - these are the real threats to the social conservative movement.

Norma Desmond said...

I gotta say, I'm really with Ms. Nixon on this one, especially since she acknowledges that the choice is HER truth and NOT everyone's.

no-one's comment is really indicative of the attitude of the "queer" community at large (and I say "queer" because I'm uncomfortable with that label... Already, a sticky situation). Ms. Nixon does not consider herself bisexual, so it's wrong to label her as such just because it makes oneself more comfortable. Personally, I don't consider myself 100% gay, even though I am primarily attracted to women. I leave myself open to the possibility of finding a man that I could love. Do I think it'll happen? No, not really, but I leave myself open to it. Does that make me bisexual? I don't think so. I don't identify as such, and no one can tell me that I should. Especially not if it's solely to make him/herself more comfortable.

In fact, to make it even MORE messy, I don't even label myself as a "lesbian," generally. I prefer "gay." It's more accurate to my lifestyle and identity. Is our community going to tell me I'm wrong and that I have to be a "lesbian" because I'm a woman who like women? If so, it would be a shame.

This is getting ridiculously long, so long story longer, I completely agree with Ms. Nixon and understand her anger. We all need to be free to choose our own identities. Only by doing so can we REALLY be free to live as our most authentic selves. And, in the end, isn't that what we're really fighting for?

Zed said...

Thank you Dorothy. I for one completely get Cynthia's statement. Label me as you like. And I have been. Its time to embrace those under the umbrella ,and stand united. Thanx for yet again having the, ahem, balls to speak your truth. xxxx

RC said...

Well said, Snarker.

Han said...

I was having this chat with my girlfriend just the other week. There *is* an element of choice. You cannot choose who you are attracted to, your feelings are not a choice but whether to act upon those feelings - totally a choice.

Cannot fathom why everyone needs a bloody label. Even from "within" as it were. The struggle, as far as I'm aware, is to convince mainstream society & government to accept queerness as nothing out of the ordinary. Equality. We're all one. Why there's any need to tear this woman apart for speaking out candidly about her own situation, as someone that the general public is familiar with & thus making queer seem that little bit more "normal" is baffling to me.

I don't know how labelling & segregating is helping the oneness.

Anonymous said...

Same goes for the Trans* community. I was not "born into the wrong body" I was born into my body and there are parts of it I like and parts of it I would like to change. I was totally happy being female right up until the moment I wasn't. That shouldn't make me any less of a man today, but sadly it will.

Vee said...

Word. I'm completely with you, and Cynthia, on this one. It's important, in all oppressed groups, that individuals be considered the authority on the subject of their own lives and experiences.

Anonymous said...

Huzzah! Kudos Ms. Snarker! I'm with Cynthia - especially because a big hurdle in my coming out process was the label. Other people's baggage that comes with me defining myself and not negating the relationships I had with men in my earlier years. Plus, love your umbrella metaphor :D

Nefarious Newt said...

Bravo. It all starts with a person, a living, breathing ball of biology, chemistry, and emotion. The Golden Rule still applies, no matter who you are or how you got there. I think something like this actually does more good for the movement toward equality, because it is another attempt to tear down an artificial division meant to categorize and catalog people along artificial lines.

Anonymous said...

God, what a God awful brouhaha yesterday proved to be eh darlings?!!

You may have read the AE comments Snarks darling, but did you by chance dip your toe into the torrid waters of the dreaded ‘L Chat’?!! Those AE comments were by comparison akin to an under 5s Sunday School outing!!! (No, I am not speaking of *that* kind of ‘outing’ darlings! Please!!! Some of you have one track minds, you really do! :D ) ‘Bi-Slut’ – good God until yesterday I had NO IDEA such a slur even existed!!! I also had no idea so many of those vicious little ‘L Chaters’ viewed the unfortunate Ms Nixon as being one such ‘Bi-Slut’. I thought she was a happily married lady???

“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.”

No darling you are adorable! And brave!! And I love you desperately for it!!!

“Here’s the thing. This is a complicated issue.”

It sure is! Complicated way beyond my abilities as a journalist. I am fine (more than fine actually!) when pitted against the likes of those New World Order (NWO) villains, but when it comes to this sort of thing I must defer to you Snarks darling! Believe me when I state that I agree with almost all that you so eloquently wrote. I especially agree with you (and Nixon) on this point:

“You don’t get to define my gayness for me.” (I do however take issue how she went about that ‘defining’ of hers… See below!)

