As everyone knows by now, Anderson Cooper came out of the closet. I don't think many were surprised, except that he went on record. In a very direct, unapologetic and yet eloquent announcement, he announced he was gay and completely happy with his life and himself. Of course, the stupidity rolled out (doesn't it always?) but there was a lot of positive response and good Twitter discussion. His beautiful phrasing gave supporters a lot to work with. It didn't give the homophobes a lot of ammo. I thought his delivery was just stunning. "Yup, you knew it, I'm not gonna hide it. I hope you're cool but if you're not then blow it out your ear and have a lovely evening." Smashing.
Some reactions were unexpected. Star Jones, who claims to be a big supporter of the gay community, said Cooper basically revealed it for ratings. I'm not sure what she was thinking, but she made an ass of herself. "There were times that you generate information for ratings." Ouch. Also, her word choice makes me wonder if she wasn't about to say it wasn't true. She then apologized, but the damage was done. It was clear, in the conflict of insulting him and apologizing, in which instance she was truly speaking her mind.
A New York Times opinion starts off trying to compliment Cooper and missing. Because yes, there it is, about halfway down the author then turns on him and complains he didn't speak up earlier. After acknowledging in a half-assed attempt at fairness how much he stood to lose if there was a backlash, the author gripes that he didn't put it in a memoir from 2006. There is no sense of waiting until he was ready, and while the words hint that since it's none of our business the writer's mindset seems to really be the opposite. Cooper said he wanted to be relentlessly honest about everything, including himself. Instead of understanding what he did, the author chooses to bash every day of his life that he didn't come out singing about his sexuality. The author continually swings between passive-aggressive pats on the back and whining about why he didn't wear a scarlet G on his forehead to relieve us of our burden.
Also from the Times, a debate page is up where people have discussions about whether celebrities and people in general have a "moral obligation" to come out. They have a mostly calm exchange in which they discuss forcing people to sexually identify themselves. Some people believe you should have to identify yourself visually or go on record to satisfy their curiosity about your love life. I cannot say how disgusting that is, both the idea itself and that some people don't see the harm in it.
And then I got it. Straight people are checked out all the time and we are "accepted" as normal when we don't ping the gaydar. But for gay citizens, each ping must feel like a test. One that you fail simply because the only people who care seem to be the jerks who want to make it a bad thing. That led to another epiphany, why some people really seem to fear gays. It's because you can be anybody, anywhere and that scares the hell out of the 'phobes. See, if they want to discriminate against blacks, Asians or any other group you can usually pick them out of a crowd. If hating women is your thing, the boobies are a dead giveaway. But if you want to hate gays... well, you have to actually discern who your bad guy is. The small-minded want to believe that all gay women have mullets and all gay men love the Latin dances because it makes them feel comfortable. The idea that their coworker, in-law or neighbor could be gay is terrifying to them. I guess I knew all of that, but it all came together in a new way before, one that let me understand so much better what my gay friends go through, and more importantly, why.
That is the real value Anderson Cooper had to share, and he did it well. He called it the value of standing up and being counted, and for him in particular it does matter. He reaches people everywhere. He was not obligated to do so, but he did knowing people would benefit. That is what makes him a hero in my book. Going on record means he has nothing to hide, and I can't think of a better definition of freedom than that.