Cynthia Nixon: “I Don’t Feel The Need To Cede The Definition Of Being Gay”

Cynthia Nixon had some people scratching their heads—and others lighting their pitchforks when she explained to a New York Times reporter that for her, being gay was “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. 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.

The blogosphere went wild, some claiming Nixon, now starring on Broadway in Wit, was giving fodder to homophobes who thing sexuality is something you can just change like a light bulb.

In an interview yesterday with The Daily Beast’s Kevin Sessums, Nixon clarified her stance and told the haters to back off:

Look, I understand for political reasons why some people want to kind of squelch this idea that being gay might be a choice, because a lot of the rights we want are posited on the supposition that why are you denying me my rights any more than if I were created a different color? But I don’t feel the need to cede the definition of what a gay person is to the bigots. They don’t get to define who I am.

She also explained why she doesn’t just identify as bisexual:

I don’t pull out the “bisexual” word because nobody likes the bisexuals. Everybody likes to dump on the bisexuals…. I just don’t like to pull out that word. But I do completely feel that when I was in relationships with men, I was in love and in lust with those men. And then I met Christine and I fell in love and lust with her. I am completely the same person and I was not walking around in some kind of fog. I just responded to the people in front of me the way I truly felt.

We get where Nixon is coming from—we should be treated equally regardless of whether our sexual orientation is a choice or hard-wired—but why dump on bi folks? How about using that spotlight to stick up for your AC/DC brethren and sisteren? (Is that a word? It is now.)

Regardless of how whether you think her words have damaged the community or not, there’s no denying Nixon has been a staunch advocate for LGBT equality. So maybe she’s earned the right to say her sexuality is a choice—for her.

At any rate. her performance in Wit is to die for (no pun intended). If you’re in New York while its still playing, do yourself a favor and check it out.

Photo: Joan Marcus

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  • Kamuriie

    She’s PART OF THE PROBLEM when it comes to discrimination against bisexuals. What an annoying, vapid woman! All she’s doing is giving ammunition to stupid people–because of her own insecurities and hangups over her CLEARLY BISEXUAL ORIENTATION.

  • Franco

    I don’t think she’s dumping on bisexuals, I think she’s saying that when she was with a man she identified as straight and when she was with a woman she identified as being gay. I get it.

  • Franco

    One more thing about gay being a choice or not: It doesn’t matter. If you choose to be gay that’s your right to make that decision. You’re still entitled to rights and protection under every law in whatever country you live.

  • Kristopher

    Wow. So she doesn’t want to be called a bisexual because of the negative connotations? So she’d rather choose to be gay! Well not everyone has that freedom. So annoying.

  • Corey

    It sounds like she is pansexual and no one even realizes that fact!

  • Chris

    This is so annoying because people keep tossing out these vague words like “right to define my sexuality”. If you are going to use the words “gay”, “straight”, “unicorn”, or “lamp” it is just going to cause confusion if you intentionally use them counter to their definition. She admits she is bisexual, but doesn’t want to “identify” as bisexual. Who cares? Do we get assaulted for our identities, or because we fall in love with the wrong people?

    I understand where she is coming from, but I have no idea where she went.

  • Bill


    Cynthia Nixon is a bisexual and doesn’t want to be.

  • R.A.

    This is equivalent to a totally Caucasian-looking mixed race person saying “I identity as an African-American, so being black is a choice”

  • Stupid

    She has a right to define her own sexuality, just like she has the right to be a complete dingbat about it.

  • RS

    So what if it is a choice. People choose their religion and it’s covered by the constitution.

  • ek

    This fills me with rage and sadness. She says that she chooses to be gay because she is afraid to say she is bisexual? She is in a position to change the stigma around bisexuality.

  • Shannon1981

    So in other words she is bisexual but refuses to call herself that because of the stigma attached with the label.