“And isn’t that, in the end, what we’re fighting for in the first place?”

Well, yes… Although some of us have shifted our focus almost entirely to fighting the NWO. (Sorry darlings, but so far as I can see, that is the over-arching priority!)

Darlings, darlings, darlings, this dreadful, damaging, and STUPID little civil war is getting a little out of control is it not?! After the vicious anti-Butch lynching’s of last week, yesterday it became personal. Very personal! You see, despite not having so much as even kissed a man in over 6 years, I do consider myself a bisexual and I am not in the least ashamed to say so! (Why the hell would I be ashamed?!! I slept with Bill Hicks for God’s sake!!! :) )

As the dust settles, I am left wondering who next will fall prey to the baying mob? The red-heads? The Asians? The red-headed Asians??? (Look out Snarks!!! Yes, I know it washed out within a month… :) )

Anyway, against my better judgement, and with a heavy heart, I once again launched myself into the fray over on the dreaded ‘L Chat’. Silly I know, but how could I stand by and watch my kind being accused of everything from eating babies to visiting plagues of STDs upon the sacrosanct Lesbian Community?!! With granny by my side we challenged those little fiends to show their evidence regarding the STD slander.

“Of course I was by your side darling! Those little Napoleonic Butch-Hating fascists were speaking ill of my wife! My wife!!!”

Yes, that’s true. While the term was not yet in vogue, grandmother was I suppose a bisexual.

“Whatever she was, she was most definitely *not* a “slut”!!! “Bi-Slut”?!! How dare they?!! How DARE they?!!!!! Why I’ll… I’ll…”

Calm down granny! PLEASE!!! Here take this.

She’s right though, grandmother was indeed lady…

Anonymous said...

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, that stupid ill-judged STD claim. Unsurprisingly their scientific ‘evidence’ was found to be lacking. (Non-existent would be nearer the mark!) When granny and I chose to point this out to them, what did they do? Why they deleted the damn post of course! Because as everyone knows, right next to the government dispatch box is a big red button that should the Leader of the Opposition start asking too many awkward questions, or start pointing out too many inconvenient truths, all the Prime Minister has do his hit that big red button, and *poof* the Leader of the Opposition disappears into a frightfully convenient little puff of smoke. IDIOTS!!!

Still fuming over the shockingly unsporting antics of those little ‘L Chat’ fascists, I was not quite prepared for the next blow when it came. Tricky Cynthia timed it to a T when she chose that very moment to swoop in and inform everyone that while she was very happy with the choices she has made regarding her sexuality and that despite conceding that yes, she should in fact define herself as being bisexual, she does however choose not to march beneath our flag because, well…

“Nobody likes the bisexuals. Everybody likes to dump on the bisexuals.”

Yes, I think I may have detected the teeniest of hint of that yesterday Tricky darling?! Anyway, thank you ever so much for disclosing that little titbit to us, and just so you know, as of yesterday you are most definitely OFF my Christmas card list!!! (Darlings removing someone from your Christmas card list is not “policing”, it is merely being selective over who you want to have amongst your friends! The woman can dig herself in even deeper for all I care! However, I *will* be first in line with the fortifying ‘gin of forgiveness’ should she elect to dig herself out again!!!)

PD (‘Bi-Slut’ and *proud* of it!!!)

Anonymous said...

PS I have *no problem* whatsoever with people making choices regarding their sexuality. How could I?! After all, someone very dear to all our hearts helped me make a very big choice regarding my own! Yes Snarks darling, you are *solely* responsible for putting the ‘Bi’ into this ‘Bi-Slut’!!! Without you I would but be a humble slu- *Cough ahem* Crashing on!!! No, what I have a problem with is people choosing to be cowards!!! (And after being so brave to come out in the first place?! Oh how the mighty have fallen!)

P(2)S I wonder just how many of those ‘Bi-Slut’-Hating fascists would kick HG from their beds if they had the great good fortune to find her there??? Or, if I am to be permitted a brief moment of immodesty, me?!! (*Improbably* great good fortune would be more accurate! As if either I or the equally classy HG would take anything to do with any of those little louts!!!)

