WELP. The inevitable finally happened: Anderson Cooper has written the words "I am gay" somewhere that wasn’t in a leather-bound journal buried deep in some massive trunk hidden away in the basement of the Vanderbilt mansion. This morning, Daily Beast columnist Andrew Sullivan has posted an exclusive email from the dashing Mr. Cooper in which he finally reveals his sexuality, because there were still people in this world who figured he was only hanging out with Kathy Griffin in order to get into her pants.
Sullivan’s post this morning is in response to last week’s Entertainment Weekly cover story in which the author claimed that actors are coming out in a new way—revealing their sexuality with just a shrug and a relaxed attitude. Thankfully, Sullivan agrees with me; he writes:
We still have pastors calling for the death of gay people, bullying incidents and suicides among gay kids, and one major political party dedicated to ending the basic civil right to marry the person you love. So these "non-events" are still also events of a kind; and they matter. The visibility of gay people is one of the core means for our equality.
He reached out to Anderson Cooper "for reasons that might be obvious to most," and Cooper sent him a very candid response, which he allowed Sullivan to post online today:
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.
What can I say, other than "fiiiiiiiinally"? Well, I’m very glad that Cooper has publicly addressed what so many of us had known for years. No matter how trite people like those covered in the EW article last week might consider it, to be out and open in public in a sphere in which an actor can show those who still struggle with their own sexuality in a very private and personal way is still extremely important. Cooper closes his email to Sullivan with, "But I do think visibility is important, more important than preserving my reporter’s shield of privacy." While I respect that Cooper wants to have a private life and have a level of integrity when it comes to keeping his personal life separated from his public persona, I still applaud him for coming out (yes, finally) because, at the end of the day, he will still be a role model to a lot of people, and having someone in his position make the claim that I have bolded above is vital—even in 2012, when some might think it’s "not that big of a deal."
What’s more impressive? That Cooper decided to come out by revealing it in a professional way, rather than having it splashed on the cover of People magazine. And, perhaps more importantly, he makes it clear that it’s not something to just brush off as "not a big deal."