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Anderson Cooper: The New Gay Celebrity Coming Out, Part 2

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A few weeks ago, I wrote a post titled, "The New Gay Celebrity Coming Out: 'I've Never Been In.'" The premise: many celebrities are now embarrassed to be seen as having ever been in the closet, and are coming out in low-key, matter-of fact ways, sometimes just trying to slip out of the closet, with no more splashy interviews. I used Anne Burrell of The Food Network as an example as well as Jim Parsons of CBS's The Big Bang Theory and actors Zachary Quinto, Matt Bomer and others.

The new trend in coming out is to do it quietly. And apparently so is the new trend in magazine and newspaper trend-reporting -- so quiet that reporters apparently aren't sourcing where they get their ideas from. Not two weeks after my post, The New York Times posited my exact premise. A week after that, Entertainment Weekly had my exact story on their cover. I'm flattered to have provided the inspiration and pleased to see that EW did such a bang-up job, providing a long and in-depth piece that focused on many more public figures. Any time the media focuses on gay and lesbian public figures and the closet, it's a good thing.

It was the EW story that Andrew Sullivan said he sent to Anderson Cooper, to ask him about celebrities coming out in these more matter-of-fact ways, that elicited an email response back from Anderson in which he said, "the fact is, I'm gay." Anderson illustrated my original premise in a couple of ways. First off, could you come out in any more low-key a way as a TV news anchor than sending a friend an email on your way out of town on assignment? And his words certainly illustrated that he, like Food Network's Anne Burrell (whose publicist insisted to The New York Post that she was never in the closet after it became known that she is gay) saw it as an embarrassment to be perceived as closeted.

"It's become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long," Anderson wrote Sullivan, "I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something -- something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This is distressing because it is simply not true."

I've chatted with Anderson Cooper over the past few years, mostly at the gym, sometimes passing on gay-related stories I've focused on, mostly about homophobia experienced by young LGBT people. I've also appeared on AC 360. I've found him to be dedicated and sincere in his focus on gay issues, particularly as they relate to young people. I'm sure it's been tough for him -- being sincere to the issues he's concerned about but keeping mum about this part of himself, seeming insincere to those very same young people he cared about. There are those who are saying it's "no big deal," or "so what?" or "who cares?" or just offering a big yawn. But, in this time of intense bullying in schools and too many reports of teen suicides, they just don't get how important it is for young gay people to know every single person in the public eye who is gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

And the glass closet -- those closets of people like Anderson, who have been known of and thought of as gay, but have not said it -- can perhaps be even more damaging than closets that are less transparent. A mother of a gay son who called my radio program yesterday explained that she was so ecstatic that Cooper was now out because her young son certainly was able to glean, like many others, that Anderson was gay, but also gleaned that he was likely afraid of being open. And that, she said, was a bad message for her son. But seeing Anderson out and proud, she said, tells her son that there is nothing to fear.