Sex and the City star Cynthia Nixon has been outed—sort of. Both the New York Daily News and The New York Post are reporting today that Nixon is in a relationship with another woman (who has not been named because “she’s just a private citizen who would like to remain private,” according to the News’s sources).
What makes this more than the usual gossipy speculation about celebrities’ love lives is Nixon’s response when asked directly about the lesbian relationship for the Daily News article. “My private life is private,” Nixon responded. “But at the same time, I have nothing to hide. So what I will say is that I am very happy.”
With this statement, Nixon joins the growing number of lesbian and bisexual celebrities who are striking a careful compromise between coming out and staying in the closet.
Only a handful of lesbian and bisexual actresses have publicly acknowledged their sexual orientation since Ellen DeGeneres’s high-profile outing in 1997. This very short list includes indie actress Heather Matarazzo (who came out in a New York newspaper last month), Rosie O’Donnell, Tammy Lynn Michaels, Cherry Jones, and Angelina Jolie.
Most actresses refrain from disclosing their sexual orientation out of concern that it will hinder their ability to get work—fears that are not unfounded. DeGeneres, for example, has spoken candidly about how she couldn’t get hired for three years following her public coming-out. Both Michaels and O’Donnell have chosen to focus on careers other than acting since coming out (Michaels on co-parenting Melissa Etheridge’s children, and O’Donnell on art and political activism), so it’s unclear how their acting careers may, or may not, have been affected by the publicity around their sexual orientation–although Michaels has recently been cast in the NBC sitcom Crazy for You, which is slated for a mid-season debut. Jolie has had relationships primarily with men since coming-out, and Jones has continued to work steadily since she came out several years ago, but mostly in supporting roles on-screen (her larger roles tend to be in theater, where she has received a Tony Award).
More common now, however, are lesbian or bisexual women who refuse to lie about their relationship, but also refuse to discuss it publicly (making it much harder for the press to put labels on them). This slightly longer list includes Portia de Rossi, Saffron Burrows, and Jodie Foster—and now, Cynthia Nixon.
Born in New York City in 1966, Nixon made her acting debut in the memorable film Little Darlings (1980), which starred Kristy McNichol and Tatum O’Neal. She went on to play smaller roles in movies like Amadeus (1984) and The Pelican Brief (1993), and larger roles in theater (including the Broadway versions of Angels in America and Indiscretions), earning a Tony Award nomination and starting her own New York theater group.
But 38-year-old Nixon is best known as attorney Miranda Hobbes on the six award-winning seasons of the wildly popular HBO series Sex and the City. It’s also a role for which she won a Best Supporting Actress Emmy just last week.
Rumors about Nixon’s relationship with a woman began to surface almost a year ago, after she broke up with boyfriend Danny Mozes, an English professor whom she had been dating for fifteen years (and with whom she has two children). But the gossip reached feverish pitch on the internet this week as word leaked out that Nixon was going to come out shortly in a New York newspaper.
Whether this news will affect Nixon’s career remains to be seen, but it’s unlikely given her impressive acting track record and the fact that she isn’t proclaiming anything. “Winning the Emmy was huge for her. She was elated. She is being inundated with offers right now,” a source told the New York Post. The Post went on to report that Nixon “flew back to New York on Monday to celebrate her Emmy with the one person she really wanted to be with Sunday night—her new girlfriend.”
Many lesbian and bisexual women, meanwhile, are elated at simply having another public figure with whom to identify—and hoping that this news will help chip away at the stigma surrounding lesbian sex in the city.
Update: Nixon’s girlfriend has since been outed by the press as community organizer Christina Marinoni, whom Nixon met while campaigning for better funding for city schools.