P(3)S Darlings, as of today I am removing those little Napoleonic Butch and ‘Bi-Slut’ hating fascists from my address book. Quite frankly, I must get back to the bigger issues at hand! Besides, believe it or not, fighting the New World Order is considerably less depressing than crossing swords with the likes of those silly little ‘L Chat’ delinquents!!! (That said, I look forward to seeing many of them atop the barricades when we take on the NWO together. Tricky too if she can find the time. Dammit she bloody well ought to find the time! Considering she’s so concerned with personal freedoms etc.!!!)

P(4)S Anyone know how long it takes for horse tranquilliser to wear off??? I have a very unconscious medium lying sprawled on my floor…

P(5) Happy Burns’ Night when it comes darlings!!! Something apropos from the bard himself:
Yes, alright you will have to do a wee bit of mental jiggery pokery; imagining ‘women’ and where there are only (Freemasonic!) “men”, just go with darlings! Go with it!!! Might make you feel better?! (Lifted my spirits at any rate.)

bzzzzgrrrl said...

Ms. Snarker-
Yes, yes, yes, exactly. Thanks for this.

AtlAggie said...

Right on (as always) Ms. Snarker. I reject the idea that achieving equal rights depends upon the queer community establishing that we are "born this way." Frankly, I don't think the people who hate us or fear us and use the hate & fear to justify their bigotry could give a hoot whether or not we're born this way. It won't change their minds -- it would just reframe their arguments into something along the lines of "queer people must fight against their sinful nature for all of their lives."

To me the question is completely irrelevant -- who cares whether or not we are all born queer or if for some of us there is an element of choice. The bottom line is that our rights shouldn't be dependent upon whether it's nature or nurture.

sonje said...

There is a part of me who agrees with the first commenter and wishes that CN had said, instead, "I'm bisexual and I'm currently choosing to be with a woman." I'm comfortable with that analysis, and if you ask me to look in my heart, that is how I would define CN even though she is choosing the word "gay" to define herself. I would not force my opinion that she is bisexual on her. Of course she can call herself whatever she wants, and I'm happy to have her "under the umbrella" as you described.

But I can also see that that she has a solid argument. Some people like spicy food right from the get-go and some develop a taste for it later. But still, even as I write this...I find holes in that story. Once you develop the taste, you're not "choosing" to like spicy food. You just like it. The end.

So fine then. The "choosing to be gay" thing doesn't compute for me.

But again, her story is her story, and she can tell it however she wants to tell it. I'm fine with that. But she could also tell me that the sky is orange with green stripes, and really and truly believe that to be the case, and I'll still think it's blue. But I have no desire to argue with her about it. My reality is blue.

Voo said...

You said it all in "Policing other people’s gayness isn’t helping anyone actually be gay.". I think as a community, we spend waaay much time policing eachtother on all sorts of issues, and it saddens me. I always say to dalliances - hey I don't care how you define yourself, as long as it includes wanting to be with me :)

Beatrice said...

Belonging to a younger generation, I could care less about labels. Treat me with respect and I will do the same. I really don't care how you chose to live your life as long as you're not purposely hurting anyone else, or yourself for that matter. So, of course, a world with no labels is an ideal that I cherish and I hope to see it in my lifetime.

But the thing is, coming from an Eastern European background, and still living in this country, I think it's important for people to label themselves. To be fair, I can't say I know a single person in my country who's openly gay and has admirable quality. I am sure these people exist, however they are not in the public eye. We do need gay role models and people whom we'd be able to see and realize that's not such a big deal to love someone belonging to the same sex.
Homosexuality was illegal here until about 10 years ago and despite the fact that now it is acceptable (or should I say no longer prohibited) by law, the mentality of the older generation has not changed.

My parents are in their mid-to late 50es and I wouldn't dare to be open to them. I've tried talking to my Dad, but he just saw it as a hypothetical situation, and as for my Mum, well, I'm fairly sure that she would disown me for not being straight.

I do believe that we are born this way, but deciding to adopt the lifestyle associated with the gay community in a society such as the one I live in, is a choice, a really brave choice.

I think that people who choose to be openly gay besides all these socio-cultural prejudice and the struggles they encounter, should be admired, not bashed by people from their own community, regardless of the rules and laws of the society they live in.

Oh, and Ms. Nixon's views, are totally understandable. In her situation I would pride myself with being openly gay, considering all the things she had to loose. It's a difficult decision to make, but until the point where coming out is no longer a big deal, I do believe it is a choice.

Sorry for the long and sometimes incoherent rant, English is my second language, I'm not much of a writer, I only got 5 hours of sleep last night and the coffee is starting to wear off, but, dammit, I have strong opinions regarding this issue and I needed to share them.

