Guest Blogger

Stop Minding Anderson Cooper's Business

Filed By Guest Blogger | January 05, 2009 10:00 AM | comments

Filed in: Media
Tags: Anderson Cooper, closet cases, CNN, LGBT, media, MSNBC, new coverage, rachel maddow, television

Editors' note: Renee is a mother, a committed humanist, a pacifist, a anti-racist, and a WOC from Canada. She blogs at Womanist Musings.

anderson cooper.pngFor a large part of the day my television is on CNN. I have even developed my favorite anchors. Anderson has become one of my favs...though I am sure he would prefer to be acclaimed for his hard hitting journalism, for me its all about the eyebrows, and his quirky facial expressions.

"Doing an Anderson" has become a colloquial expression around my house, when we need to put on a serious face. Being as famous as he is and having the genealogy that he does (yeah rich guy), much time has been spent speculating about his private life. Who he is sleeping with, and why won't he tell us is quite the obsession.

Some refer to him as he most famous closeted gay man on television. If he were to announce that he was gay today, many would be as "surprised" as they were when Clay Aiken came out. I am not writing this post to pry into Anderson's business, or make assumptions about who he is bedding, because quite frankly I realize that it is none of my business.

The speculation about his supposed homosexuality really needs to end people. Seriously, we talk about wanting to move beyond a gender binary and yet we spend massive amounts of time speculating on who is and isn't in the closet. I know this is dangerous territory for a straight ally to walk down, but I just feel that we are perpetuating the idea of separateness by announcing that one needs to declare what their sexuality is.

The fact that people need to declare themselves gay is a huge part of heterosexist privilege in this world; and therefore we are in fact maintaining that when we demand someone admit their sexuality publicly. If we truly believe that all love is beautiful and that it does not matter who you sleep with, this push to out people, or force them to be open about their private lives has got to stop.

The idea that someone is living a lie if they don't satisfy our curiosity by announcing to the world that they are gay is ridiculous. They are leading their lives, you just aren't privy to their business. Would expect to know if the man had a bowel movement today? No you would not, and therefore how the man chooses to work out his jones is not your business either.

I have no idea whether or not Anderson is gay. It makes absolutely zero difference to me. I watch Anderson 360 because I like the way he engages with people. We need to stop making someone's sexuality the only defining characteristic of who they are, if we are to arrive at the point where we see them as just people.

While it is great the Maddow is an out lesbian, the praise for being an out lesbian is problematic. Do we like her because of her sexuality, or because she does awesome work? Perhaps Anderson just wants to be the best at what he does period, realizing that who he sleeps with has no effect on what he does for CNN. Perhaps he has just decided that having two lives means that not everything that he does has to be on camera.

We demand a lot from our celebrities. It seems the moment someone enters the public eye, the scrutiny becomes ever more pressing, until we find out the most minute details of their lives. I understand the desire to reframe sexuality so that neither gay or straight presents a challenge socially, but publicly speculating on how he handles his business is not going to solve that. Just enjoy Anderson because he is Anderson, and leave what he does in the sack out of it. If he wants you to know when he gets his groove on, I'm sure you'll know.


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Anderson needs to come out for precisely the same reasons Harvey Milk wanted and needed all gay men and women to come out in the late 70's, for God's sake, and for the same reason it was great both Rachel Maddow and Neil Patrick Harris came out. And those reasons are that it shows that we can be good, and smart and hard-working and serious people and be gay and IT DOESN'T OTHERWISE MATTER. It's no one else's business, otherwise. They're intelligent, functioning people and they're gay, as a matter of fact, and on the side.

Comparing his being gay and what that announcement or declaration would do for us, as gays, to a bowel movement is so pointless to the point of moronic.

I'm thinking "Guest blogger" either didn't see--or just didn't get--what Harvey Milk's life and the subsequent movie now, is all about. I'm thinking "Guest Blogger" just doesn't get it.

