Ask me if I’m gay and I’d probably tell you yes. Was I always gay? No. In fact, like most gay people, I started out as hetero. I played the games of boy meets girl for at least 10 years, including those awkward kisses on the cheek on the playground and childhood explorations of each other’s bits. That was before I decided that I wanted something different than what everyone had told me to want. I didn’t know it was women, specifically, but I knew it wasn’t on the male side of the spectrum.
The key here is, I decided to identify as gay. This is not to say I didn’t always feel different growing up. I never understood what all the fuss about boys was like my female friends, avoided dresses at all costs, and chopped my hair off in the third grade and rocked the style until I tried to fit in with my up-do and make up loving peers in high school. I was probably gay from the day I was born, but didn’t know it was an option.
These musings come from a discussion I had about Cynthia Nixon’s recent statements that she chooses to live a gay lifestyle and the backlash she received from the gay community for these comments. As one of the gays, I’m embarrassed by the responses to her comments. She revisited these thoughts, saying she really means that she would technically be considered a bisexual, but prefers the gay lifestyle. In this way, she chooses to be gay.
Our society asks for definition. If we treated sexuality the way other animals do, it’s really just something that happens naturally and to all members of the species, given the right circumstances. They don’t think of it as anything different than seeking intimacy, whatever that might mean to a penguin or a dolphin. Humans are particularly alone in viewing sexuality as something so specific as “gay,” “straight,” or “bisexual.” I use quotes because these are just words we made up to put labels on behaviors that we are afraid of or don’t understand. Calling yourself gay has more to do with identity than reality. In this way, you do choose something. You choose to identify as gay.
So, when Cynthia Nixon declares that she chose to be gay, how can a group of people who rely on and hope others won’t categorize them expect her to define herself? As she ultimately ended up stating, “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.” Embracing, deciding, identifying, choosing to be gay is saying “I won’t live by the standards that society has set up for me and I won’t feel bad about identifying with a group that isn’t the most popular or the most acceptable.” It’s saying “I love who I want to love no matter what you think about how I became this way.”
Even if being gay was a choice, which it is for some, it shouldn’t matter that we love who we love.