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Naturally, I already knew that Anderson Cooper was gay, for a number of reasons. First, I work in Washington as a journalist, an industry of gossipy tendencies — independent of sexual orientation or gender — that make a Midwestern church-ladies social club seem tight-lipped.
Second, in the great social network of life, I’m two degrees away from the silver fox, sharing a handful of acquaintances — note I said ”acquaintances,” not ”friends,” because there’s a profound difference despite what bad habits of nomenclature we’re picking from Facebook – and stories spread.
Third, I’m a gay man with highly evolved sensitivities to identify my own kind, whether it’s the guy in the next office or the guy being broadcast into my living room from a studio 500 miles away.
Fact is, I knew. You knew as well, being the type of person who reads an opinion column in an LGBT publication like Metro Weekly.
And so too did anyone who’s paid more than a passing moment of attention to CNN over the past 10 years or so. We all knew. We just didn’t know.
But now we know, thanks to Cooper’s well-meant but unavoidably anti-climactic coming-out email to Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Beast. Which means we can now move on to asking, ”So what?”
As always, while I’m happy to see anyone come out, I’m rarely impressed when people my age finally get around to it, especially when those people enjoy enormous amounts privilege that protects them.
Kathy Griffin has offered her own explanation for never outing her friend, namely that by being openly gay Cooper risks placing himself in danger when he’s covering crises in intolerant hotspots around the world. This excuse reads excitingly in the original drama queen, but when translated to the real world, it’s actually rather insulting, especially to women reporters who have ably and admirably covered some of the world’s most misogynist societies while being openly female.
Cooper’s line about wanting to ”report the news, not be the news” was always a specious dodge for someone who essentially lived an openly gay life every moment of the day, with the exception of those moments he spent in front of a camera. His unwillingness to simply nod ”yes” and move on meant his friends and colleagues kept fielding the pestering questions. I’m still annoyed at an afternoon last year spent watching his fellow CNN anchor Don Lemon, then newly out, spend much of an interview being asked: ”So, Anderson Cooper: Is he or isn’t he?”
The ”report the news, not be the news” approach has also long been an inadvertent but real snub for openly LGBT journalists, whether in mainstream or community media, with its implication that being honest about their lives undermined the honesty of their reporting.
I don’t want to come off as horribly harsh on Cooper. From his invisible closet, he has taken on many LGBT issues in his reporting and has arguably done as much, or more, for the community than some who were most vocal with their demands that he come out. Unlike certain well-known celebrity closet cases, he’s never shied away from or attacked LGBT people.
For that alone, his announcement deserves respect. But we can’t forget that the real goal of coming out isn’t simply how it makes our own lives easier and truer; it’s how it makes things better for those still to come.
Sean Bugg is the co-publisher of Metro Weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @seanbugg.