For years now, gay rights activists have been making the case that gay is not a “lifestyle choice,” but a biological condition. They consider it essential to the movement for the biology to be accepted as the root cause of homosexuality. The thinking is simple – if being gay is not a choice, then discriminating against people who are gay is unconstitutional.
The movement is basically so dug in to the idea that “lifestyle choice” threatens gay rights that they are attacking actress Cynthia Nixon for saying that for her, at least, it was a choice.
Nixon, best known for the role of Miranda in Sex and the City, spent fifteen years in a committed relationship with a man, bearing him two children during that time. For the past eight years, she has been in a relationship with a woman, to whom she is engaged.
In an interview with The New York Times Magazine, Nixon said, “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 matter 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.”
Wayne Besen, of Truth Wins Out, is one of Nixon’s critics, saying “Cynthia did not put adequate thought into the ramifications of her words, and it is going to be used when some kid comes out and their parents force them into some ex-gay camp while she’s off drinking cocktails at fancy parties. When people say it’s a choice, they are green-lighting an enormous amount of abuse because if it’s a choice, people will try to influence and guide young people to what they perceive as the right choice.”
Wow – in one statement Besen just dismissed one-fourth of the movement.
Nixon is bi-sexual by biology even if she refuses to define herself as bi-sexual, and at different times in her life has made two distinct choices about her commitment to a partner. That does not change the biology of purely gay or lesbian people or the complexities of transgenderism. It just sets the record straight about bi-sexuality. There is a choice involved for bi-sexual persons when it comes to commitments.
The “movement” is called LGBT, as in “Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender.” One of those four is not like the others. One of those four has more options and more choices to make. That does not change the fact that the one different group needs just as much in the way of rights protections as the other three. They should not be forced to take cover in a straight relationship to prevent being discriminated against. And Nixon’s statements are not going to change anything for a teenager who is stuck with parents who would demand “cure the gay” therapy. As long as there are so-called professionals like Marcus Bachmann willing to “cure the gay” there will be parents who force their kids into it.
The problem is not in converting the parents. Trust me, this country is full of people who cannot see facts for their own bigotry. The problem is in allowing these “cure the gay” therapists to do business. Until laws are written that define what therapy is and who can practice it, and punish those who practice without proper training or certification, this situation will continue. The laws can be written to encompass alternative medicine and still protect kids from the intentional malpractice of “cure the gay” therapists.
Welcome to the problem every rights movement in history has had. A movement is perceived as being weakened if it is not totally unified in a way that makes conformity more important than individual rights.
One of the things that has haunted the Scott family of Atlanta is the possibility that W. A. Scott was not murdered by white supremacists, but by African American extremists who could not accept a moderate view in the pre-World War II civil rights movement. The feminist movement was fatally damaged by a leadership that said women could not choose to be homemakers and full-time mothers, forcing those who wanted that choice to seek refuge among the anti-feminists. It took guts to stand up to the extremists in the feminist movement and say “If this is about choice, why can’t you respect mine?” It took courage to be full-time homemakers and teach our children they had the right to make their own decisions.
Then, there is the issue of “allies” – an important part of any civil rights movement. The civil rights movement for African Americans needed white allies. Without them, nothing would have happened. A minority cannot change laws all by itself. When extremists in the African American community started lashing out at the allies, the movement suffered set-backs that are really coming to fruition this year in restrictions in voting rights, rights that were more reformed by white allies than they were impacted by black activists. There is a part of the LGBT community that lashes out at those who have not been subjected to discrimination within their own families. That’s a really great way to lose allies.
Cynthia Nixon is a bi-sexual who has made her choice. She has chosen the lesbian side of her sexuality and made her commitment within that decision. She is hardly alone in that. The movement has decided to define women like Meredith Baxter according to the movement’s preferences. She must have been a deeply repressed lesbian who finally threw off her shackles and found herself. But what if Meredith Baxter is in fact a bi-sexual? What if she wasn’t faking it when she was attracted to men? Her description of her relationship with ex-husband David Birney was about his controlling and emotionally abusive treatment of her, not about sexual compatibility. What if Baxter has made a choice about committed relationships more than a choice about coming out of the closet? Is the movement denying Baxter the right to define herself the way they want to force their definition on Nixon?
One last thought, from a straight woman..Nixon is far more threatening to homophobic men than a biological lesbian is. Nixon is saying it’s not about the equipment, it’s about the quality of the relationship. Ever seen those t-shirts that say “the more I know about men, the more I love my dog”? Nixon’s message is a multi-layered one. She is saying, with her own personal history, that two women can forge a sexually satisfying relationship and an emotionally satisfying relationship without being totally immune to a biological attraction to men. And since most women are already aware of the fact that it is much easier to get one’s emotional needs met by other women, her message is a real threat to men’s belief that women cannot get sexual satisfaction without a penis being involved. (If you are comedy deprived and have never seen the British series Coupling, I recommend Series 2, Episode 2, “My Dinner In Hell.” The background joke is that Patrick is a tripod.)
The best way to destroy a movement is by insisting that everyone within it conform to a single set of criteria. If the movement cannot accept diversity within itself, it dooms itself.