Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Why Anderson Cooper's Announcement DOES matter (and not because it means I'll never be his wife)

It's no secret to anyone who knows me that I really like Anderson Cooper, and have for some time. I like him on a lot of levels, but primarily because he's a such a good journalist that I trust everything he tells me.

So it wasn't surprising, when the news broke yesterday about Anderson's announcement that he's gay, that people emailed me and came up to me at work and said, "Aren't you disappointed?"

(Well, maybe the question was a tad surprising, in that it was strange; as I don't know Anderson in real life AND am happily married AND never had any real hope of dating Anderson, let it be known that Anderson's publicly announcing his sexual orientation didn't disappoint me.)

But anyway ...

Following Anderson's eloquent email in which he not only announced his orientation but his reasons for not having previously gone public with it, I want to go on record as saying I like him even more now because I'm even more convinced of his bravery.

My friends who asked, "Why should his coming out be a big deal?" are exactly right; in my opinion, it shouldn't be any bigger deal than "announcing" that one has blue eyes or brown hair. But, like it or not, in many circles, it still is.

Much like overweight people, gay people are one of the few groups against whom it's still regarded as "safe" to discriminate. And if you think that such discrimination is prevalent in our country, try some others; in Uganda, as Anderson's close friend, the comedian Kathy Griffin, points out, a "Kill the Gays" initiative is encouraged.

And as Griffin also points out, Cooper, as someone who routinely travels around the globe, could very well now be targeted because of his honesty.

A man or woman's personal life is entirely his or her business, and only he or she should get to decide what, if anything, to share with the masses. But as Anderson writes, silence can equal perceived disapproval -- even with oneself and one's choices. And one can argue that in general, openness and honestly signify a healthy sense of self. And isn't that what we're all after?

It's for that reason that I hope Anderson's announcement proves encouraging for other closeted gay and lesbian individuals. I know at least two, and they're afraid; they're sure that such an announcement could cost them their careers and their families. One has children; another has parents who believe homosexuality is a sin. They fear disapproval, and they fear loss of love.

I would imagine Anderson had chosen not to come out earlier because he, too, had feared those things, but at some point, he stopped being afraid. This is why, then, that his announcement is important: It could, in some way, encourage my friends and so many others living secret lives to lose the fear, be who they are and live the rest of their lives as open, happy, healthy individuals.

Until then, I'll be a little prouder the next time I watch Anderson ... even though, as of this week, I've had to give up my "dream" of one day becoming his wife. :)

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