Her statement was clumsy, irresponsible, inaccurate, and lent itself to exploitation by anti-gay activists. While Nixon’s coy semantic games and flippant proclamations may play well in certain circles, they will surely be used as a brutal club against LGBT youth in Red State America.
In the coming years, Nixon’s “choice” statement will be spewed from pulpits, scrawled in homophobic fundraising letters, and regurgitated on talk radio as proof that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people can “pray away the gay.” As a result, there will well-meaning parents who place their LGBT teenagers in “ex-gay” programs believing that since Nixon chose to be gay their child’s homosexuality might just be a phase.
The American Psychiatric Association says that attempts to change sexual orientation can sometimes lead to “anxiety, depression, and self-destructive behavior” which includes suicide. As the founder of Truth Wins Out, an organization that monitors such programs and assists its victims, it will be us, not Nixon, who picks up the pieces of lives shattered by the myth that sexual orientation is a casual choice.
Given the potential for dire consequences, Nixon was reckless, indulgent, and smacked of someone too privileged to understand the real world ramifications of her careless words.
Anti-gay organizations, such as the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, already try to portray homosexuality as a transitory condition by telling potential clients that their discredited therapy will help people explore their “heterosexual potential.”
Some people have foolishly said that no one will pay attention to her statement because she is just an actress. However, they conveniently forget that we elected an actor, Ronald Reagan, to serve as president, Arnold Schwarzenegger was chosen as California’s governor, and Minnesota elected professional wrestler Jesse Ventura as that state’s governor. For better or worse, what celebrities say in America matters – and even politicians must become photogenic media stars – such as Sarah Palin or Barack Obama — before anybody cares about their policies.
Most importantly, Nixon never chose to be gay, but is clearly bisexual. In an interview with The Daily Beast she said, “I don’t pull out the ‘bisexual’ word because nobody likes the bisexuals….everybody likes to dump on the bisexuals… 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.”
No one would have a problem if Nixon had simply said that she is a bisexual who is not enamored with that particular label. Few would care if Nixon said that sexuality exists on a continuum with some people having a more fluid sexuality. No smart person would argue that civil rights for LGBT people should rest strictly on a biological argument – even though there is a growing body of evidence pointing out that biology plays a major role in determining sexual orientation.
But the fact remains that one does not choose whom they are attracted to and fall in love with – it chooses you. Sure, people then have a choice on whether they act on these natural feelings – just as one who is ambidextrous can elect to operate with either hand. The underlying desires, however, are not something that can be changed like the latest fashion in Paris.
If you don’t want to take my word for it, consider what the leaders of “ex-gay” organizations say about the topic. Earlier this month, Exodus International President Alan Chambers told a crowd of LGBT Christians: “The majority of people that I have met, and I would say the majority meaning 99.9% of them have not experienced a change in their orientation or have gotten to a place where they could say that they could never be tempted or are not tempted in some way or experience some level of same-sex attraction.”
John Smid, the former longtime director of the “ex-gay” ministry Love in Action said last year: “Actually I’ve never met a man who experienced a change from homosexual to heterosexual.”
One must remember that people like Chambers and Smid are the most motivated in the world to find evidence of sexual conversion. Both made their livings from this idea, (Chambers continues to) and feared going to Hell. Chambers once said that, “One of the many evils this world has to offer is the sin of homosexuality. Satan, the enemy is using people to further his agenda to destroy the Kingdom of God and as many souls as he can.”
When the public hears Nixon say that her homosexuality is a capricious choice, they think that she once found sleeping with women repulsive, but then woke up one day and decided she would do it anyway for social or political reasons. It makes it sound as if she quit men like one quits smoking cigarettes – which plays into the right wing’s false addiction analogy.
No one is questioning Nixon’s right to say whatever she wants. However, with celebrity comes great responsibility and it might be wise if Nixon articulated her feelings in a more thoughtful way that would not lead to LGBT youth stuck in Bible Belt communities ending up in “ex-gay” boot camps.