Anderson Cooper "coming out" IS important. It would be helpful. And in short order, that important work he could do--outting himself--would disappear and go in the "so what" column.

Until he does, oh yeah, it's important. It would further our own movement that much further.

Eh.

I'm not particularly interested in hounding Anderson, either, but I don't think you'll get terribly far by questioning the importance of (even celebrity) outness as a political tool. Yeah, it acknowledges that we live in a heterosexist world; but without drawing attention to that, how do you fight it? Silence really only reinforces the status quo. (And the status is NOT quo, okay?)

Exactly right and well said.

If we all had equal rights and civil rights--a good, fair and intelligent status quo--then no, he wouldn't have to come out. As it is, as Jericho said, the "status" is not "quo"--at all.

I recently posted a comment about Anderson Cooper's revolving closet door and his show, which I affectionately call "AC/DC-360" --- gee, Renee, I hope I'm not the one that got your underthingies in a knot!

I understand the libertarian privacy argument, and in fact, I often make that argument myself (regarding others, I mean ... that I am queer as a $3 bill is all over the Internet).

But, Renee, we do not live in a libertarian world. We live in one where an entire sub-industry exists just to tell us which celebrity is dating which other celebrity --- such pairings are usually hetero, but not always. Yes, AC has a certain "right to privacy" but so do Britney Spears and Kevin Federline --- do they get it?

This is slightly different, but one could argue that asking a presidential candidate about their religious beliefs is "violating their privacy" --- but, no, the voting public has determined, with little question, that we want to know completely who we are voting into the Oval Office, including whether they are a Protestant Christian or a Catholic or a Muslim or some other faith, such as "make-pretend Christian".

A similar argument, though, can even be made about the people who gather and process our new information: How can the GLBT segment be confident that the media treats us fairly, if there are no visible GLBT people in the news industry? When we reliy on journalists for our news, we don't necessarily have a right to know what they are doing in bed, but we do have a right to know what their biases might be.

Becoming a public figure of any type intrisically comes with a surrender of a certain amount of privacy. Just as AC must navigate speculation about his sex life, he also cannot go to the grocery store to buy grapefruit without being recognized.

If the rumorizing about AC was damaging his career, then I would agree that it should stop. But au contraire, this constant wagging is probably enhancing his career as much as it is hurting it. So who cares?

Hey, any straight man who has that many rumors about him would come out and say, "If I were gay, I would come out and say so ... but I must confirm that I am entirely straight." That is exactly what Tom Selleck did, and I admire him for it. Eventually, silence becomes a verification, and that is what has happened with AC.

By the way, I like Anderson Cooper --- I have no reason to want to attack him or cause him pain. I think he should come out for the same reasons that the guy living in the woods next to my grandfather's old farm here in rural Indiana ought to come out --- because being in the closet hurts both the integrity of the GLBT individual and the strength of the GLBT community.

P.S. One reason, that you didn't touch upon, Renee, that AC might not want to come out: There is an unwritten requirement in professional journalism that a serious journalist must make a reasonable effort to avoid becoming the news. Now that he is famous, AC coming out would itself be a news event, and thus something to avoid or execute with great care and preparation.

Secondly, once he comes out, many in the GLBT community will assume that they own him, and if he declines to be Grand Marshall at the next Washington DC GLBT Pride Parade, then he is an Uncle Tom. Well, screw that!

Renee,

You seem to think that being out of the closet and declaring onself to be gay, is simply about, "how the man chooses to work out his jones" and compare these complex ideas to a "bowel movement".

This is the same offensive and hateful mistake that the fundies of the world make. They think it's just about sex and what we do in bed.

I have a partner of over 17 years and we have a 5 year old son. We are out of the closet every single day of our lives and couldn't go in the closet for even a day if we wanted to. After 17 years and a child, very little of our gayness has to do with how we "work out our jones" and I think all of those who have fought hard for our right to be out over the years would agree.

