On the EDge: Does it really matter who Anderson Cooper loves?

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?

Hardly.

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!

email: edkociela.mx@gmail.com

Twitter: @EdKociela

Copyright 2012 St. George News.

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5 Comments

  • Linda Cox July 5, 2012 at 10:19 am

    Fabulous writing as Usual Ed. Very good points made. Our group of friends love your columns.

  • M Heiner July 5, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Very well said, Ed. It won’t change my life or my opinion of Mr. Cooper. It’s not newsworthy nor is it something I care about. It’s only sad that so many still care about matters such as these in the times we live in.

  • ..Kat V July 5, 2012 at 10:40 pm

    I find it so strange that someone has to announce their sexual orientation. I have never heard anyone stand up & say “hey, I’m heterosexual.” Who cares & why would you? Do what you do and be who. you are. No announcements necessary.

  • Mike H July 6, 2012 at 9:05 am

    To Kat, man I wish that were true. To many (shall we call them enlightened?) people, the idea or knowledge of a person’s sexual preference means as much to them as the correct firing order on a Ford 302 engine. Once that knowledge is learned what does it serve you? Maybe as a mechanic it is useful so you can correctly tune your Mustang or pickup. Maybe to a friend it would be useful as you can then feel confident in playing matchmaker without inadvertently sticking your foot in it. But to some… the sun rises and sets on that knowledge.
    It is an unfortunate truth that gay people whether they want to or not, are always in the process of “coming out”. In conversation with fellow employees, when applying for a job or apartment, any time you are interacting with someone the automatic assumption, the neutral position, is that a person is heterosexual. 9 times out of 10 one would be correct. But there are those times when it becomes apparent that, whoops they aren’t straight. Not every gay man is as flamboyant as Jack from Will and Grace, not every lesbian dresses in flannel and you can sometimes find yourself surprised when you learn this person or that is gay.
    Most of the time this might amount to nothing, as it should. But there are those times when a person loses their job, their place to live and worse yet, their family. Especially in this area. I have personally known several members of the gay community who have been shunned by their families. I also know of many that have lost their jobs and their places to live once it became known that they were living “immoral lives”. Nothing changed about these people, they were as they were. The only thing different was the knowledge of the people who then changed their behavior to suit this new found knowledge, be it to support or to discriminate.
    The gay rights struggle has often been equated to the civil rights struggle and with good reason. It’s a group of people who often find themselves discriminated against for no other reason than being different. But there is a huge difference between the two struggles. A black person knows right away when a person is going to discriminate against them. There is no surprise when someone is a bigot with them. The difference with gays is that it is not always apparent that they are gay. Oftentimes relationships are built and established before someone realizes that one or the other is gay. But that realization suddenly changes everything. The worst thing that happens is when the ignorant party becomes knowledgeable and acts on that knowledge by cutting off all contact or worse yet reacts violently. One is not shocked or surprised when they realize their friend is not of the same race, they knew it the moment they met. A black person’s family does not ostracize them when they become aware that their child is black. The same cannot always be said about the family with a gay child.
    What Anderson Cooper and all the celebrities before him did was shine a light on the ignorance of the populace. We assume they were straight and were shocked to learn we were wrong. To some that knowledge meant nothing and changed nothing about how they felt about them. But to others, the knowledge about who those people have relationships with changed everything about how they felt about them. Why? Who knows? Everyone has their own justifications for bigotry and prejudice be they religious or “moral”.
    I long for the day when it really doesn’t matter. But I don’t think that day is soon to come. There will always be those people who, once they learn someone is gay, regardless of the length and depth of their relationship, will react with prejudice and bigotry. Even if it is a irrational as to refuse to continue to own their Mustang or pickup if the firing order is no longer 1,5,4,2,6,3,7,8.

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