By Chez Pazienza: A little background on the subject at hand: Back during the 2004 presidential race, at the Democratic National Convention, Anderson Cooper was doing an interview with hip-hop mogul and political dilettante Diddy at a time when I happened to be in the CNN control room in Atlanta. The live one-on-one was wrapping up, when Diddy offered Anderson one of the ridiculous "Vote or Die" t-shirts he had been pimping as part of his high-profile but incomprehensibly messaged get-out-the-vote campaign. "Here, take one for yourself," Diddy said, throwing a t-shirt in Anderson's direction. "No, I really can't accept it," Anderson returned, understanding that it wasn't jounalistically responsible to collect political swag, certainly not while on the job. Diddy's response: "No, man, then give it to your girlfriend." This brought a wonderfully sheepish smile to Anderson's face as he motioned to Diddy that he still couldn't accept the shirt, all while Diddy kept obliviously insisting, "Give it to your girlfriend -- give it to your girlfriend, man." In the control room, meanwhile, every one of us laughed a little -- because every one of us knew that Diddy was being wildly presumptuous, that Anderson Cooper didn't have a girlfriend and almost certainly wouldn't have one at any point in the rest of his life.
And now, finally, the worst kept secret in television news is out of the bag. Anderson Cooper is confirming to America that he's gay.
The admission came in an e-mail to Anderson's longtime friend Andrew Sullivan, an e-mail that Coop gave Sullivan permission to publish in his column over at the Daily Beast. In the articulate, matter-of-fact and yet beautifully personal message, Cooper says that he's always valued his privacy and has never felt like it was anyone's business who he is as a person as long as he brings the audience the news fairly and accurately, that in fact it was both ethically responsible and smart from a personal-safety perspective -- given some of the places around the world that he reports from -- to keep the details of his private life exactly that: private. But then he goes on to say this:
"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."
I've always respected Anderson Cooper as a journalist and a human being; he's smart, professional, charismatic, outstanding at what he does and an all-around good guy. I also always respected his decision to retain some privacy for himself because, like him, I never thought that it was anyone's business to know the very intimate details of his life simply because they may have felt that they were entitled to them by being a loyal viewer. If Coop wanted to keep his sexual orientation, while not necessarily a secret, something beyond a topic for public discussion then he was right to do so because it was his decision and no one else's. That being said, I respect Coop even more for coming out and for doing it the way he did and at the time of his choosing -- a time, as it turns out, that I truly believe his very earnest yet practical admission can do a great deal of good for the cause of gay rights in this country. Coop's respected voice being added to the profusion of people, companies, political organizations and so on who've chosen to take a stand for the rights of gay people to simply be who they are -- no more, no less -- can only do good. It can only provide one more excellent example for gay kids to emulate and one more face and name that can help destigmatize homosexuality among those still inexplicably frightened of or confused by it.
Anderson came out with class, which is to be expected from him. And by doing it the way he did, he said something about where gay rights are in this country and where they still need to be. He had the comfort to admit that as a gay man, he's just like everyone else -- that his sexuality doesn't define him any more than a straight person's sexuality defines him or her. But he knows that not everyone sees it this way -- and maybe by doing what he did he can help change somebody's mind. In some way, it may wind up being the most important report Coop has ever offered -- and he's to be commended for that.
Anderson Cooper is gay, which isn't a big deal to him -- it's simply who he is. Wouldn't it be something if we got to the point where it wasn't a big deal for anybody else either?