I hope you all are having a nice day! :)

the crustybastard said...

Choice or not, one adult's romantic feelings for another adult provides no basis for the government to alienate those adults from their inalienable rights.

I wish she was making THAT point.

Florence said...

I'm always dumbfounded when people bring up that ridiculous question: "were we born this way or is it a choice?"
Implying that a choice would automatically mean we don't deserve equality sounds a lot like self-hatred from some people in the gay community to me. I'm really sorry to say that but it's true.
For me it's like: there are people who like strawberries and people who don't, and as far as I know no one is conducting research on that. Because: who cares? That's how I approach that stupid question about choice or no choice: it's NOT relevant.
We should have equality because well we are human beings who deserve equality. End of story.
So all this rant to say that I like your post.

egghead said...

The icky "family values" people, the people who make it their life's work to butt into others lives in order to pray away the gay, I hold them responsible for these kerfluffles in label-ness, forcing us to say, er, I can't help it I was ALWAYS born this way. And the family values idiots still add insults saying yeah, your were born a freak of nature - now let us cure you. FU

This is especially hard for a female, for she is "expected" by the family values crowd, to ride her way into oblivion until she has had 10,000 babies by the time she is
30. She looks up that day in her future and asks, what was that? Do I even know who I am? Is this my life or theirs? So that was the 50's - today? We are the 21st century for heaven's sakes - have we learned nothing from our struggles?

Those of us who escape fluffy baby land, still have to shake off years of hetero-normative indoctrination. And even when one shakes it all off, it's still coming at you.

Wouldn't it be lovely if we had never started out with these binary choices in the first place? Wouldn't it be great if we were ALL kittens, and one could not outwardly tell which sex was who and all we did was cuddle and kiss in order to reproduce?

But as it is today, we have to be either/or in order to defend against r-wingers saying we were steered away from normalcy by Satan! I have always loved women. Hell, I even fell in love with the looks of my mommy when I was little. :D No one can shame me away from any of my feelings.

You see, one does not find these things out until one can shake off these very powerful, made-up cultural rules. Rules that were made up so as to keep the order and to keep the labels firmly affixed.

J9 said...

Ms. Snarker - I simply adore you. PD - your rambling made me dizzy today, crusty - you already know I completely adore you as well.
My deal is this - I am Bi, and feel sometimes alienated by both the str8 and lesbian communities. I was born bi, and have always been so. Whom I love has always been a matter of availability. If running in lesbian circles, I fall for lesbians, if running in str8 circles, I fall for str8 women, or men, honestly more likely women regardless, but I am right this moment ending a relationship that has lasted HALF of my life, that is with a man and the father of my children. Will I next have relationships with women? men? I honestly do not know, and I am not looking to start something at this point regardless. So I get CN's point, I guess for me the choice is whether to open my heart to all possibilities.

Redbone210 said...

With tears in my eyes, I say...Thank Ms. snarker!

Well done!!!

Anonymous said...

Some of the most judgemental people on earth are lesbians and this derives from the very close daisy chain lifestyle of being in everyone's business and sleeping with everyone in the chain. Having been in these unhealthy codependent friendships I pulled back and said what does it matter who sleeps with who as long as they aren't hurting anyone? If Lena Headey turned gay tomorrow I would be much more thrilled than the fact that Cynthia Nixon decided to be gay.
I have also seen straight women get into lesbian relationships for the closeness etc. That occurs all the time.
It is not anyone's business who Cynthia Nixon chooses to sleep with. We should be more concerned about the liberties that are being ripped out from under us than the stupid celebrity f-fest.

BioGal said...

Ms. Snarker, thanks - this was great. I think choosing to act on non-hetero feelings, choosing to label oneself as non-hetero, etc. are incredibly valid and actually more strikingly relevant and compelling modes of being, than 'oops, I can't help it - I'm not straight - I was born this way.'

If we accept that choosing how we live and love is personal and should be protected, then we move forward. A choice (e.g. I want to be this way) is more significant than compulsion (e.g. I can't be any other way even if I wanted to be).

Jamie said...

Amen, sister Snarker!!!
Choice -vs- Born This Way... Who cares? Its Not relevant! You can Choose to live your Truth. Or you can Choose to live a Lie. Either way you still deserve your 'UNALIENABLE RIGHTS'!

meg said...