    Well, I will give her this: there s a very real divide between lesbians and bisexuals. Many lesbians won’t touch a bi woman with a ten foot pole and the ones who will do so with extreme caution.Maybe her partner is one of said lesbians, and this is her way of handling that phenomenon.

    But this is a douchebag way to get away with being lazy and co opting a label that doesn’t carry the stigma rather than using her influence to stand up and tell the gay women that not all bisexual women fit the stereotype.

  • MEJ

    But I don’t feel the need to cede the definition of what a gay person is to the bigots. They don’t get to define who I am.

    But they do, Cynthia, they do.

  • jason

    I can partly understand Cynthia’s opposition to saying “I am bisexual”. “Bisexual” is a very imprecise word.

    Whereas the words “heterosexual” and “homosexual” in their correct usage are adjectives that describe a specific type of sexual interaction, you can’t say the same about the word “bisexual”. I mean, what is a bisexual experience? The only time you might want to use this description is if you were having a threesome with a man and a woman. However, that is fetish, not sexual orientation.

    Perhaps the real problem is this: we initially turned adjectives like “heterosexual” and “homosexual” into nouns. Then we invented a word “bisexual” and also turned it into a noun. Nouns indicate identity, like dog, cat, chicken, tree, car, house etc etc. We have effectively twisted definitions in the name of identity politics, creating faux identities in order to stake some claim to the moral high ground.

  • Isaac C

    Cynthia, girl, BYE!

    Cynthia Nixon: “I don’t pull out the “bisexual” word because nobody likes the bisexuals. Everybody likes to dump on the bisexuals…. I just don’t like to pull out that word.”

    Really? THAT’S your reasoning for not identifying yourself as you honestly are?! You instead want to distort labels because the labels that exist make you uncomfortable?

    And this: “But I don’t feel the need to cede the definition of what a gay person is to the bigots. They don’t get to define who I am.”

    DEAD at this comment. How is she going to call out bigots defining her when she 1) can’t even define who she is in the first place, and 2) can’t admit what she is without being bigoted toward the bi community? The hypocrisy is ridiculous.

    OMG girl good fucking night. SMH…

  • christopher di spirito

    Fuck off, Cynthia. No one cares what you “feel.” Just run along and have a happy life with your female partner you said is a “short man with boobs.”

  • InscrutableTed

    @R.A.: It’s equivalent to a mixed-race person saying “I identity as an African-American, so being black is a choice ­for me.” Which is completely valid. Mixed-race people often do end up associating with one community over the other.

  • The Realist

    @InscrutableTed: I think the equivalent might be ” i am a white man dating a black man, therefore, i identify as black”.

  • JayKay

    So she’s bi, calls herself a lesbian because she doesn’t like the word bisexual, then makes the bullshit claim that being gay is a choice, even though she wasn’t gay in the first place.

    Stop saying words you braying, putty-faced, jackass.

  • InscrutableTed

    She probably doesn’t like to pull out the word “bisexual” because it makes people think that she’s not truly committed to the gay community, when her actions and statements indicate that she is.

    She didn’t said that she dislikes bisexuals or that she’s ashamed of being bisexual. Just that she doesn’t like to say she’s bisexual (which is, frankly, nobody’s business).

    I totally get it. I don’t go around pointing out that I’m mixed race.

  • SuperCat

    You don’t really choose your sexuality. Even if your sexuality is fluid enough to choose what sex you find more attractive, you still didn’t choose to have a fluid sexuality.

    She does seem in practice, bisexual. Though she would rather identify as gay or straight depending on her relationship status… which is fine you can choose to identify as anything you want. Her comments about bisexuals are kinda offensive though.

  • Lefty

    Am I the only person who’s absolutely livid with angry rage at the fact that she had the temerity to speak through her mouth these words in that order!?

