Gay By Choice?

“Cynthia Nixon learned the hard way this week that when it comes to gay civil rights, the personal is always political. Very political.”

So the story begins. It goes on to point out that Cynthia Nixon has been pilloried by the gay community for claiming that she is gay by choice, not by genetic disposition. Good grief! One would think that the gay community would gladly welcome one who is in sympathy with their sexual preferences  — or, more to the point, a well-known personage who is outspoken about being gay herself. But not so.

Apparently, there are those in the gay community who think that by saying she is gay by choice she will lead many to think that one can simply choose to be gay — or to cease to be gay. I can understand this, as it is certainly the case that many of those in the “straight” camp who fear gays make the claim that is is simply a matter of choice and therefore those who choose to be gay should choose not to be gay  (at the risk of becoming like their critics, of course).

But at the same time, as Nixon herself points out, those in the gay community should rejoice that a person of her standing would openly embrace their life-style and not remain in the closet pretending to be something she is not. In other words, what difference does it make why a person is gay — or straight? Whether it is a matter of choice or a matter of genetics or a matter of conditioning, or a magic wand, it matters not a whit. Those without, and especially those within, the group should realize that this is all about opening the minds of up-tight people to the issue of sexual preference. It’s part of our world and has been since the beginning. One would hope greater understanding will lead to less fear and wider acceptance. In this case, the end does justify the means.

The interesting thing about the story is the thought that being liberal no more means being tolerant than being conservative means being narrow-minded. I assume that most of those in the gay community are liberal,  but we tend to simplify things by identifying such notions as “liberal” and “tolerant,”  “conservative” and “narrow-minded” when, in fact, there is no necessary connection among these terms whatever. We can only say some liberal people are tolerant, some are not. Some in the gay community are liberal, some are not. Further, some conservative people are intolerant while others are not — assuming that we know what it is that defines a “conservative,” or a “liberal.” Once again, it is a matter of “showing the fly the way out of the milk bottle.” We need to define our terms and then proceed from there. My sense of things here is that any generalization in this case is questionable because we are talking about people and they hold different ideologies and embrace differing life-styles, for various reasons.

“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,” Nixon told the Times about her decision. Hear! Hear! One would think the gay community should be all about tolerance. One would think. Cynthia Nixon’s declarations about her sexual preferences most assuredly should not be turned into a political issue. This sort of criticism from within the gay camp will close more minds than it opens.

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