Fans of silverfoxes and LGBT visibility, rejoice! After many years of living in a glass closet and being “out” to everyone but the general public, Anderson Cooper has finally confirmed to the world that he is gay. He “came out” in an email to The Daily Beast‘s Andrew Sullivan, who had emailed him seeking his opinion on gay celebrities who choose, for whatever reason, to stay in the closet. The full text is as follows:
Andrew, as you know, the issue you raise is one that I’ve thought about for years. Even though my job puts me in the public eye, I have tried to maintain some level of privacy in my life. Part of that has been for purely personal reasons. I think most people want some privacy for themselves and the people they are close to.
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.
I’ve always believed that who a reporter votes for, what religion they are, who they love, should not be something they have to discuss publicly. As long as a journalist shows fairness and honesty in his or her work, their private life shouldn’t matter. I’ve stuck to those principles for my entire professional career, even when I’ve been directly asked “the gay question,” which happens occasionally. I did not address my sexual orientation in the memoir I wrote several years ago because it was a book focused on war, disasters, loss and survival. I didn’t set out to write about other aspects of my life.
Recently, however, I’ve begun to consider whether the unintended outcomes of maintaining my privacy outweigh personal and professional principle. It’s become 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.
I’ve also been reminded recently that while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people, the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible. There continue to be far too many incidences of bullying of young people, as well as discrimination and violence against people of all ages, based on their sexual orientation, and I believe there is value in making clear where I stand.
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.
I have always been very open and honest about this part of my life with my friends, my family, and my colleagues. In a perfect world, I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business, but I do think there is value in standing up and being counted. I’m not an activist, but I am a human being and I don’t give that up by being a journalist.
Since my early days as a reporter, I have worked hard to accurately and fairly portray gay and lesbian people in the media – and to fairly and accurately portray those who for whatever reason disapprove of them. It is not part of my job to push an agenda, but rather to be relentlessly honest in everything I see, say and do. I’ve never wanted to be any kind of reporter other than a good one, and I do not desire to promote any cause other than the truth.
Being a journalist, traveling to remote places, trying to understand people from all walks of life, telling their stories, has been the greatest joy of my professional career, and I hope to continue doing it for a long time to come. But while I feel very blessed to have had so many opportunities as a journalist, I am also blessed far beyond having a great career.
I love, and I am loved.
In my opinion, the ability to love another person is one of God’s greatest gifts, and I thank God every day for enabling me to give and share love with the people in my life. I appreciate your asking me to weigh in on this, and I would be happy for you to share my thoughts with your readers. I still consider myself a reserved person and I hope this doesn’t mean an end to a small amount of personal space. But I do think visibility is important, more important than preserving my reporter’s shield of privacy.
This coming-out-via-email seems to fit in with the more “low-key” way of coming out that an increasing number of celebrities are choosing for themselves these days. But, as Blackbook‘s Tyler Coates points out, coming out is still “kind of a big deal[...]After all, there are still people who every day struggle with their sexuality, often keeping it hidden from friends and loved ones out of fear.” To live as an openly gay man in his private life (something many LGBT people the world over still do not get to do), while continuing to enjoy heterosexual privilege in his public life, has always smacked of hypocrisy to me, especially when so much of what Anderson Cooper does is a cult of his own personality. A large part of what’s helped him make the jump from “reporter” to “celebrity” is that he lets viewers into his emotional life; he has a talk show called Anderson, for fucksake! And yet, when he took the show to his house, he decided to do a stupid bit about how Kathy fucking Griffin was his girlfriend, rather than just let us see one glimpse of his real partner. To draw a line between his love life and the rest of his personal life seems a little ridiculous.
As Anderson Cooper has finally realized, if we are ever going to attain a truly equitable society, gay celebrities need to stop pretending to be straight, because that implies that being not-straight is something to be ashamed of. “Who’s pretending?” you might ask. Well, we live in a heteronormative world in which people are assumed straight until they tell us otherwise. It’s not ideal that the onus should be on gay people to disclose their sexuality, but what’s the alternative in our current situation? Plus, he has it relatively easy in that he only has to come out once. Some gay guys have to come out to new people all the time, which I imagine is annoying, but better than pretending to be straight when talking about anything that has to do with that rather large portion of the human experience that encompasses love, sex, dating and relationships. Yet other LGBT people are unable to come out at all, for reasons much more pressing than “I might not make quite as many millions of dollars this year.”
If this harms Anderson’s ability to report on what’s happening with regards to his own human rights, so be it. But in the end, I think it can only be another drop in the bucket labeled “progress.” Maybe someday, being gay will be such a non-issue that celebrities neither have to hide their sexuality, nor declare it. But that day has yet to come.
(Via The Daily Beast)