I admire Cynthia Nixon for speaking from her heart, knowing it's an unpopular opinion.

I've been involved with both men and women, and I can tell you every single time I got involved with each person it was a choice. You're damn right it was. It was also a choice to explore my feelings for women in the first place. I could have chosen not to and gone on to live a perfectly fine life.

I know that's a really unpopular thing to say, and I usually get bullied (I see it as bullying, anyway) out of voicing it by other members of the female-identified queer community. But I'm tired of that, and creating a situation where I feel like I can't say what I'm thinking and feeling in the queer world is just as bad as people in the hetero world completely disregarding my involvement with women.

In the end, everyone has their own story. Please, let's just stop getting in each other's way.

I was reluctant to read this post, Snarker, because I was afraid you were going to perpetuate that close-minded way of thinking. I'm so glad you didn't. :)

Anonymous said...

As a woman who only finally sorted out my sexuality, sort of, in my thirties while involved with a man who I still live with, I have to admit that there IS an element of choice in it. For people who are "born that way" there's less, but that's because it's a choice between following their desires (openly or not) and trying to convince themselves they're straight. Much harder to do.

But for people who haven't known from their prepubescent years? It's much more difficult to sort out. It may be a bit easier for young girls now, since there actually ARE examples of lesbians and lesbian relationships out there, but without that? All you have is straight relationships to model your life on. So maybe you DO go through life with your head in the clouds, so to speak, before it finally hits you that you're not actually attracted to men. Which is when choices start.

What do you do now? If you're in a relationship, do you end it? If you aren't, do you start looking to date women? Do you even know what that would look like? Maybe I'll just go hide in the corner for a while so I can figure out what this does to my life!

So, I have to say, cheers to her for admitting her truth. Especially since so many people get so nuts about the idea of choosing to be gay. More power to her!

J.S. Hill said...

I was born Gay, I've known I was different from an early age, I came out at 19 and am now 50. I have lived out through alot of the worst of our times in the last 30 years and if you had told me when I came out that we would be where we are today in my lifetime I would have laughed at you. Taking all that into consideration, however Ms. Nixon chooses to identify herself is good by me, any and all allies are welcome in the fight for freedom and equality. There is strength in numbers and fighting amongst ourselves makes us weak and vulnerable to the enemies of equality. United we stand and divided we fall. We want them to let us live and let live... we need to do the same. Thank you Dorothy for sticking yourself in the fire.

annoyedslasher said...

you are right on it as always :) well said, i think i might have even gotten goosebumps a few times reading!

Anonymous said...

Unbelievable blog today. You always express yourself so eloquently and with the right amount of humor. I was reading the comments by cynthia nixon and was nodding my head in agreement, at the same time wondering how bad the backlash was going to be. Thank you for your support of free will and everyone's right to just be.

Anonymous said...

To tell you the truth, I don't think even *she* knows what she was trying to say there. I find her whole speech terribly confusing. Not what I would expect from someone her age. Maybe she wanted to say that she is bisexual? O_o

There is no choice in who you find attractive and who you fall in love. You just do. You can choose what you do with that though. You can ignore it or act on it.

Anonymous said...

I appreciate the well-written thoughtful post. But I think the conversation changes when you acknowledge her comments where she says she is bisexual but just doesn't like the word bisexual. She took a word, gay, and gave it a meaning or connotation that doesn't mean or connote what about 99% of people believe it means or connotes -- and potentially, for some, she changed what what they think it means or connotes. And she did this because she doesn't like the word bisexual and feels biphobia. So while those of us who proudly use the label gay to mean something specific are supposed to respect her choice to preempt that word, she is not expected to respect what that word means when a kid tells her mom she's gay or when someone is elected the first gay mayor of a city, etc. I just don't understand why when her own choice means helping to dismantle a word and definition that is very important to many of us in the gay community, it's not fair to say we think she's wrong. No one is saying she is wrong for having an identity that doesn't fall within the rigid score of "lesbian," just that preempting a word and knowingly changing its meaning to fit her agenda is wrong. Words have power and her words reach potentially millions. Like AfterEllen used to say, visibility matters. I wonder if this kind of visibility helps.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Nixon and regardless, she speaks for herself, not anyone else. I also find your write-up inspiring because in essence, you present all sides of the issue but choose the side of tolerance and if we,as a community, gay, bisexual, trans, whatever, can't, accept each other without feeling the need to label everyone, how can we expect bigots to accept us?

