"The fact is, I'm gay." -Anderson Cooper
With those words last week, Anderson Cooper confirmed what everyone already knew.
Last year, as the publisher of the South Florida Gay News, I almost ran a cover story entitled "Why Won't Anderson Cooper Come Out of the Closet?"
I wrote the story. I researched the story, and then I killed the story. It just simply had nothing new about Anderson Cooper. Everybody knew all there was to know. He was gay, period. Had a boyfriend, partner, and comfortable gay life.
In putting the kabosh on what arguably might have been a compelling piece, I concluded that this is a story only he can break at his own time and in his own place. I would not be shocking the world by saying I went to a party at his boyfriend's gay Manhattan bar and he was there with Kathy Griffin anymore than if I wrote Malcolm Forbes once had me on his yacht in Fort Lauderdale years ago.
After all, the world knew Anderson Cooper was gay. His family did. His friends did. His colleagues did. Hell, OUT Magazine and the Advocate had him on their covers. And we knew about Malcolm Forbes too.
The reason we almost ran the piece, detailing the parties and people Anderson associated with, was because I was being selfish.
I wanted Anderson to come out. We needed him on our team. Now that he has joined it, we still do. The next time some gay hater bullies a young kid, let them know they may be pushing around a future Anderson Cooper.
Last year, our newspaper did a feature on the increasing number of gay stars who have revealed their sexual orientation. From Ricky Martin to Wanda Sykes, we jokingly stated there is no a waiting list to 'come out' of the closet, and that there were only so many stories we could do weekly about every entertainer who wanted to 'come out.'
'Get in line,' we wrote.
Seriously though, what really matters is that when persons of stature openly admit how their private lives are homosexual, they do more than step from the shadows. They illuminate their own lives to be sure, but that light is a beacon for others hiding in the darkness. Their honesty today makes it so much easier for someone tomorrow.
Frankly, I was tired of hearing how Anderson Cooper was staying 'in' to protect his status as an independent journalist. I was not interested in listening how being low key would protect the 'integrity' of his stories. I wanted his gayness to be known so the world could see one more legitimate professional whose gayness did not matter.
Anderson, we needed you on our team. It has taken some time, but I am glad you joined. You see, the truth is that in the year 2012 the real embarrassment is not to come out of the closet. The real embarrassment is to be in it.
Outside of the new head of Apple, Tim Cook, Anderson has arguably been one of the most prominent gay men in America. But let's keep at least our sights straight. Anderson has won his fame has been won by his years as a journalist, not his nights under the sheets. I, too, would like to think that when my own story is written, I will be remembered not for who I bedded personally, but what I bettered professionally.
The world is gay. The world is straight. And there are lots of in-betweens. We know this, especially when we march in our parades and gather on our Pride floats. There are many colors and pastels in our universal rainbow. But what we do with our clothes on in the daytime should matter a lot more than who we do in the nighttime with our clothes off.
America is and has always been a melting pot of diversity, but one where for too long, gays and lesbians have not always been welcome to the party. Nevertheless, Americans, over time, have inevitably supported an elastic democracy, seeking to find ways to expand the circle rather than restrict it. As individuals, we embrace freedoms, we do not limit them. The traditions of yesterday yield to the truths of today.
Along the way, we have intermittently lost our way. Prostituting preachers and nutty nationalists whose sanctimonious screams have tried to put boundaries on our shores and build fences in our states have limited our freedoms. The line of repression extends to legislators who want to barricade our borders and deny same sex marriages. Freedom for them means freedom only for 'their' way of life. For these pontificating perverts, the Statue of Liberty is not a torch which illuminates but a light that blinds.
Call them idiots. It is okay. They are.
In March 1990, soon after Malcolm Forbes' death, Michelangelo Signorile ran an article entitled "The Secret Gay Life of Malcolm Forbes," in OutWeek Magazine. Signorile was critical of the media for helping Forbes publicize many aspects of his life while keeping his homosexuality a secret. He asked, "Is our society so overwhelmingly repressive that even individuals as all-powerful as the late Malcolm Forbes feel they absolutely cannot come out of the closet?"
If Anderson Cooper, one of the most powerful media figures in the world cannot comfortably genuflect about his passion for guys, how is he going to tell some bullied high school kid to not worry about it either?
With more and more stars quietly 'outing' themselves, it became a little bit of a running joke with Anderson, reducing his prestige and position, almost intimating that he was ashamed of who he was. Each day it was becoming a bigger story than it needed to be, because, in fact, Anderson Cooper is very comfortable in being who he is and how he lives. He needed to burst the bubble of misconception.
Now that Anderson has joined the party, it is one more wall down - one less facade. But please don't expect him to be the grand marshal at the next New York City gay pride parade. This distinguished gentleman is still a journalist who may work a war zone in a country where homosexuals are subject to a death penalty.
Yes, you may see Anderson overlooking Times Square on New Year's Eve. Please don't forget though that he did not get there via Fire Island beach parties, even though you may see him at one.