This week Anderson Cooper revealed that he is gay, and while some consider the announcement as him "coming out of the closet," it seems to me he was hardly hiding his sexuality in a closet in the first place. He may have chosen not to address this part of his personal life before now, but it sure doesn't seem to me as if he was living a secret life of shame.
At any rate, the fact that he waited for so long to tell the world about his sexuality has drawn a flurry of mixed reactions. In a stunning example of damned if you do, damned if you don't, Cooper has been criticized for taking too long to come out … and also for caving to the increasing interest in his private life (and somehow validating gay bullying in the process).
While the overall response has been positive, the critical fallout has been truly bizarre -- especially when you consider the public reaction to past celebrities' "coming out" announcements.
Here's a selection of how a few past celebrities handled telling the public about their sexuality:
Lance Bass to People magazine in 2006: "The thing is, I’m not ashamed – that’s the one thing I want to say. I don't think it's wrong, I'm not devastated going through this. I'm more liberated and happy than I’ve been my whole life. I'm just happy."
Neal Patrick Harris to People magazine in 2006. "I am happy to dispel any rumors or misconceptions and am quite proud to say that I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest."
Suze Orman to the New York Times in 2007: "K.T. is my life partner. K.T. stands for Kathy Travis. We’re going on seven years. I have never been with a man in my whole life."
Ricky Martin on his website in 2010: "I am proud to say that I am a fortunate homosexual man. I am very blessed to be who I am."
Zachary Quinto on his blog in 2011: "In light of [bullied gay teen Jamey Rodemeyer's] death - it became clear to me in an instant that living a gay life without publicly acknowledging it - is simply not enough to make any significant contribution to the immense work that lies ahead on the road to complete equality."
Jim Parsons, indirectly through a New York Times article in 2012: "Mr. Parsons is gay and in a 10-year relationship."
The thing that strikes me about these announcements is that even in the case of a celebrity where it was long suspected that they were gay (Ricky Martin, for instance), their public revelation wasn't met with the sort of catch-22 situation that Anderson Cooper is being presented with by some critics. I mean, coming out is always going to be a hard decision for a public figure, because not everyone will support their lifestyle, but Cooper has this extra special stigma going on where people are simultaneously pissed that he waited so long -- AND that he shouldn't have made the announcement at all, because it's nobody's business, dammit.
Maybe it's our current political climate, where conservatism and liberal activism are constantly clashing. Maybe it's about the different approaches and beliefs when it comes to gay rights. Whatever the reason, I feel for Cooper, because he sure proved the adage that you can't please all of the people all of the time.
The good news? Hopefully, he doesn't give a damn. As he wrote, "The fact is, I'm gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn't be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud."
What do you think about some of the reactions to Anderson Cooper's announcement? Do you think he should have handled it differently (sooner, or not at all)?
Image via Anderson Cooper