Anderson Cooper has always been a hot topic of conversation among the gays. Not just because of his silver mane, famous mother or his black T-shirts. But also because he was a gay man who never acknowledged it to his considerable audience. Yesterday, that audience got its wish in the form of an e-mail exchange with Andrew Sullivan of the Daily Beast.
“The fact is, I’m gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and
proud,” Cooper wrote to Sullivan. And I couldn’t be more happy for and proud of Cooper for doing this on his own terms. The CNN anchor was responding to Sullivan’s request to comment on an Entertainment Weekly story on “The new art of coming out in Hollywood.” Basically, gay men and lesbians in Tinseltown are revealing themselves in humdrum, matter-of-fact ways that would be unremarkable if they were straight. That’s a glorious thing.
I had been asked many times over the years whether I thought Cooper was obligated to come out of the closet given his stature in the media and popular culture. While I understood the motivation for the question, I never bought into it. Knowing Cooper treasured his privacy, I supported his desire to maintain as much of it as he could. As he explained to Sullivan, “I think most people want some privacy for themselves and the people they are close to.” But there was another, equally legitimate reason I hadn’t considered.
But I’ve also wanted to retain some privacy for professional reasons. Since I started as a reporter in war zones 20 years ago, I’ve often found myself in some very dangerous places. For my safety and the safety of those I work with, I try to blend in as much as possible, and prefer to stick to my job of telling other people’s stories, and not my own. I have found that sometimes the less an interview subject knows about me, the better I can safely and effectively do my job as a journalist.
Cooper’s concern that staying silent about his sexual orientation was giving the impression that he was “ashamed or even afraid” moved him to break his silence about his personal life. “I’ve also been reminded recently that while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people,” he wrote, “the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible.”
Notice he doesn’t say he’s coming out. He’s making himself “fully visible.” And this gets to the overall reason why I had no problem with him keeping his sexual orientation out of public view. While Cooper always shied away from personal question, he wasn’t hiding his sexuality. His family knew. His friends knew. His bosses and colleagues knew. He was true to himself, and that’s all that mattered to my mind. Today, he is now being true to his audience and all those gay kids who now have another prominent role model out in the open.