Born this gay | Bleader

Born this gay

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  • Nick Step
It is so delightful that Cynthia Nixon, an actress most famous for playing Miranda on Sex and the City—a franchise whose most recent film had such bad sexual politics that it caused the Stranger’s Lindy West to renounce modern womanhood—can have ignited, over the course of one New York Times Magazine profile, a good and necessary debate about being gay: Is it a choice? Does it matter? It’s always puzzled me that the gay rights movement so strenuously pushes the argument for innateness, given that there’s nothing particularly fierce or self-respecting about a political claim that means, essentially, “I can’t help that I’m this way.” Nixon, who dated men before starting a relationship with her current partner, Christine Marinoni, objected in the profile to gay activists trying to “define my gayness for me”—she says she's drawn flak for her modulating midlife sexual orientation. “I say it doesn’t matter if we flew here or we swam here,” she said, “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.”

This is great—a profound step away from the tedious prescriptivism of people like John Aravosis, who basically represented Nixon’s complaint in a blog post criticizing it: “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 so on. Slate’s J. Bryan Lowder takes another tack: “I’m not really interested in guessing at what Nixon’s ‘true’ sexual identity is—that’s her business, and labels are always only approximations at best. What does interest me, however, is the alternate political model that her comments suggest.” He continues:

It’s a compelling thought, a world where grown-ups don’t have to explain away their sexual activities by way of what amounts to an unavoidably apologetic “I can’t help it.” Still, many critics will argue that appealing to biology is the only way to protect against the attacks of the religious right—if God made me this way, surely you can’t hate me. But I have to agree with Nixon that depending on biology cedes a great deal of control to bigoted people; after all, much of Christianity is based on the idea of resisting sinful bodily desires. If homosexuality is truly genetic, why not just ignore it, like good old heterosexual lust?

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