As a 38 year old who fell in love with a woman, I keep being asked if I'm "gay now". Does it matter? I was always open about sexuality and love and I don't see why that should change now. All I know is that I'm in love with a beautiful smart lovely woman and I'm lucky enough that she loves me too. Isn't that more important than anything else, including the whys and whos anyone can put on it?

Love comes in all shapes and forms. Trying to categorize it or explain it for the benefit of people who will never accept us, is playing their game and losing.

Kokomargoan said...


My dearest, that is why I admire you so much. You never get carried away in the heat of the discussion like so many do.

I am a person that simply can`t find myself fitting in any label, and this is, indeed, a choice. What works for everyone, and includes me as well is exactly what you said:"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."

tlsintx said...

I love it when women won't shut up. Go Snarker! Go Nixon!

tlsintx said...

I love it when women won't shut up. Go Snarker! Go Nixon!

Michelle said...

To me it's pretty simple. Sexuality is a scale, and lots of people fall somewhere in the middle. Placement can be fluid over time. People sometimes switch in their preference, as Cynthia did, but the point is that no one should ever feel that they SHOULD change.

We're all on the same team--be yourself whoever that is. Preach on, Nixon and Snark!

Anonymous said...

We should be treated equally because...that's our right. Not because we were born this way or chose this way...but because it is the right way to treat's our right!

My problem with born this way theory is that what if science figures out a way to prevent it...change a gene here...then what happens.

I can tell you right now...if someone announced a pill that would turn me straight...I would choose to say no.

politicablue said...

Ms. Snarker, I know that a lot of readers really enjoy "tank top Tuesday" and all your other regular features. I like 'em too. But what keeps me coming back is the way you think and write about issues such as this one.

I'm a professional queer, of sorts, in that I'm paid to think, teach, and write about the politics of sexuality. While I totally understand why many LGBT rights advocates have tried to analogize sexuality to race and gender, I think the more accurate analogy is to religion. Religion is a "choice." While many people keep the faith (or non-faith) tradition they were born into, others convert from one religion to another, become atheists and agnostics, and/or become believers later in life. And all of this matters not at all to how the law treats them. Religion is a choice, but it's a d*mn important choice and it's so central to a person's sense of self that the appropriate task of the government is to stay the h*ll away from regulating it.

SFGreek said...

We don't know exactly what she means by choice. That's for a very long discussion, and the line between agency and structure is blurry and wide. Nixon chose not to define herself as bisexual for whatever reason, and ultimately, you have to go with how someone chooses to define themselves. She's not delusional, and she knows herself better than any of us do. She defines herself as gay, and I take that to mean that she doesn't consider men an option--however you want to frame that temporally.

I like what she said a lot because I've always felt that it was a mistake to dismiss choice categorically. It's a fine choice, and some people do feel they have some control over it, however that choice may come about. Maybe it's in choosing how to look at life, how to look at people, how to look at your choices in general.

We think by stating that it's not a choice that people shouldn't discriminate against us. Just tell me, when has that ever worked for anyone? Did racism end because everyone knows skin color is genetic? Did ableism end because people don't choose to be disabled? Did sexism end because half the population was born with vaginas?

We need to give that up, and focus on the fact that being queer is a fine, fine thing, in many ways better than that straight jacket. We're people, we love other consenting adults, and we deserve equal rights. No one deserves to be a second class citizen.

Let's move beyond essentialism, because it's not working politically, and more importantly, because we don't all feel that way about our identities and orientations.

Anonymous said...

I agree. On every word agree. Nobody can force you to feel the way he thinks it is right to feel.
This "born this way" thing makes gay people somehow like invalids or damaged. "I'm sorry, I was born this way, I can do nothing, accept me because I can not change". Yes, there is truth in these words, but for so many people being gay isn't "being born that way". I like men and I like women. And it's my choice who I wanna be with. And it's my right to have this choice.

Your friend, Rusty said...

Nicely done.

I find it ironic/depressing that so many lesbians are willing to appropriate the language of religious fundamentalists and other authoritarian bigots when arguing their point. If I wanted that level of moral certitude and indignation I'd go hang out on Liberty Baptist University's web site.

Anonymous said...

