Anderson Cooper’s Coming Out Is Not News

I definitely have stories about work, but I think I’ll try to save those for a while.

Right now, I’m thinking about this Anderson Cooper crap. In fact, I hate to even blog about it in a way, because I feel it draws even more attention to something that just doesn’t need the amount of attention it’s receiving.

Look, I belong to several minority groups, including the so-called LGBT “community.”

But I don’t understand the hoopla surrounding Cooper’s coming out.

And I don’t just mean that in the sense that “everyone already knew.” I mean that to ask “why is coming out news?”

I get that these people are celebrities. I get that some of the ones who have come out have always portrayed a heterosexual image, some of the images hyper-heterosexual, a la Ricky Martin (even though he didn’t fool a lot of people). I know that a lot of people make assumptions that lead them to conflate or equate–sometimes incorrectly–not announcing a homosexual orientation with shame and/or self-hate. And I know that many people believe that the more people coming out and being visible, the more it helps gay people and gay rights.

I think coming out is an individual thing. I know it’s a cultural thing…meaning that white Americans can feel a lot more safe coming out than so many other other people can and can believe in the importance/necessity of coming out in a way that not everyone else can. It should not be mandatory just because of a belief that it hurts someone else if a totally different person remains closeted or that it helps someone totally different if you come out. The specifics of a person’s situation should matter, and I think, with very few exceptions, people should do what’s best for them and put themselves first. Standing up, standing out, being a leader, breaking down barriers…those things are not for everyone. Because a lot of other people are willing to play those roles for gays and lesbians right now, it seems as if every time you turn around there’s someone whom you can say, “Oh, he’s gay.” And the more true that becomes, the more I fail to understand why some people think every gay person coming out is totally necessary or why every time a gay celebrity comes out it’s news on the level of missing children and serial rapists that has to be written about or discussed for two weeks. Then again, all kinds of garbage is considered news nowadays.

There is already such normalcy to being gay in the US, to the point where I’m not sure coming out is the big story anymore. It’s not perfect. I’m here to tell you as a black person that it never will be perfect for gay people. It certainly will never be perfect for gay black people. There are other issues gay people are facing, but those issues aren’t so much about visibility as they’re about setting a precedent. If gay people are trying to get married, get divorced or have children, that’s beyond being about visibility and coming out. So are legal rights and issues of discrimination, really. The acceptance thing, though? I mean, generally the issue of getting others to accept gay people? I don’t know about you, but as a 30-something I’m beyond the idea that people are going to accept me or that I can somehow make people accept me. As I wrote before on this blog, my default position is that at best most people just don’t give a shit about me. And that would be true regardless of my race, sexual orientation or sex–those things just make my default position even more true.

I’m sorry, I just don’t see where Coop’s coming out is a congratulatory thing or a newsworthy thing. The dude didn’t just win the Nobel Prize–he indirectly told us something about himself, his private self. I don’t see what step that is towards gay people being accepted or not being discriminated against, particularly as someone who can look back at history, the marches, the legal battles, integration and compare it to my current life and–yeah–my life is better than that in many ways, but I still can’t say that I feel racially accepted in the US. And I can tell plenty of personal stories about racial discrimination. And if not coming out before meant he was ashamed before…for me, that’s his business. I think plenty of people, gay and straight, are on the record as not seeing anything to be ashamed of regarding homosexuality. Some people are ashamed, some people will be ashamed and many people aren’t and won’t be. What can we really do about that? There are always people who are ashamed of who they are. We can’t force everyone to be the same, to think the same or to accept themselves.

Have coming out and increased visibility led to more acceptance? Certainly. But is there going to be a plateau point or even a point of diminishing returns? Probably. And I think a lot of people are at the point where they hear another famous person has come out, and they’re almost more intolerant just because they’re tired of these types of stories. To me, for being gay to truly be seen as normal, we have to at some point move away from announcing every gay person to, for example, just letting them go in public with their same-sex partner and just letting that speak for itself. At some point, that needs to be okay instead of taken as shame just because someone is not giving the media direct quotes to plaster all over every media outlet. And a logical explanation for not coming out, such as the one below, should be acceptable instead of assumed to be shame:

Since I started as a reporter in war zones 20 years ago, I’ve often found myself in some very dangerous places. For my safety and the safety of those I work with, I try to blend in as much as possible… -Anderson Cooper

Again, there probably needs to be more recognition and acknowledgment of the fact that, although the American society is not 100% accepting, it’s far more accepting–including black Americans, who are often made out to be the bad guys–than many other nations, cultures and societies are.

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