Whether or not you’ve been keeping up with And Just Like That, the Sex and the City continuation series on HBO Max, there’s one plot line you’re probably aware of because it's the only thing people on Twitter seem to talk about (and no, we're not talking about the whole Peloton nightmare): Miranda Hobbes, played by Cynthia Nixon, is having a queer sexual awakening.
In season six of the original series, Miranda married Steve Brady, the Queens-accented bar owner and father of her child. Now that they’re nearing 20 years of marriage, it seems that the physical aspect of their relationship is more or less gone—Miranda tells Charlotte at one point that she and Steve haven’t had sex “in years.” Years! Plural!! Things have gone the way of “Nightly Ice Cream Sundaes and the City,” instead of, you know.
So as her marriage simmers sexlessly, Miranda develops a fascination with Carrie’s boss, Che Diaz, a non-binary comedian played by Sara Ramírez, and this eventually develops into a physical affair. Che fingers Miranda in Carrie’s kitchen while Carrie, fresh out of surgery and unable to walk, pees into a Snapple bottle. Miranda later describes this as the most “transcendent” sex of her life.
If you’re a fan of the franchise, you know this isn’t Miranda’s first time exploring the world beyond heterosexuality. The original series poked fun at how Miranda’s no-nonsense attitude, high-powered career, and sometimes androgynous style of dress led people to assume she was a lesbian–most notably in season one, when her boss sets her up on a blind date with someone named Syd, who turns out to be a woman. Miranda even tries kissing Syd just to see if there’s anything there, but she pulls back saying “yep, definitely straight.”
That was the most significant time the show ever explored Miranda’s sexual orientation, but it wasn’t the only instance. In the second season, Miranda makes an offhand comment that she used to be a “major lesbian” in the fourth grade. “Wendy Kirsten,” she says. “We kissed. It was nice.”
Given that the show aired about 20 years ago, it shouldn’t be too surprising that SATC has such a binaristic, gay/straight view of sexuality. In the episode in which Carrie briefly dates a younger, bisexual man, her main conflict is whether she’s too old-fashioned for all that "new-age-y, free love stuff like same-gender kissing" (she decides she is). When Samantha has a full-blown relationship with Maria, a passionate artist, she announces to the girls that she’s a “lesbian.” The B-word (bisexual, that is) isn’t uttered, let alone “pansexual” or “fluid” or “labels are for soup cans,” and when the affair ends Samantha goes back to dating men exclusively. In the world as told by Carrie, you’re either gay, straight, or a rounding error.
In a parallel universe (ours), Cynthia Nixon’s sexuality has also been the subject of public scrutiny. When Nixon, who had previously had long-term relationships with men, began dating her now-wife Christine Marinoni in 2004, tabloid media framed the story as that of a “late-blooming lesbian” despite Nixon’s personal attestations that she didn’t really feel like she had undergone a transformation or a discovery—merely that she had fallen in love with someone who happened to be a woman. In the past she has identified as bisexual, and in more recent times as queer, particularly because of the ambiguity the term allows. As she told the British publication Attitude in 2020, "To say ‘queer’ means, 'I’m over there, I don’t have to go into the nuances of my sexuality with you'." This has not stopped reporters and political opponents throughout the years from referring to her as a “lesbian,” no ambiguity, end of story. Even media critics today writing about AJLT have been throwing the L-word around, despite the fact that Miranda’s new love interest is non-binary, not a woman. (Even Charlotte “You’re Having Non-Binary Sex??” York-Goldenblatt is being more careful with terminology.)
But ultimately, as Nixon has tried to communicate to the press for years, pinning someone down to a single, inflexible term sort of misses the point. A person can have genuine attractions and love for people of different genders throughout their life, and one relationship doesn’t invalidate another. A change of orientation, such as going from dating mostly men to dating mostly women, doesn’t even necessarily signify a shift in identity. It’s entirely possible that Miranda was attracted to girls when she was a kid, then had a mostly man-centric phase during her 30s and 40s, and now in her 50s is open to queer possibilities once again. Being queer now doesn’t mean she was a lesbian all along, and it also doesn’t mean she magically transformed into one during menopause.
Several years ago, Cynthia Nixon stumbled into controversy when she described her relationship with Marinoni as a “choice.” She later clarified that she didn’t mean her identity was a choice, but rather that as a person attracted to people of more than one gender, she had chosen to open herself to the possibility of loving a woman. The public outrage surrounding this conversation goes to show how deep our cultural anxiety about queerness and terminology runs. In some cultural landscapes, queerness is seen as a sinful lifestyle choice, like drinking or gambling, which is why it’s powerful in that context to attest that no, in fact we were “born this way.” For some of us, sexual orientation isn’t so much a static state of being as it is a position in space. Miranda is turning to face—to orient herself toward—new modes of sex and love, ones that hadn’t previously piqued her interest.
So, no, Miranda hasn’t been gay all along. And also, in a way, she has. Just don’t worry about it, okay? Go have some transcendent kitchen sex of your own.
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