I don’t live in the state of New York and I don’t really care about New York politics beyond reading the odd gossip piece about how much people hate Mayor de Blasio. Andrew Cuomo is currently the governor of New York, and he’s running for re-election this year (New York governors serve four-year terms and there are no term limits.) Cuomo comes from a popular – if scandalous – old Democratic dynasty. I’m sure there are valid complaints about Cuomo’s governorship but as I said, I don’t really pay attention to NY politics.
What is interesting to me is that Cynthia “Miranda” Nixon has formally thrown her hat into the ring. She’s running in the Democratic Party primary against Governor Cuomo. Here’s her first ad:
This is a really well-produced ad, right? It gave me goosebumps, the music is great and her voiceover rocks. The message is great too. I would vote for her!
Anyway, here’s what’s bugging some people: Cynthia Nixon has been with her wife, Christine Marinoni, for more than a decade. They got married in 2012. If Cynthia won the primary and then won the governorship, there would be a First Lady (as opposed to Cuomo’s First Girlfriend Sandra Lee). So that’s fine – it’s New York, people are gay and few people have a problem with that. Except that Cynthia Nixon isn’t gay! That’s not how she identifies, and people are taking issue with the idea of labeling Cynthia “the first openly gay governor candidate.” She’s always said she’s bisexual.
When Cynthia Nixon announced her candidacy for governor of New York, a narrative quickly emerged. A Sex and the City actor would be running for one of the most powerful offices in the state on the platform of fixing the damn subways — and could very well become the first female, openly gay governor in the state’s history. The New York Times said it; the Guardian said it; even Vox said it. The only problem with that narrative, though? Nixon isn’t, in fact, openly gay.
Nixon has been upfront about the fact that she identifies as being far more on the bisexual end of the spectrum — and also about how that fact often gets lost in favor of black-and-white proclamations about her sexuality. When Nixon began dating Christine Marinoni in 2004 after dating a man for 15 years, it was largely treated as the coming-out story of a woman who realized late in life that she was a lesbian. But Nixon herself was always clear that her attraction to her ex-boyfriends was as real as hers to Marinoni, who is now her wife.
“In terms of sexual orientation I don’t really feel I’ve changed,” she told the Telegraph in 2008. “I don’t feel there was a hidden part of my sexuality that I wasn’t aware of. I’d been with men all my life, and I’d never fallen in love with a woman. But when I did, it didn’t seem so strange. I’m just a woman in love with another woman.”
In 2012, Nixon stumbled into controversy when she told the New York Times that her relationship with Marinoni was “a choice,” which to many implied that she was playing into the pernicious trope that queer people can turn their queerness on and off whenever they want. “I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice,” she said, “and you don’t get to define my gayness for me.” She was, she added, “very annoyed about this issue.”
The reason why (and the context for her “choice” comment) made more sense with a little more explanation — which, as Nixon quickly learned, was constantly asked of her no matter the purported subject of the interview. Though she clarified in a statement that she believes “bisexuality isn’t a choice” and that her relationship with a woman is, she later told the Huffington Post that she was frustrated because “people were so insistent” that she must identify as gay, that she “had just simply been mistaken about myself for all these years and finally the veil was lifted and I was a lesbian.” That narrative, she maintained, was just “not true.”
So, there you go. Don’t call Cynthia Nixon “gay.” She’s bisexual. She’s openly bisexual. This is an example of Bisexual Erasure. It will be interesting to see if and how Nixon addresses that in larger conversations throughout her candidacy, just as it will be interesting/horrifying to see how the media handles it.
Also: Senator Kirsten Gillibrand supports Cuomo, not Nixon. Just FYI.
Photos courtesy of Getty.