OPINION – It was not terribly surprising to learn, as we did the other day, that CNN newsman Anderson Cooper is gay.
What is surprising, however, is that an announcement like that is still considered as news.
I mean, does it really matter who Anderson Cooper loves? Is it newsworthy in a world beset with international economic woes, wars and genocide, and unconscionable crimes against humanity and nature?
Will the story of Anderson Cooper outing himself as a gay man feed the poor, house the homeless, cure the ill?
Will it have an impact on your life?
It is simply a statement by a man who we have come to know as a respected newsman.
But, what will his legacy be now? Will he be remembered for his reporting on Hurricane Katrina and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan or for being a member of the homosexual community?
The responses have been predictable. To the homophobes, Anderson is a bad role model, a deviant, a man who has no place in this or God’s world.
To the uber-hip? He’s cool, daring, on the edge, a rebel, a man who by being honest has flipped the bird to conventional society. Then there will be those who will say that although they do not approve of the gay lifestyle, we should all be tolerant, which to me is the ultimate insult because to be tolerant implies that somebody is making a judgment to “accept” something that they believe is somehow wrong. It’s just as judgmental as the stance taken by the homophobe or super cool.
Through most of my lifetime, I have witnessed the struggle for civil rights. It started with the African-Americans who simply wanted to vote, to find a place where they could eat or sleep, who wanted a seat on the bus.
I have witnessed the struggle for civil rights that women have endured in the area of equality in the workplace, the right to decide what is best for them and their bodies, equality in the eyes of the law and society.
And, I have witnessed the struggle for civil rights that members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community have endured as they seek the simple need to marry the person they happen to love, be able to pass on the security of providing them spousal health and insurance benefits, pursue whatever career they desire — whether in the military or in the business world — and, yes, even live where they choose as some communities still refuse to enact laws that would ban housing discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In the aftermath of Cooper’s announcement I saw a tweet that said: “Duh…isn’t it 2012?”
Yes, it is. Unfortunately, our society does not advance as rapidly as the calendar and the United States, as a whole, is still stuck on a mentality most of the rest of the world outgrew decades ago, which is why we seem to still require people to step forward, make a declaration of a very personal nature that is truly nobody’s business, and become the latest symbol of unshackled repression.
Most don’t, however, because they are afraid. I recall working with a reporter on a story once about HIV/AIDS. The numbers for treatment in Southern Utah were disproportionately low by national standards. The medical expert said it was because most people with the disease sought treatment in Las Vegas to avoid being accidentally outed in their home community.
The tragedy spreads deeper.
I know of at least two young gay men in Southern Utah who took their own lives last year because their personal struggles with dealing with the prevalent attitudes about homosexuality became too much for them to bear.
Cooper said, “It’s become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something — something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed, or even afraid. This is distressing because it simply is not true.”
I can believe that. Cooper has established himself as a world-class newsman. He has a remarkably warm TV persona, is witty, bright, and charming, and seems a rather humble guy despite all of the adulation. He seems well-grounded, he seems happy with his life.
But, I can also believe that as a credible, honest newsman, Cooper found it necessary to do the one thing he does best: deal in truth, and the truth is he is a gay man in a society that has yet to understand that homosexuality is nothing to fear.
It was a courageous act, to be sure, but truth is not often easily dispensed, especially when small minds condemn that which they cannot comprehend.
No bad days!
Copyright 2012 St. George News.