At first glance, CNN host Anderson Cooper’s revelation that he’s gay, appears to be “non-news.” But perhaps this lack of controversy means the United States finally reached a milestone—the general populace no longer cares about a public figure’s sexual orientation. (Unless of course, that person functions like the hypocritical closeted politicians and preachers Kirby Dick exposed in his documentary “Outrage” who publicly champion anti-gay measures while leading a secret life as a gay person.)
The real newsworthiness of this story though lies in the reason why Cooper brought his private life into the public arena.
“It became clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something - something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This is distressing because it is simply not true,” he said.
In making this decision, Cooper noted that his visibility takes precedence over preserving his reporter’s shield of privacy.
This year, Cooper’s show Anderson Cooper 360 received the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD ) Media Award for Outstanding TV Journalism. On their blog GLAAD President Herndon Graddick reflected on Cooper’s history of LGBT advocacy: “Even prior to coming out publicly, [his] terrific work has raised awareness of inequalities facing LGBT people. I’m proud to call him my friend. He’s a role model to millions and now will inspire countless others.”
Joseph Ward, director, Believe Out Loud, an organization dedicated to promoting inclusion of LGBT people in Christian churches and communities, concurs.
The visibility of gay and transgender people is a big part of the foundation for LGBT equality. Yesterday he made headlines for coming out, and today he goes back to being the same Anderson Cooper reporting the news. But for some young LGBT person in our country who is dealing with a hostile school environment, church community, or unwelcoming parents and family, Cooper is a powerful image that you should be loved and valued as a human being, and that image is important.
Despite the positive image that Cooper presents coupled with heightened visibility of other LGBT folks such as the pro-gay organizations from fundamentalist colleges like Bob Jones University who marched in this year’s pride parades, religious right groups refuse to fly the white flag. In their battle to return America to their version of the traditional family, they seem to be relying these days on disputed evidence to justify their views. For example, researchers and analysts discounted the methodological flaws present in University of Texas researcher Mark Regnerus’ study that was designed to prove that same sex couples produce at risk children. However, his study was praised by the National Organization for Marriage (NOM), one of the leading organizations fighting against marriage equality legislation and a key group connected to funding this research.
As John Becker, director of Communications for Truth Wins Out notes, Cooper’s proclamation once again disproves the claims made against “homosexuals” by groups like NOM.
LGBT people―beautiful, happy, healthy, successful individuals―come out, it obliterates one of the most malicious lies made by the anti-gay movement: that lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people are broken, unhappya, and empty simply because of who they are and who they love. By coming out of his glass closet, Anderson Cooper isn’t just liberating himself―he’s helping to make his entire community more visible and bring us all one step closer to full equality.
While lesbians and gays continue their quest toward equality, the same cannot be said for the vast majority of those who constitute the “T” component of the LGBT equation.
In my coverage over at The Reveler of the 2012 Philadelphia Trans Health Conference, I observed how the growing body of anti-discrimination laws focusing on sexual orientation afford many gay and lesbian individuals the opportunity to live their lives authentically. The same cannot be said for transgender individuals. Few laws that prevent discrimination on the basis of gender identity protect this community and allow them to express who they are in public.
I look forward to the day when we can celebrate instead of discredit that uniqueness that each of us brings to the global community. May we someday find ourselves living in a world where we are viewed first and foremost simply as oh, I don’t know …. How about fellow human beings?