Anderson Cooper is gay. The news has been met with knowing eye-rolls, giddy high-fives, and a general consensus in the Twittersphere that it doesn't matter: Cooper is a good journalist, a good guy, let's move on.
But let's not move on too fast. It was brave what Anderson Cooper did. Like it or not, he will now be somehow re-branded in America's mind as 'Gay Anderson Cooper.' As Jennifer Vanasco wrote: "He may lose viewers whose prejudice will not allow them to see Anderson Cooper, reporter, only Anderson Cooper, gay."
It seems pretty likely that Cooper will be able to transcend the bias and prejudice. His waiting this long to come out probably will help him. He has built up enough cred as Anderson Cooper, that he will probably do just fine as Gay Anderson Cooper. But let's not pretend like what he did wasn't hard, or that it wasn't brave, because coming out is always hard and brave.
But there is something else that is worth considering before we move on.
Mr. Cooper did something really important in his coming out email to Andrew Sullivan. After eloquently explaining his decision not to come out before now (wanting a private life) and what prompted him to come out now (not wanting his desire for a private life to seem like it was something he was ashamed of), Anderson Cooper used some very strong language towards the end of his email about his sexuality -- he used God talk.
In my opinion, the ability to love another person is one of God's greatest gifts, and I thank God every day for enabling me to give and share love with the people in my life.
Cooper's email was sent to Andrew Sullivan, who is known to be a practicing Christian and a passionate and articulate writer about the intersection of religion and LGBT issues. Cooper specifically used religious language with Mr. Sullivan, knowing that Sullivan would not have merely bleeped over, or considered pro-forma, the talk of God and thanksgiving, he would have taken it to mean something -- which it did.
Anderson Cooper thanked God for his ability to love another person of the same gender, and thanks God every day for the love he has in his life. In his easy manner, Mr. Cooper is saying his sexuality is a divine gift, and that he is thankful to God that he was so wonderfully made.
That is some beautiful and powerful stuff.
And it also goes to the heart of the fight for full rights for the LGBT community.
Religion remains the central battleground for gay rights and most of the anti-gay rhetoric relies on the argument that being gay is 'un-natural' and goes against God's design. It is an insidious line of attack that makes people, especially young people, to distrust and despise their own experience of desire and love.
Anderson rejects that idea with his two easy sentences -- his ability to love the way he loves was given to him by God and he thanks God every day for it.
Those of us who are within religious communities fighting for the full dignity and rights of LGBT people within our traditions should be celebrating this day. Not because Anderson Cooper has come out as gay, but because he has testified to all of us that our ability to love is an expression of the Divine that lives within all of us no matter who we are.
See Inspiring LGBT Religious Leaders
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