Sunday, June 08, 2008

Sunday Commentary: Celebrities in the Semi-Closet

I used to have a bit of a thing for Anderson Cooper. Smart, sexy, sophisticated... what's not to love? And while he wasn't Gay (with a capital G) in his work life, the "nudge nudge wink wink" approach was ok with me. I even did a Queer HumorTube post that featured him.

But the more I've thought about it, I've decided it isn't ok for someone in his position not be fully out of the closet. It certainly seems like everyone knows he's gay, but he won't fully acknowledge it himself, coming up with lame excuses, like how:
"The whole thing about being a reporter is that you’re supposed to be an observer and to be able to adapt with any group you’re in,” Cooper told New York magazine, “and I don’t want to do anything that threatens that.”
While I generally think that people shouldn't be in the closet at all, if you're going to be in the closet, you have to do it all the way. If you're going to treat your sexuality in a way that everyone knows you are queer, but you won't actually admit it, then it makes it seem like being gay is something shameful or embarrassing.

There are many people without the fame and fortune of Anderson Cooper who still manage to come out, even if that means they will face an increased risk of violence or being fired. There are enough admirable queer folks who are actually out of the closet who can serve as our role models or crushes that I think us gays should get over Cooper until he officially comes out of the closet.

The Advocate did the right thing when they used Anderson and Jodie Foster on their cover in order to call them out for their semi-closeted status. As cute and sophisticated as Anderson may be, I wouldn't want to date someone in real life who was as coy and dishonest about their sexuality as he is, so I should hold him to the same standard.

Anderson Cooper, please come out! Everyone knows you're gay, and your semi-closeted sexuality is bad for you and bad for the gay community.


Anonymous said...

You know, it isn’t as though he just takes the “no comment” approach to his sexuality. He also refuses to give any decisive answer to questions about his religious beliefs, political leanings and opinions about controversial issues. He’s an old school journalist, which means keeping rigorously neutral and “unaffiliated”. He tried to keep his old work for the CIA “closeted” because it would cause him more difficulty and danger when he travels to combat areas, does that mean he must be ashamed of being ex-CIA?

I don’t see how it is somehow better for celebrities to be all the way in the closet. Someone like Kevin Spacey who lies, expresses outrage when magazines like Esquire imply he’s gay, tries to beard and invents stories about what he was doing out in the park in the middle of the night isn’t displaying shame but Anderson who dates guys in public, never beards, never does a thing to try to stop magazines from outing him or take revenge for it, and takes part in gay charity events is displaying it? Nowadays with internet and all celebrities can’t be truly closeted like they once were, and someone like Anderson at least seems comfortable with who he is even if he isn’t choosing to enter the public discussion about it himself.

Cooper is as out as the every day people you are talking about, and has been for a very long time. His bosses and everybody else in the industry knew he was gay when he was working his way up the ranks. His family, friends and most acquaintances have known he’s gay. In terms of celebrity inspiration, there typically isn’t a chance of it much happening if celebrities don’t build their careers up substantially first before coming out, and they have their own aspirations and personal feelings to consider as well as the desires of the fickle, demanding masses. Isn’t it more inspiring for kids to look at Anderson and people who took years to build their name before coming out like Elton, Rosie and Ellen than to hear the bitter complaints from guys like Rupert Everett and even Rufus Wainwright about how coming out to America early limited their careers terribly? Anderson is also a good gay role model (and ambassador for the gay community) in ways that can’t be said of many of other gay male celebrities - he has avoided scandal, kept clear of drug addiction, succeeded in a non-traditionally gay field of work, shows a non-selfish commitment to causes beyond gay-focused ones, is known for being easy to work with and tantrum-free, and doesn’t get into public cat fights with other celebs. Not everybody has to role model the same positive qualities for our youth.

I’d be happy to see him come out the rest of the way, but I don’t think it’s so terrible that he hasn’t done it so far.

Anonymous said...

How could Anderson Cooper be a good gay role model when he don't say he is gay? Many people in real life believes until a person says they are gay, they are straight like Anderson.

Anonymous said...

Also unlike him, most people are willing to stand up for theirs rights and demand equal treatment from the public at the cost of their life and job.

If everybody try to copy Anderson then nobody would be demanding their right to marry and be OK how society is treating them. Please show me at least once Anderson stand up for gay rights.

And your comment about his refuses to comments on controversial issues I found offensive. So gay rights is a controversial issues huh. So Blacks journalists in past were wrong when they stand up for their rights because journalists are suppose to be neutral.