  • Steve

    For one, nothing positive will result from this animosity; it doesn’t make sense to me how people who have been so negatively affected by the judgment society has passed on them would then turn around and judge a member of their own community so negatively for stumbling over some language while trying to define her sexuality. Please have a heart. I personally identify as bisexual, and I’m not at all fond of her opinion on bisexuals; however, not too long ago there were many queer people in America deathly afraid of the word “homosexual” because of the negative connotative meanings attached to it (for a reference, check out Roy Cohn’s [played by Al Pacino] rant on the word homosexual in Angels in America; it’s shockingly similar to Cynthia’s opinion of the word bisexual). This is a language problem, and I think it’s grossly inaccurate to interpret this as an overt slam on bisexuality. The good thing about language is that it evolves, so instead of criticizing Cynthia for not being perfect, we should instead work on creating an environment where more people can feel comfortable exploring different language options to describe their sexuality aside from strictly gay/lesbian or straight. Also, it’s important to note that her behavior alone doesn’t make her a bisexual, or a pansexual; it’s ultimately her choice as to how she defines her sexuality (and I strongly agree that, bigot or non-bigot, no one has the right to define her sexuality for her).

    And about her suggesting that being gay can be a choice, why can’t it be? Why can’t being heterosexual also be a choice? I don’t think it’s intelligible for the gay community to try and squeeze everyone into a single linear narrative about what it means to be gay, because then anyone who doesn’t fit neatly into that narrative becomes negatively singled out, like what’s happening to Cynthia right now, and just like how queer people have been discriminated against for years for not neatly fitting into the heterosexual narrative.

    Not everyone has the same thought process about their sexuality, and I believe we need to be more open to diverse opinions about sexual identification, so we don’t have to deal with members of our community being singled out in a negative way. Sure it’s easy to hate on Cynthia because she’s famous and has all this privilege that could make her seem like she’s not a ‘real’ member of the community, but what if that was a young adult in your neighborhood who was struggling with the language to define hir sexuality?

    My point is that Cynthia, like all of us, is not perfect. Instead of hating her for her imperfections, I think she should be praised for having the courage to publicly voice her opinion on this controversial topic. I 1000 percent agree with her that being queer can be a (positive) choice; I feel like her and I aren’t the only two queers out there that have that opinion, and I think the queer community can benefit from accepting and promoting diverse views/opinions on sexuality. I also think Cynthia said this perfectly: “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.”

  • Rob

    I do see where she’s coming from. I just think she probably should have worded it better. I HOPE she’s trying to say that it shouldn’t matter if it is a choice or not. We should just be accepting of our sexuality as we choose to live it. I don’t like that she seems to be giving ammunition to people that think all homosexuals are choosing that lifestyle, but I agree with her that it shouldn’t matter at all even IF we chose it. And, ultimately, her open-mindedness in that right makes me respect her. Just do what makes you happy. If it’s a guy or a gal, who cares how you define your orientation? Now, me, I am a fan of the man and can’t see myself with a woman in a sexual way at all…and if one day I do decide to sleep with a woman, I will be making a choice that I would hope everyone would respect. Granted, I’m gay, so my perspective isn’t from that of a bisexual.

  • Shannon1981

    @Steve: Ok, after reading that long defense, I have to tell you…

    You should be outraged at her opinions on bisexuality. There was no excuse for that slam at all. While I understand it- as a lesbian I know that divide very well- I feel that from her platform of privilege she should be trying to get rid of that stigma rather than avoiding the group and taking the easy way out. If the only reason she wants to be one of us is because she has disdain for bisexuals, no thank you.

    Also, have you seen some of the shit this woman has said in the past? Before writing my own blog post on this mess, I googled her- back to 2004. She has been chock full of bizarre statements surrounding this issue. She’s a confused mess, a total head case, and it is rather alarming that people are listening to her.

  • InscrutableTed

    I think some people have misunderstood her words. In the original context, it’s clear she’s including herself when she says “the bisexuals”. She says “Nobody likes the bisexuals […] we get no respect.”

    If you think she means “Bisexuals are a distinct group from myself and I don’t like the bisexuals”, you’ve misunderstood.

