Andrew Sullivan breaks the news, based on an email from his friend Anderson Cooper, who gave him permission to publish. Sully sets the stage:
Last week, Entertainment Weekly ran a story on an emerging trend: gay people in public life who come out in a much more restrained and matter-of-fact way than in the past. In many ways, it’s a great development: we’re evolved enough not to be gob-smacked when we find out someone’s gay. But it does matter nonetheless, it seems to me, that this is on the record. We still have pastors calling for the death of gay people, bullying incidents and suicides among gay kids, and one major political party dedicated to ending the basic civil right to marry the person you love. So these “non-events” are still also events of a kind; and they matter. The visibility of gay people is one of the core means for our equality.
Visibility does matter. Closeted public figures legitimate the sense that there is shame, or stigma, or embarrassment, in being gay or lesbian or bisexual or transgender. Coming out, even when public figures claim a right to privacy or that as reporters, their own lives do not matter, is important. It can be a one-day event with a press release filled with positive language about a life lived happily and well (Neil Patrick Harris), or it can be ‘dealt with’ in paragraph 13 of an interview (Zachary Quinto, Jim Parsons), or it can happen as it did for Anderson: a long, thoughtful email between friends who are both public figures, crafted to illuminate the topic and for likely public release.
Andrew, as you know, the issue you raise is one that I’ve thought about for years. Even though my job puts me in the public eye, I have tried to maintain some level of privacy in my life. Part of that has been for purely personal reasons. I think most people want some privacy for themselves and the people they are close to.
But I’ve also wanted to retain some privacy for professional reasons. Since I started as a reporter in war zones 20 years ago, I’ve often found myself in some very dangerous places. For my safety and the safety of those I work with, I try to blend in as much as possible, and prefer to stick to my job of telling other people’s stories, and not my own. I have found that sometimes the less an interview subject knows about me, the better I can safely and effectively do my job as a journalist.
Despite this understandable need for privacy — it’s important to remember, in this context, that Anderson Cooper has been part of a very public family since birth. Anyone whose mom’s childhood becomes an NBC miniseries is going to have a complicated relationship with fame, the public, and privacy, especially when there have been not always happy images to portray. But he does let us in:
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 have always been very open and honest about this part of my life with my friends, my family, and my colleagues. In a perfect world, I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business, but I do think there is value in standing up and being counted. I’m not an activist, but I am a human being and I don’t give that up by being a journalist.
Congratulations, AC360. Now back to work, as you would certainly wish.