Thanks for a great post. I agree, leave the man alone. Yes, it's great when celebrities come out, and it's an important political tool. But that doesn't lead to the conclusion that anyone is obligated to make their personal life your political tool. You don't have any more right than the homophobes do to tell someone who he is. Concentrate on what YOU can do, not on what you want someone else to do to make your life better.

Renee',

Go on this same site to Terrance Heath's column "Every Closet Door" from yesterday.

THAT'S why Anderson Cooper needs to come out.

He should come out for himself, first, and us and the movement would benefit, on the side, as a matter of course.

I can see the benefit of having someone in his position come out, and I totally respect that as a personal choice that would be up to him to make.

But when you talk about folks who are out, like Rachel Maddow, yes LGBTQ identity does make a big difference to me. It means that I can see myself reflected on TV when I watch the news, which is otherwise very rare. It means that there are more role models of success to look to. I don't know when she came out, but she's been out as long as I knew about her, and I take that as evidence that it is possible to be out and attain success in a news career.

That is also why I don't particularly care as much about Anderson Cooper. He's already made it, either as straight or closeted. Coming out now wouldn't represent evidence that out LGBTQ folks can succeed, it would be evidence that we can't -- or at best that he thought he couldn't.

Great post, Renee. It reminds me of the brouhaha over openly LGBT major appointments to the feds by Obama. While I want to see openly LGBTQ folks in office, I don't want them to be there based solely on their sexuality or gender identity; I want them there because they are the most qualified to lead. Anderson is qualified to be a newscaster and we should judge him on that criteria.

But you do have to kinda wonder why in the entire history of the US (or at least since queer identity started solidifying to the form in which we see it today) there hasn't been a single openly LGBT person who was qualified for cabinet level position.

I think there's a difference between being obsessed with the gossip and having hope that some of these folks will come out. Sure, it'd be nice to live in a society where people don't have to come out, but that's not where we are. The general fear some of these folks have of people discovering their same-sex partners attests to that.

I agree that AC, or any other high-profile public figure disclosing their sexual orientation to the public has the potential to offer value to those individuals in the population of sexual minorities who are part of the orthodox gay community and assimilated into gay culture. I would say the same of Milk's assertion that we all should do the same. For those individuals in the population of sexual minorities who are neither part of the orthodox gay community, nor assimilated into gay culture, there is little value in either AC disclosing his sexual orientation, or for “John Doe” to do the same.

The only people who really, honestly, personally care about AC’s sexual orientation are the people that truly know him and love him. His family, friends, and colleagues are the ones that care. They are the ones that actually have a need to know. The people who have fed his soul and warmed his heart are the ONLY people to whom he owes any explanation of who he really is. And I think it is quite possible that they—the people who are really important to AC--DO know the truth, whatever that truth might be. The viewing public are nothing more than voyeurs in this matter.

Unless AC thinks he has any substantive, beneficial connection to the orthodox gay community, he owes them nothing. Same goes for the rest of us. We have no responsibility to advance the social or political objectives of the orthodox gay community unless WE personally think it offers some recognizable value to our lives. For those who find value therein, and feel such a responsibility, by all means go ahead and fulfill that responsibility. Let the rest of us achieve understanding, acceptance, tolerance, and friendship in our own way.

Part of gay dogma is the superiority of the individual. The idea that we should “just be ourselves” is a hinge pin in the closet door. Pushing someone out of the closet can be just as harmful as locking him in—both to the individual and to the population of sexual minorities. I say, let AC “just be himself,” and come out the way he chooses, and to the extent that he chooses if he chooses to do so at all. He might not need to.

nonsense.

this isn't high school.

this is the real world and we're all tied together.

you.

me.

Anderson Cooper.

All of us.

Gay. Straight. Bisexual. Transgendered.

All of us. Together.

Anything less than that is just selfish, self-centered egocentrism.

and it isn't positive.