Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Finally, Anderson Cooper Comes Out

One of CNN's best and most famous reporters, Anderson Cooper, came out of the closet as a gay man yesterday in an email to Andrew Sullivan
It's about time.  I don't think anyone, celebrity or not, is necessarily obliged to come out (though closeted gays who actively work against the community are fair game to be outed and to get the Roy Cohn Golden Rat Award as far as I'm concerned), but staying in the closet and letting one's private life be shaped by rumor and gossip is definitely not safe.  As a gay man, you are safest out in the open.  Openess forces one's enemies to take a public stand and to claim a status that is increasingly at odds with public morality.

Sullivan, as is to be expected, bangs on about how coming out is not such a big deal anymore.  When did anyone ever come out with rainbow flags and fireworks?  The High Priests of the Conventional Wisdom today are droning on and on about "gay role models," as if we never had them before.  What was Harvey Milk? or Dell Martin and Phyllis Lyon? or Frank Kameny? or Jack Nichols and Liege Clark? or Barbara Gittings? or James Baldwin?   Chopped liver?

Coming out always was and still is a big deal, for the rich and famous and for the poor and obscure.  It's a very big deal for the person coming out, and for their family and friends.  It is still very risky.  Sadly, some people live in places or are in situations where their physical safety requires them to remain in the closet (especially the very young).

Coming out is the most powerful weapon in the arsenal of gay liberation.  By publicly claiming a gay identity, rumor and gossip are neutralized.  Enemies are compelled to publicly identify themselves as such.  Coming out puts our own very real faces on an argument that our enemies would prefer to keep abstract.  Coming out means that we are showing the world that we are more than a sex act, or a locker room joke, or a religious anathema, or a sociological case study.  Coming out puts everyone else around us on the spot.  Coming out is a way to claim our full humanity in the faces of those who want to take it from us.  Coming out opens more space for others like us.  Coming out is an act of leadership.  It is still a big deal.

Congratulations Anderson Cooper for finally letting the hairpins drop. Thanks for your grace and courage, and thanks for passing on that courage to a lot of other people.

1 comment:

JCF said...

My 92 y.o. dad watches his talk show most weekdays, and even he shrugged "Eh" when I pointed (over coffee this morning) to AC's coming out. ;-/

Congrats for a 2012 non-story, Anderson! :-)