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Anderson Cooper arrives at the 39th Daytime Emmy Awards in Beverly Hills, California, June 23, 2012.
Technically that is a headline. But many would argue that it isn’t really news.
Anderson Cooper has always been gray, for as long as I have “known” him. And I don’t really believe that it has affected his ability to report the news. I know that he could have chosen to hide the fact that he was gray early on in his career. We all know that age discrimination plays a significant role in the entertainment business.
Others could argue that he was intentionally gray to add credibility when he may have been considered too youthful to be able to deliver news alongside the seasoned anchors like Dan Rather or Ted Koppel.
But really, the truth is, as long as Anderson has been working in the media, he has always been gray and whether it was something he chose to cover up or not, there would be detractors who would make assumptions on why he made the choices he has.
I don’t think Anderson, or any gay person, (blonde, brunette or gray) has the obligation to share intimate details of their lives with the rest of the world. Labels can be very damaging – especially when you are attempting to objectively deliver the news in a time when the gay issue is still, believe it or not, a hot zone. Bullets continue to fly from both camps and political parties.
Coming out as a gay man puts an unnecessary target on a person who is trying to go into a war (literal and figurative) and report the news without the suspicion that the news will now be tainted — maybe gray and no longer black and white.
I don’t think Anderson’s recent headline was news for the reasons many may. He is a strategic headline maker and has helped choose what we as viewers are told from week to week from the far corners of the world. So when Anderson chooses the “take out the trash day” to deliver a well-calculated public letter to a longtime friend to say, “The fact is, I’m gay, always have been…” He is doing so in a very understated manner so as not to draw unnecessary attention – while still acknowledging his truth.
This certainly isn’t a, “This just in, from high atop my Pride float” headline – which he could have easily done anytime last month. In my opinion, Anderson wanted to deliver non-news in a most matter-of-fact way. Because it is a fact and it is an important fact. And it’s a fact that he hadn’t publicly acknowledged until now. No matter what his reasons may have been.
Besides, most gay people already knew. And a good part of the world figured it out when they watched him giggle himself silly on YouTube while reading his own humorous piece on Gerard Depardieu for the RidicuList.
To me, that was Anderson’s real coming out day. And I loved it. Because although you may have heard rumors, or you may have suspicions, when you have the rare moment to see beyond someone’s well calculated, public persona, and you see their playful, open and child-like heart. When it bubbles out all over the place and it cannot be contained, no matter how much damage you know it will do to your “credibility on the street.” You have just given someone a rare gift. You have given them a piece of who you truly are.
I have always admired Anderson for his work and, strangely enough, I was also producing and reporting from around the world, while holding the gay card very close to my vest. So on that day when Anderson Cooper came out to me personally on YouTube, I fell in love with him – for his vulnerability. I happened to be watching with co-workers at the Christian television network and while some around me muttered derisive comments like, “Yeah, I always thought he was gay.” He became even more of a hero for me. It was the first time I felt like I had an idea of who Anderson Cooper really was, behind the persona and behind scenes.
And I think it’s these honest, coming-out moments that make the most difference in a world that still argues over whether it is right or wrong to be gay. My mother, for instance, is still struggling with this issue in light of her religious convictions. To her, the Bible is very black and white on the subject. But the truth is, she loves her some Anderson Cooper. Believe it or not, this little headline is going to do a world of good in helping her and people like her all over middle-America, advance along the path of understanding and acceptance of this “gray” thing.
And that is where the headline is in Anderson’s recent coming out. He is choosing to open himself up and offer the rest of the world an opportunity to know more of who he is. He is choosing to identify with a group of people who have been marginalized, misunderstood and judged (and that is really what Jesus did when he walked this earth – not comparing Anderson to Jesus, I’m just saying!) That is the news.
And for gay people, that is good news. Because when someone has taken a lifetime to build a stellar reputation and could have easily continued down the “safe path” but chooses instead to come out and be counted – he has really done a noble thing. And it has to feel really good to get that out of the way so he can focus on the real news.
Thanks Anderson Cooper for standing up and being counted – when it still really does count.
James Alexander Langteaux is an international reporter/producer who recently “came out” as well with his new book, “Gay Conversations with God: Straight Talk on Fanatics, Fags and the God Who Loves Us All.”