Q: I just read that Cynthia Nixon of 'Sex and the City' fame was recently quoted as saying she's 'choosing' to be gay. That statement infuriates me, as I know for a fact I didn't 'choose' to be gay, and this just gives the extreme religious types more ammunition in this argument. How should I respond when I get the 'gay is a choice' argument, I'd rather not quote Lady Gaga's 'Born This way" if at all possible.
A: Respond by agreeing. You are choosing. But the choice is not one of sexual orientation, it is one of sexual behavior and, ultimately, identity. That ought to throw them for a loop!
Cynthia Nixon appeared to blending these concepts together in her statement (updated here). This is where most people get confused -- especially those "extreme religious types" who fall for the reports of those with a same-sex sexual orientation who abstain from sexual contact with their same gender and declare themselves 'straight.' Meanwhile, the individuals suffer inside while those extreme types declare another victory.
A 'gay' sexual orientation refers to a primary sexual attraction to those of the same gender, while behavior refers to any observable activity related to that attraction, and identity refers to a sense of self that one is, a total person, gay. Sexual orientation is considered to be unchangeable, whereas behavior and identity are changeable because they are up to you.
Most reading this column have a consistent orientation/behavior/identity, be it straight, gay or in-between. But we all know those who might have sex with someone of the same gender yet declare themselves as 'straight.' Most therapists and those who hold people's confidence also know those who have sexual attraction to those of the same gender but have never acted on it. And, there are even those who have a gay sexual orientation and identity, but never intend to act on it. How is that for confusing?