I agree that no one should be forced to adopt any label they don't want to - your sense of self is ultimately up to you. I do take issue with her use of the word "choice" though. Now this is just my personal opinion, but attraction (emotional and sexual) is not something that can be forced. Maybe you recognized it the moment you were born. Maybe you denied it until finally, one day, you just couldn't anymore. Or maybe one day, out of the blue, for no reason whatsoever, something that was once not attractive to you suddenly is, or conversely, something you were once attracted to became unattractive. There may be no rhyme or reason to why any of this happens.

Honestly, it's just her wording around "choice" that puts me a bit on edge, because I feel it implies that you can force yourself to be attracted to something you aren't. And really, anyone who falls under the "non-hetero" category and lives that "lifestyle" chooses to - just the same as straight people choose their "lifestyle." Every human being on the planet "chooses" how they react to their attractions, and certainly every human has the right to do so without fear of having their inalienable rights as a human being taken away.

If only Ms. Nixon had made the distinction between attraction and choice, I think this whole thing would be a non-issue, really.

terriblerambler said...

Mmmm, talking about queer community and then say we were born this way? Dpesm't that kinda goes a bit against queer theory? Mind you, I'm not smart enought to get Gender troubles (I read a spanish translation and I was like: I might as well read get an english copy) I happen to be a hundred per cent gay lady. A six in that Kingsley thingy (I know it's scale but I've been rewatching Buffy) Was I born this way? I guess. Or maybe I fell into a gay potion as a kid or whatever. I don't really care. Straight people don't need to say: hey, I can't help it, I was born this way. In gay pride parades here in Spain we usually yell: lesbiana porque me gusta y me da la gana. Lesbian because I like it and I feel like it. You could argue that encourages the bigots, I say: no matter whay we say, bigots are going to hate us. I completely agree with her: we can't let them say what the terms of discussion are.

So I don't know if I can help it or not. Well, I know I can't help it, but I haven't tried. I get why someone would try, but I haven't been in a position where I felt: it would be better if I'm straight.
Of course, I've suffered from homophobia. And from sexism. And from fatphobia. Weird thing, the fatphobia has given me an eating disorder because you know, you can stop being fat, it's a choice, you just gotta eat less and healthier and exercise.
I've got a gay uncle who says my mother is homophobic. She sorta is. She is. But it's not as bad as her giving me diet pills and laxatives since I was nice years old and put on some prepuberty weight. And my gay uncle calling me fatty and saying I should diet. Because, you know, it was a choice, an unhealthy choice, blablablabla.
So yeah, assholes give people harder times when they get in their heads they are making horrible choices but the thing is: they are assholes, and we should call themout on that. Then if we want to say: by the way, I'm just this way, fine. But the "I can't help it" angle doesn't convince this hardcore dyke either.

Pamilla Ore said...

I know some people (most out people) are proud to call themselves gay, lesbian, etc. Kudos to them. However, I think labels can be just as detrimental as helpful. No one is exactly the same. The way each and every one of us experiences love and relationships is not exactly the same. Some of us make choices and sometimes thinks happen which are out of our control. I agree that no one should define our gayness for us. Human nature is unpredictable and dynamic. I think at the heart of it we want every single person to be traeted equally regardless of race, gender, oreintation or age. It should not matter to the random just who I love.

Anonymous said...

Spot on DS (as ever). Spot on. Live & let live. Love & let love.

PS - Please no-one mistake me for that other Anonymous person (the attention whoring one)

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Anonymous said...

I agree with Cynthia, though I think she maybe phrased it in the wrong way. I don't think any of us can choose who we are attracted to, in what way and to what degree, but we can choose how we identify and what 'path' we want to go down. Cynthia obviously can experience attraction to both men and women, but she prefers to identify as - to live as - gay, and I think that's the choice she is making.

Unfortunately, were society not so narrow minded about sexuality, we wouldn't have to make any choices, we wouldn't have to identify as anything or define who we are. I am unsure of my sexuality - I love women, both romantically and sexually, and I cannot deny that I can experience attraction to men, though in what way I'm not sure - I don't find men in general sexually attractive, but I can have romantic feelings for them, and find some of them sexy (though I do not know whether I would want anything sexual with them in reality). I'm not sure whether I'd want to be in a relationship with a man. For me, neither 'gay' nor 'bisexual' really fits, and yet due to the society we live in, it would be hard for me to come out without stating that I adhere to one of these labels. That's how it is for most of us. That is what we can choose - some of us may experience some attraction to men, but feel more comfortable identifying as gay and living as gay - not acting on any attraction to men. I think that's what Cynthia is referring to when talking about it being a choice.