Cynthia Nixon is in hot water. She dared to admit that, for her, being in a homosexual relationship is a choice. This has got many in the gay community and their supporters riled up. They have been working hard on making “gay” something you were born as, so people’s bigotry toward gays would be seen as the prejudice it is, and so queer would not be portrayed as a perversion you could just quit doing. I can understand the point, and understand their fear.
But here is the thing: human sexuality is not so black and white.
Kinsey pointed out that people “do not represent two discrete populations, heterosexual and homosexual. The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats. It is a fundamental of taxonomy that nature rarely deals with discrete categories… The living world is a continuum in each and every one of its aspects”. In order to understand that continuum, he divvied up people on a scale of 0-6:
0 = Exclusively heterosexual
1 = Predominantly heterosexual, only incidentally homosexual
2 = Predominantly heterosexual, but more than incidentally homosexual
3 = Equally heterosexual and homosexual
4 = Predominantly homosexual, but more than incidentally heterosexual
5 = Predominantly homosexual, only incidentally heterosexual
6 = Exclusively homosexual
I know I have mentioned before that homophobic men are more likely to get a boner while watching gay porn than men who aren’t bigoted gay-bashers. Also, our closest biological relative, the bonobos, are try-sexual (they will try anything and everybody, which makes most of them bisexual. The odds are good that humans are also much more fluid than they anti-gay culture allows. Certainly there was a lot more homosexual action in ancient cultures, including that of Ancient Egypt, and it has been a part of just about every culture world wide. Perhaps what the far-right really fears is that the “homosexual Other” is the bisexual Us”, and there is an uncomfortable level of conflation between the two “opposites”.
While I think that a 1, 2, or even 3 is probably likely to stay “straight” in a culture that punishes homosexual activity, I think that it is harder for a 4, damn hard for a 5, and almost impossible for a 6 to stay in the closet. and I don’t know whether life events or biology or both makes your number, but I do know that my 1 (I can tell if a woman is “hot” so can I really be a 0?) means that I have only desired to have sex with men. I also know that it is NO effort for me to not bang other women, and that all my crushes and my one true love have all had wieners. So is not being a lesbian some sort of moral “victory” for me? I think not. I also don’t get tattoo because I don’t want one. That doesn’t make me holier than people with ink.
Also, what about emotion? I have never fallen in love with a woman, but if I loved a woman the way I love Sweet Babou I don’t know how I could “not” want to be with her physically as well. I want to be with Sweet Babou the way I want oxygen. Should I demand gays just ‘hold their breath’ for eternity because the inhalation of their form of oxygen is worse than mine?
Nixon defended her position by saying, “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 … 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.”
While some people are so straight or so gay that they never fall in love with, or lust after, the same or the opposite gender, that does not mean all humans were born on one end of the spectrum or the other. To reconfigure Cynthia Nixon as “ always gay” means she didn’t “really” love the father of her two children or that their relationship lacked full commitment. And that is bullshit. No one gets to decide that but Nixon herself.
I think for a lot of people being gay isn’t a choice. Most gays I know personally have known they were queer since they were young. But at least a few feel like they had an option, and they followed their heart. They are people who are in the 2-4 range but are now “gay” because the person they loved was the same gender. I also have at least one friend who was bi, but fell in love with a guy and lived happily ever after. Does that make her “straight” now? What about people like Meredith Baxter Birney, who didn’t ‘become’ a lesbian until she was in her 50’s? Whose to say that wasn’t a hormonal shift? Why couldn’t she have ‘been straight’ for all the years before? When they were forcibly separated, two ‘gay’ penguins found girl mates … but does that make their loving each other and building a nest together for years less “gay”? Would they have stayed ‘gay’ if not forced apart?
Isn’t our assessment of categories more about social function than human reality? What about categories of race or ethnicity? Is a multiracial child who could pass for white NOT allowed to consider themselves a person of color? (It would be hard to work that in reverse, since structural racism would never let a darker child forget they were NOT white “enough”.) Ben Jealous has a white dad and is fair skinned, does that make his tenure as president of the NAACP suspect?
Isn’t what really matters is that everyone be treated as equal citizens, not whether they were ‘born’ to be discriminated against or not?
So, don’t be a homophobe. Or racist. Or sexist. Or bigot of any kind. Bigots are asshats.
And nobody really likes asshats.