  • Steve

    @Shannon Thanks for you comment. I agree she’s confused, sexuality is a very confusing thing, but I don’t think it’s constructive to criticize her so harshly. I agree she doesn’t understand the term “bisexuality;” however, there’s a huge difference between the denotative meaning of bisexuality, and the connotative meaning of it. For some personal reason, that I’m completely unaware of, she currently chooses not to use that word as a means of self identification. I can tell you I absolutely hate it when people call me Steven (my legal name) because of instances that have happened in my past; this is simply how the connotative aspect of language operates.

    Everyone is a product of their environments, and their histories. Instead of criticizing her so harshly about her misunderstanding of bisexuality, we should interpret this situation as a call for more positive, strong representation of bisexuality in our society, so that people like Cynthia can become comfortable with the word.

    Also, it’s not wise for you to project that you know me and what should or should not outrage me. I opened my comment by saying that nothing positive will result from this animosity because I strongly believe that anger doesn’t build community. Inclusion, however, does build community, and although she didn’t do the best job at articulating herself (as mentioned by Rob), she did call for the inclusion of diverse means of sexual identification in the queer community, which is something that I whole heartily support.

    @Rob I’m glad that someone else can show pride for Cynthia’s courage to voice her opinion.

  • Shannon1981

    @Steve: Actually, I reached out to a new bisexual blogger on Huffington post about the divide between lesbians and bisexual women. It’s a problem, and here is a great piece of proof. So yeah, funny you should say that re: representation of bisexuality.

    I understand that there is a bit of a divide with gay and bisexual men as well…

    But on the female side, due to the stereotypes about threesomes, “bar-sexuals” acting like that for straight men, and all the rest, the problem is much greater on the female side. So, yes, I get it. Nobody wants to deal with it.

  • Shannon1981

    @Steve: and re: not wise that I should presume what should outrage you? I know I don’t know you, but as an out and proud bisexual, I would think that it’s safe to say people slamming on your community like that should rub you the wrong way, just saying…

    No offense was meant with the comment, though, sorry if any was taken.

  • InscrutableTed

    @Shannon1981: She’s acknowledging that she’s bisexual in orientation, but explaining that she prefers to identify as gay.

  • Bob

    Lesbians just don’t make sense.

    At the risk of sounding like a bigot… every single one of the lesbians I have ever met have some sort of “issue” with men. They’ve been molested, raped, abused, neglected, etc etc… where most of the gay men I;ve met have not of those issues with women, or men. Strange…

  • Drew

    I agree Kamuriie it’s highly biphobic, and shows her as being totally closeted and ashamed of her actual sexuality which is that of being bisexual.

    She should just finally come out as being bisexual and stop being a coward and a flake.

  • Shannon1981

    @Bob: You are a bigot. Same way the homophobes hate gay men for no other reason than they don’t understand them.

    There’s no reason to be derogatory or make blanket statements. Just because the lesbians you know have those issues doesn’t mean we all do.

    I like men just fine as friends. Just don’t wanna date or fuck them.

    Just like men can be naturally gay, so can women. Why is that so hard to understand?

  • Steve

    @Shannon Don’t get it twisted, I am not at all upset with you. I am simply not an angry person; you could say that I ‘choose’ to stay chill.

    And I interpreted her opinions on bisexuality as a problem with language, and not as a slam on bisexuality. As InscrutableTed mentions, she seems to identify somewhat with the concept of bisexuality. In another article about this that I’ve read she dismisses the notion that she was an “undercover lesbian” in her previous long term relationship with a man, and said that when she was with men she loved them just like she loves the woman she’s with now.

