Anderson Cooper: “The Fact Is, I’m Gay.” Should It Matter When Celebrities Come Out?

Ellen Degeneres announced it on the cover of Time Magazine. NSYNC’s Lance Bass said it in the pages of People.

And just today, Anderson Cooper came out publicly on The Daily Beast, telling friend and columnist Andrew Sullivan, “The fact is, I’m gay.”

People have long speculated over Cooper’s sexual orientation, and as he mentions to Sullivan, some have even considered it entirely appropriate and polite to directly ask him “the gay question” (I’m sorry, but casually interrogating someone over his or her sexual preference seems about as well-mannered as asking a woman who may or may not be pregnant when she is due. Unless someone is offering that sort of information, why is it anyone’s business to ask?).

In typical Cooper style, his declaration regarding this decision is exceptionally thoughtful, eloquently worded, and incredibly important. But why is it so crucial in our culture for celebrities to come out so publicly?

As Cooper writes, “the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible. There continue to be far too many incidences of bullying of young people, as well as discrimination and violence against people of all ages, based on their sexual orientation, and I believe there is value in making clear where I stand.”

And he’s right, of course. Knowing where Cooper, and other public figures stand, is a significant step toward ending the pervasive ignorance and prejudice surrounding homosexuality.

But Cooper also admits, “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.”

And this is an important point too. Because it’s one thing to tell the world that you believe in equality. But it’s quite another to feel forced into disclosing your sexual preference for fear of accusations that you’re ashamed of who you are (which Cooper says “is distressing because it is simply not true.”).

So what do you think? Is it important for celebrities to speak out about their personal lives in order to educate others and end unfounded assumptions?

In any case, Cooper’s move is a brave one. But while it may change the public’s perspective on his private life, I hope it has absolutely zero effect on his professional persona.

While we love him for his charming personality, we owe it to Cooper to recognize him for the work he’s done and his unwavering dedication to quality journalism. I hope we can admire his honesty without letting his admission overshadow all the other reasons he’s become a big part of our lives.

Thanks, Anderson.