Cynthia Nixon’s recent comments about homosexuality and bisexuality created a full-on outburst within LGBT communities in the US and around the world. How dare this woman, asked the opposers, claim that being LGBT can be a choice? The audacity! It seems that Nixon’s words shocked the community so immensely that Nixon herself was obliged to “clarify” her remarks, saying that most people “Cannot and do not choose the gender of the persons with whom they seek to have intimate relationships.”
For the sake of putting things in order, I would like to start with a few quotes by Nixon, just so we know what it is exactly that she said. The original quote which caused this scandal was: “I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better.” (Oh, the horror!). Later on, while clarifying her statement, Nixon said: “For me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me. 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.” Among other things, Nixon was forced to “admit”, that even though she does not identify as such, “The technically precise term for my orientation is bisexual. I believe bisexuality is not a choice, it is a fact. What I have ‘chosen’ is to be in a gay relationship.”
So what happened here?
First of all, this is the case of a woman who opened her mouth and spoke out the unpopular opinion. As we well know, when women – even the strongest, whitest and most famous ones in the world – express their opinions, they need to be silenced right away. The unprecedented and international criticism against Nixon should first and foremost be understood in its gendered context. In our patriarchal world, if you’re a woman who dares to step away from the mainstream, you must and will be punished.
Secondly, this case concerns internalized LGBT-phobia of the worst kind. The sheer volume of rage expressed at a sentence such as “gay is better” only emphasizes this further: How dare she insinuate that being LGBT can actually be a positive thing? For shame! The original argument, which Nixon dared to counter, is: “Being LGBT is not a choice, because if it was then obviously we would all choose to be straight.” This kind of argument presumes that straightness and heteronormativity are the only options for leading a good and happy life. In addition, as Nixon insinuates, it also reassures the conservative LGBT-phobes – and heterosexuals in general – that the standards that they set for us are well and good, and that being queer or trans really does suck, just as they say.
The third – and perhaps the most important – component here is biphobia: negative views or treatment of bisexual people and bisexuality as an identity. Indeed, in one of the interviews which followed her comments, Nixon said: “I don’t pull out the ‘bisexual’ word because nobody likes the bisexuals. Everybody likes to dump on the bisexuals.” In fact, when one of my Facebook friends put up the link about Nixon, already the second reply was “Or maybe she’s just a bisexual that needs to calm down” (a comment which also got ‘Liked’ by 4 people).
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