    It’s the word “bisexual” itself that she has a problem with, and that could be a result of personal experiences, or the history of stereotyping that bisexuals have experienced. There have even been “scientific” experiments conducted to prove that bisexuality wasn’t real. So if a person is coming from a background where the term bisexual doesn’t have any value, they are going to be less likely to identify with the word. So her opinions are completely understandable, and I don’t blame her whatsoever for them. That’s why I strongly believe that instead of tearing her down for her misunderstanding, we should instead work on building up the language to describe other means of sexual orientation than strictly gay/lesbian or straight, so that we can progress to a point where this isn’t an issue.

  • jason

    Women’s sexuality is not like men’s sexuality. Women’s sexuality is complicated by a lack of evidence. A man’s isn’t. A man cannot disguise his lack of arousal and erection, simple as that.

    Every single woman is capable of faking it.

  • InscrutableTed

    @Shannon1981: Identity is a complex thing.

  • Shannon1981

    @Steve: ok just making sure. And yes, language changes. Yes, there is a lot of negativity associated with bisexuality. I think she is very confused, and she is confusing other people with her statements, which, in her position, is frankly irresponsible, though I admit I am not nearly as angry with her as I was when her original quotes hit the press.

  • Steve

    @Shannon1981: Can we agree that both Jason’s and Rob’s comments make no sense? Apparently men walk around naked all the time with their erections pointing to who arouses them so others can know for sure, and there’s absolutely no way to tell when a woman is aroused.

  • Shannon1981

    @Steve: Definitely. The misogyny in these comments is why I and like 2 other women are the only ones who post here, when it is really supposed to be a blog for Queers all around…

  • jason

    Shannon and Steve,

    Facts are facts. If you can’t cope with them, that’s not my problem.

    A man must be aroused and erect in order to have sexual intercourse. A woman does not need to be aroused and she certainly does not get erect. Even if there are parts of a woman’s anatomy that undergo physiological changes as a result of arousal, they are not required for the act of sexual intercourse. Dilated labia do not permit the act of sexual intercourse any more than non-dilated labia.

    How difficult is this for you to understand? If you take off your politically correct blinkers, you might be able to draw better conclusions on sexual issues. It might enable you to reach correct conclusions rather than ones due to PC notions.

  • Interesting

    It seems weird to me that as a bisexual woman she would not be fighting for that while pretending that she’s doing all of this in the name of self definition. It is just one of many things that’s strange about her comments. She existentially is saying there’s something wrong with being bisexual. I don’t buy it. Just like I don’t think there’s something wrong with being gay. I don’t think there’s something intrinsically wrong with being bisexual. Rather than helping to underscore that point she comes up with this confused mush of a view point that at once hurts both bisexuals and gays.

  • R.A.

    Again, it’s not politics or political correctness.

    When you look at a naked man or woman, whether you get aroused or want to gag is a physical manifestation of a biological trait and definitely NOT a choice.

    That one particular gene has not been found does not make sexual orientation any less a reality.

  • TomMc

    I know it’s only Wednesday, but I think Queerty has its Douche of the Week right here.

  • the crustybastard

    CN: “Bigots…don’t get to define who I am.”

    Okay, fair enough.

    CN: I don’t [define myself as] “bisexual”… because nobody likes the bisexuals.


  • Interesting

    @the crustybastard: And that’s why I can’t get mad at her so much as the confused mess of an answer she has. She should really stop talking, and spend a little time along thinking through what she really wants to say. One can do what you just did throughout her different statements as far as no clear train of thought.

  • Johnny

    Queerty should keep its vapid stupidity to itself, much like Ms. Imbecile should have. What little good Nixon has done in advancing LGBT equality has been more than undone by her terrible interview and laughably contradictory follow-up. It is ridiculous that this website does not choose to castigate her.

  • R.A.

    Queerty had to give it attention. The interview claiming gay is a choice went viral, anti-gay trolls were lapping it up, and bisexual women in lesbian relationships were cheering “Yes, I’m lesbian, too.” On straight sites feminists have latched onto “the fluidity of females sexuality” as if women change sexual orientation like shape-shifters in “True Blood.”

    Well, I hope she has better luck having chosen to be a lesbian than all the bisexual married men who chose to be straight that I slept with.

