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Kristen Hotham Carroll Headshot

Anderson vs. Alec: Who Is the Bigger Ally to the LGBT Community?

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I have been reading the reports and listening to the character assassination of Alec Baldwin for his big mouth horrifying us once again, and I ask you what is worse for the LGBT community: someone calling us a name in a moment of anger or one of our own carefully spending decades hiding in the shadows, too ashamed or scared to stand with us?

When celebrities come out late in life, they always use lots of spin to explain their actions, but it is never about anything more than fear and shame. Many people in the public eye worry that coming out may hurt their career, and rightfully so. If you prioritize your career over your truth or the fight for equal rights, that is your choice, but don't let me hear you criticizing another person for not being gay-friendly enough when you yourself chose to hide in silence while others fought bravely for your freedom and equality.

I love Anderson Cooper: his snarky little grin, his giggle, the fact that he is so squeaky-clean but loves him some Kathy Griffin. He is adorable. However, when I read about Anderson Cooper laying into Alec Baldwin for the alleged use of an anti-gay slur, I couldn't help but roll my eyes. Cooper, who finally came out of the closet just last year, did far more harm to the LGBT community by staying in the closet for all those decades than Alec Baldwin has ever done with his temper tantrums.

Baldwin, never mistaken for an angel, has a list of absurd outbreaks so long that you can't possibly still be surprised when he calls someone a name. We are talking about a person who called his own 11-year-old daughter a pig. Clearly the man has a temper.

I believe that public figures have a responsibility to live out and true lives. I have read several reports of celebrities supporting Cooper's decision to come out so late in life, and I think their words are soft. If you want to be a private person, then you should avoid a public career. For a public figure to stay in the closet, that person is silently conceding that there is something wrong with who they are.

Cooper says he stayed in the closet for his own safety. Again, that was his choice. Many others were beaten and killed for living their true lives. He made his choices, and he's received great affirmation for those choices. However, I think he's received a little too much affirmation if he thinks he's in a position to wage a war for LGBT rights against a man who supported the LGBT community long before Cooper decided it was safe enough to come out.

I came out of the closet just after high school, two decades ago. When I came out I lost almost everything I held dear. I fought for equality when it wasn't always safe to do so. I have been yelled at, spit upon, threatened, abandoned and arrested all along the way. Life is pretty good for members of the LGBT community these days, but it was very different just a handful of years ago.

Anderson Cooper never experienced any of those extremes living in the comfort of the closet while freedom and equality were tirelessly pursued by others. Alec Baldwin publicly supported equality long before Anderson Cooper, and if I had to pick an ally, it would be Alec Baldwin without reservation.