A friend and I recently had a conversation about journalist Anderson Cooper. If you haven’t heard, Cooper made national news this week with the acknowledgment that he’s gay.
But that’s not what our conversation was about — at least not directly.
We were watching Kathy Griffin’s talk show on which Cooper was a guest last week. (Sidebar: It always struck me as strange how someone as intensely private about his personal life as Cooper could be friends with Griffin. While she is widely known as a “friend of the gays,” much of her act is based on a say-anything, no-holds-barred attitude about celebrities. Was Cooper ever concerned Griffin would blurt out his orientation as the ball/apple dropped during the televised New Year’s Eve celebrations they co-hosted?)
Perhaps it was Cooper’s concern my friend noticed while watching his appearance on the show. He described Cooper as stiff and unappealing to watch primarily because he seemed so uncomfortable on the couch with Griffin and another comedian. This is a man who’s on television every day, maintaining a cool and calm demeanor no matter what guests throw his way. Why so much discomfort with someone he’s worked with frequently?
For me, Cooper’s uncomfortable and unexpected appearance on the show seemed to be a tiny step toward his coming out.
I’m not saying I am psychic (wish I was) and foresaw the recent news reports. But the fact he was there with a host who refers to herself as a “gay man” on the gay-friendliest TV network on the air — and presumably wasn’t forced to be there — says something. His reply to a fawning female guest says even more. When the guest alluded to a romantic interest in Cooper, he pointedly said “That’s not going to happen.”
Was it said for a laugh? Sure, but his delivery of the quip and his facial expression were heavy with intention. He’s an intelligent man, fully aware of what people have been saying about his not coming out for years, and that came across.
It may not have been on the level of a Joe Biden move, testing the waters before this week’s big reveal, but it indicated what those of us who have come out as LGBT know. Our natural inclination is to be honest about who we are in every aspect of our lives, even when it’s no one else’s business. You get to a point where it’s not about everyone else — it’s about being able to live with yourself.
Being closeted is a crippling burden that’s nearly impossible to hide. And no matter how adamently we proclaim our right to privacy or hold on to legitimate fears about the repercussions of publicly coming out, the unspoken truth always seems to show itself . Whether you’re a popular actor whose massage therapy sessions repeatedly go beyond what a therapist expects or a reserved journalist who hangs out with a “live wire” who might reveal your secret at any moment.
Many have reacted to Cooper’s acknowledgment with a “Why is this news?” or a knowing “You’re kidding.”
I suppose it’s news because a man from a prominent family in a highly public job revealed himself to be among a minority group that doesn’t have full and equal rights. His decision to be open about it is important for his life (maybe now he can relax) and others. As with every coming out story, it helps remove the separateness and ”other” of being LGBT.
Cooper’s acknowledgment shows youth who may be struggling to accept their orientation and anyone with tight-fisted bigoted beliefs: Hey, that guy you invited into your home and trusted to bring you news and entertainment for years also happens to be gay.