  • Shannon1981

    @jason: IT is well known here that you hate women. I don’t need to, as a woman, give any merit to what you say. I understand my sexuality far better than you do, thank you very much. On to the next.

  • ek

    @jason: Actually Bisexual, homosexual, heterosexual, a word roughly meaning intersexual, and transvestite were all created by the same man centuries ago while he was writing a publication.

  • Katt

    Leave it to male homosexuals to be the most closed minded easily offended group toward there own people.

    I completely agree with Cynthia and most of you people talking smack do too! When a guy says he’s bisexual most of you would shake your heads and whisper “he’s gay”. No matter if that person is actually interested in both genders. You call them “Pre-gay” or “confused”. So why can’t she just save you all the work and call herself gay? Having been through that myself I simply just say I’m gay! Why because at the present I CHOOSE to date men. Bisexuality implies that you are engaging both genders. I love and am very attracted to women, but I’m not with one or having sex with one, nor am I looking to. Much like Cynthia I made a choice to be gay presently. Go ahead and cry about it, but its the truth. The choice wasn’t made while waiting in line at Starbuck’s. It was made while falling for someone who happens to be of the same sex. We choose to live a life that makes it possible (being gay). That doesn’t make us dishonest nor less gay than anyone else. So all of you need to stop pointing fingers and look at the 3 pointing back at you.

  • TomH

    The term “straight” means nothing to me really since there are plenty of reasons why people may not yet be open about their bisexual or homosexual orientation. I don’t know with much certainty if they are telling the truth.

    The term “bisexual” also has the same issue, but to a lesser degree since the person is at least acknowledging some interest in same sex partners. But there are still people who may label themselves as “bi” to not be perceived as too queeny/butch.

    My general impression is that anyone who identifies as gay is pretty much always telling the truth.

    If she’s bisexual, then her orientation allows her to be sexually attracted to either sex – she’s not really choosing anything though. She’s not turning off her sexual orientation towards all men, she’s just happens to be with a particular woman.

  • Tony

    Boycott this moron…don’t go see her in the theater, tv etc….maybe then she (and her handlers) will rethink how she just set back how we’ve educated the public on sexual orientation NOT being a choice. She’s bisexual. Bisexuals can choose to be with a man or a woman….that’s why they’re BI-SEXUAL, but they don’t CHOOSE to be Bisexual, they just are. They choose their partner, not their orientation, get it ???? …..Jesus, we made her F…ing career and now she stabs us in the back like this. F… her… I will never see her in anything she does again unless she apologizes and recants her ignorant and damaging comments. SO disappointing. Money talks…maybe it will make her think.

  • jason


    If you’re bisexually oriented, ideally you don’t choose your life partner on the basis of whether they are male or female. Ideally, you choose your life partner on the basis of compatibility. Personalities should be the prime driving force of attraction to a particular individual.

    However, with women, a certain proviso needs to be made. Most women, including lesbians and bisexually oriented women, are driven by the desire to have a child. In fact, their entire bodies are designed to be incubators. Therefore, a woman’s desire to have a child biases her choices towards males. This bias is facilitated by the fact that a woman does not need to be aroused in order to have sexual intercourse with a man.

    This means that an exclusively same-sex oriented woman can still appear – and I use the word “appear” deliberately – to choose and enjoy having sex with men.

    Most men, including gay and bisexually oriented ones, also have a desire to have a child. While a man’s desire to have a child might seem to bias his choice towards females, it is not facilitated as men need to be aroused in order to have sexual intercourse with a woman. Thus, there is a direct and clear connection between a man’s orientation and his ability to choose and enjoy having sex with women.

    This fact automatically excludes men who are exclusively same-sex oriented from the paradigm that is available to lesbians, and which I mentioned above.

    I simply point out these gender differences so that people can understand there are stark factors that distinguish men from women in terms of the reasons and motivations for their sexual behavior.

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