When I was in middle school, I went into "homeroom" every morning before 9 a.m. and sat in my usual seat. As I unpacked my books and got my things together, I would listen to my teacher take role, while the girls next to me gossiped about who was dating whom. Homeroom was my favorite part of the morning, not because it was the official beginning of my day but because I got to watch the news -- Channel One, to be specific. At the time, Anderson Cooper was a Channel One reporter and host. I remember being infatuated with his hair, for starters, and I was always intrigued by his news reports on the lives of people living in places very different from the places I knew. I won't make the grand statement that Anderson Cooper gave me my first look into the world at large (I wasn't too sheltered to watch the 5-o'clock news with my parents), but I will say that he was my morning cup of knowledge during my younger years, when I would have rather sneaked a peek a Nickelodeon's morning cartoons than watch the morning news. Moreover, he was my morning cup of gay -- because even then, maybe even before I truly understood that I was gay, I saw something in him that I saw in myself.
As I grew up, so did Andy. He went from Channel One to ABC, and then on CNN, where he resides today, and in the process he became a heartthrob for gays and housewives across America. I remember hanging out with my mom in high school and seeing her stare aimlessly at the TV, watching Anderson Cooper. It didn't matter what he was talking about or how intense the subject matter was; she was always smiling at me and saying, "Isn't he so cute! We should get a cut-out of him for the house," or, "I love his laugh!" I would laugh and agree silently, while yelling in my head, "Yes he is cute, and he is mine!" Of course, I never said that out loud, but I would say, "Mom, I think he may be gay. There are a bunch of rumors about it."
Now I'm a young adult, and my deep love of everything Andy Coop (my nickname for him) is well-known among my friends. I've been known to sneak to the front of my office during work to watch CNN when he is on, and I've also been known to yell at people when they proclaim, "I am going to marry Anderson Cooper one day." I feel the need to growl back, "Andy is mine!" precisely the way True Blood's Bill yells at folks when they get too cozy with Sookie, but in the least creepy or stalker-like way.
In the past, when I've joked with friends about who gets to marry Anderson Cooper, I've often been met with the response, "But he isn't gay!" -- especially from straight women. But now things are different. Anderson Cooper has officially joined the family after coming out to friend and Daily Beast writer Andrew Sullivan in an email. This announcement literally blew up on the Internet, with everyone from celebrities to viewers chiming in on this news, most stating that they weren't surprised at all. And that is why I am so excited: No one was surprised.
Anderson Cooper's coming-out process shows us the complexities of being gay even in modern times. He shows us that staying in the closet isn't always about being too scared to come out, that it's often a much more complicated issue. For many years Cooper opted not to publicly disclose his sexuality because he felt that the less people knew about him, the better a journalist and reporter he could be, and he is very adamant about appearing disinterested on issues. He discusses in his email to Sullivan that he's finally decided to come out due to the recent spate of anti-gay bullying, discrimination, and violence. He came out as a way to show that there is nothing about being gay to be ashamed about, nothing to hide from. My love for Anderson Cooper only grew as I read his email to Sullivan.
This is an important moment, because the media can be so cruel to oppressed folks, and they often misrepresent gay folks specifically. Given that Anderson Cooper is both a celebrity and one of the most powerful voices in the media, his coming out is much more important than that of other celebrities. His is a voice that can change so much. He has shown us over the years that he is an advocate, or at least willing to discuss the lives and issues of gay folks with honesty. Now that he's come out, I hope that he not only continues in this role but makes it even more powerful.
Welcome to the family, Andy Coop, and thank you for being visible.
P.S. My crush is only getting stronger.
Follow Zach Stafford on Twitter: www.twitter.com/zachstafford