Gay by Choice? Born Gay Debate Stirred by Sex and the City Star

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Cynthia Nixon and partner Christine Marinoni at the Tony Awards
Source: Rex, “Sex and the City Star Cynthia Nixon Reveals Her Breast Cancer Battle,” thisislondon.co.uk, Apr. 21, 2008

Former Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon angered some gay rights activists when she said in an interview that she is gay by choice. Her statement has sparked debate about whether or not people are born gay or choose to become gay.

Nixon told New York Times Magazine, “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.”

Among Nixon’s critics is John Aravosis writing for AMERICAblog Gay, “It’s not a ‘choice,’ unless you consider my opting to date a guy with brown hair versus a guy with blonde hair a ‘choice.’ It’s only a choice among flavors I already like. And if you like both flavors, 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, i.e., will it out of nowhere. Because they can’t. 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.”

The exchange between Nixon and Aravosis is the latest in a long-standing debate about whether sexual orientation is determined at birth. Of 19 major theorists on the origin of sexual orientation, six say sexual orientation is determined at birth, seven say it is not, and six say it is both nature and nurture.

According to the American Psychological Association, “There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay, or lesbian orientation. Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors.”

Nixon responded to criticism by saying, “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.”

Nixon and her partner Christine Marinoni, with whom she has an 11-month-old son, plan to get married by Gene Robinson, the gay Episcopal bishop from New Hampshire.


Sources:

Karen Kaplan, “Cynthia Nixon Says She’s Gay by ‘Choice.’ Is It Really a Choice?,” latimes.com, Jan. 25, 2012

Kevin Sessums, “Cynthia Nixon on Bisexuality & Her New Role in ‘Wit’,” thedailybeast.com, Jan. 24, 2012