Wednesday, July 4, 2012

All He Had to Do Was Say It

I remember reading People Magazine once, where they wrote about the divorce between Heidi Klum and Seal.  The article pointed out that while this was devastating to their children (as it would to any child), "the world was still coming to grips with the news".

I was unaware that the news of a German model/television host of Project Runway deciding to end her marriage to a pop singer whose last hit was Kiss From A Rose would so overwhelm those in Somalia or Sri Lanka or Greece or that unemployed guy in Cleveland or the mother having to move into a hotel with her kids in's not like they have anything else to worry about.

Similarly, now with news that CNN reporter Anderson Cooper has publicly acknowledged his homosexuality for the first time, I think the world will similarly "come to grips" with this shocking announcement.

The rumors had been going on for years, but he had never commented on them. All this time, as he covered such things as Hurricane Katrina and the Arab Spring, people may have wondered whom he wanted to go to bed with or was actually going to bed with.  I didn't care because I wasn't watching Anderson Cooper 360 to get my jollies.  I was watching to see what was going on in the world, and because given FOX News is a bit too far to the right of me and MSNBC is way too far to the left for me, CNN appeared to be the more rational choice. 

I confess freely to thinking Cooper was gay.  Perhaps it was his giggle, or his zeal when covering issues involving gay bullying or the clowns at the Westboro (I will not call them a "church") or his odd fascination with Kathy Griffin that convinced me of something I always believed.  Maybe I just have good gay-dar.  However, he had opted never to discuss his life on camera.  He never denied it, but never admitted it until now. 

His sexual proclivities are his own affair (no pun intended).  For my part, I would have preferred that the mystery (such as there was) would have continued.  Always keep 'em guessing.  Somehow, I am someone who finds public revelations of any kind, whether sexual or physical, quite anathema.  If I had an alcohol problem or was abused by my parents, I certainly wouldn't discuss them publicly.  I firmly believe in a zone of privacy.  I'm a very private person.  Granted, I'm a very opinionated person, but I agree with President Clinton, who uttered those immortal words,
Even Presidents have private lives.

My father had a great saying, "Confession is good for the soul but best saved for your priest."  He meant that while there is freedom in being able to bare your soul, it should be done among the smallest number possible.

An international audience is not my idea of a small number.

Cooper's confession, from what I understand, is a result of the onslaught of bullying in schools today, along with efforts to stop same-sex marriages in the United States.  I don't know whether knowing that the host of AC360 is also gay is going to stop some yahoo from beating up on a kid who may or may him/herself be gay.   I don't think having "The Silver Fox" mention his orientation will make anyone else pause before using the word "gay" as a pejorative.

It didn't stop Russell T Davies (who himself is openly gay) from using 'gay' in a negative manner on an episode of Doctor Who.  Yes, the character is a working-class girl who may not be as educated as the rest of us, but I always thought that was a terrible mistake.  I'm the type of guy who doesn't like Polish jokes (OK, I don't GET Polish jokes and had to have them explained), and I have never approved black performers using a particular word, so I'm equal opportunity on that front.

It is admirable when one does something for noble reasons, but I have always been perplexed as to how knowing the private lives of people I've never met is suppose to alter the course of history.

As I ponder the situation, however, Anderson Cooper still took a rather remarkably easy way to make this announcement.  He didn't go on camera at the end of his show to speak his peace.  He didn't thank his partner publicly (the way White Collar's Matt Bomer have).  He didn't even have it as part of a published profile (in the way Heroes' Zachary Quinto or The Big Bang Theory's Jim Parsons did).

THAT took some courage (not as much as say, facing down militants in Afghanistan, but still an act that takes some guts).

Instead, it was by giving permission to Daily Beast's Andrew Sullivan to publish his response to Sullivan's queries about more people coming out.  If he so wished, Cooper could have said "this is private," but by allowing Sullivan the right to publish his confession,  we're suppose to believe it is courageous.

I wasn't expecting bells and whistles and a major parade to this declaration, but I'll give this to Bomer, Parsons, and Firefly's Sean Maher: they all at least used their voices to admit the truth.  They lost their fear of how the public would react by literally speaking out.  Cooper just typed it out.

Somehow, I have more respect for those who can look one in the eye and reveal their darkest secret than this "leaked by consent" deal.
The impetus for this revelation wasn't just the growing amount of pressure placed on gay teens but also an Entertainment Weekly article about how today celebrities large and small "coming out" is no longer the same scandal it would have been a mere fifteen years ago.  It was a well-written, well-thought out article.  I can see many points in it, but despite the more accepting nature of today's society, there are probably quite a few actors, directors, writers, and others involved in Hollywood right on down to grips who would rather just work and move on to their homes where they can be afforded the same freedoms we little people have.  They may be in favor of same-sex marriage, they may have celebrated the removal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell", but they may genuinely believe that their life away from the set is their own to live. 

It might actually be less about fear and more about "my life is MY life."

That being the case, I fail to see why anyone should be made to come out if they do not want to.  If Cooper wanted to come out, that is his choice.  If someone else doesn't want to, that is their choice.  If Cooper wanted that zone of privacy, he should have been afforded it.  He didn't have to accomodate anyone's call for "heroes" or "role models".  No one should be put in that situation by someone else. 

I think that with so much openness about homosexuality today, the idea that there might be a gay actor or country singer doesn't shock many.  Even among the Christians I know, there is a remarkable acceptance of the individual (though dismay at their private life).

I digress to say that I believe someone I know who is very evangelical: active member of the church, Youth Group leader, both hands in worship when singing, is himself gay.  I also know most of the Christians in the circle we both run in at least suspect he is still in the closet (with varying degrees of success).  They don't love him any less for it. 

However, I don't know if many would go to his commitment ceremony should he ever come out, and his church would never perform a same-sex wedding for him.  I leave it up to you whether this is good or bad.

Ultimately, Anderson Cooper's news isn't news.  I still am of the mindset that a person's private life is that: private.  I loath the confessional way of the world, where one has to know everything about everyone.  I won't stop watching AC360 because of his revelation.  The phrase "old news" comes to mind.      

As for my own reaction that Anderson Cooper has admitted publicly that he is homosexual...