Monday, July 2, 2012

Anderson Cooper: Unapologetic

I honestly didn't know what title to give this post after reading Anderson Cooper's email to Andrew Sullivan (which you can see the entire article here). "Bravo Anderson!" "Three Cheers to Anderson Cooper!" were two of the ones that instantly jumped into my mind, but honestly, just his name seemed to suffice without making it seem as if his coming out is any more important that a young, unknown man or woman coming out who lives in a very fatally homophobic/transphobic environment.

I'm happy that Anderson finally "came out" to the public. I really am. His words were beautiful and heartfelt and he didn't go into details about too much, didn't try to make excuses for why he's never come out before, he was sincere and sincerity is something that is sadly lacking in much of our daily interactions with each other. For me though, I read his email to Andrew and all I could think of was how happy I was to have another well-known person stand up and say, "This is who I am. I am unapologetic about who I am. I embrace who I am. I love who I am and I stand for who I am and others like me." Though I must admit that whenever I hear someone say that they're not an "activist" they just take a stand for what's right, I always get a little smile on my face, because that's what an activist does.

Maybe this held such weight with me because of things I've been struggling with in my own personal life. The feeling of being inconsequential to people who say they care, to the world at large, the proverbial pity-party my subconscious throws at least twice every day because I'm not doing enough. I know that I hold myself to a certain standard, one that others have told me is impossible but one that I can't seem to tear myself away from. I love helping others. I want to change the world. I'm determined to do both of those things. So, yes, I am an activist. In addition to being a writer and a brother, and uncle, a father, a son, a friend, a business partner, a boyfriend... I am an activist. It's not something that I run from, it's something that I embrace, just like I embrace being transgender and being gay, black, a Messianic Jew and a disabled veteran of the United States Army. I don't shame easily, I don't let people tell me that I shouldn't be so vocal in the issues that I fight against. I marched with Save Darfur, proudly. I've protested, passed out fliers, called members of Congress and the Senate. Written letters to the President, the Vice-President and whoever else I could.

I'm not ashamed about the things I've suffered and endured, the ways I've overcome abuse at the hands of family members, the abuse I suffered at the hands of ex-boyfriends, friends, hell, the abuse I've suffered (albeit only verbally) from people online. I'm not ashamed of those things. I know there are others who would be, who go through what I have to suffer from guilt and shame, but whenever those feelings creep up on me I remind myself of my ultimate goal: to change the world. I remind myself of the group home I want to start, the charities, the non-profit organizations that I want to run. I think of the lives I want to change, the teenagers, the children, the people who are waiting on someone who cares enough to fight for them. Who understands what they've been through, so they know to never stop fighting. I think of them and I refuse to apologize for being an activist. I'm a writer, yes, I understand that. I love writing, it gives me a joy and a peace that I would be lost without, but I'm also a world-changer. Someday that's what people will know me as.

So maybe that's why Anderson's email so snatched my heart from my chest and clutched it in a firm grip. He's so unapologetic. He doesn't apologize for being who he is, for the decisions that he's made, he just explains them. I for one love people who say: this is who I am. It is not the whole of me, it is not a big part of my life's portrait, it is a piece of the puzzle, a small portion, but it is a portion of me that I embrace, that I celebrate, that I love. I will not apologize for that, I will not let you make me feel as if I should apologize for that and I will not let you make that the sum defining total of who I am.

So for that reason I say: Bravo, Anderson. Three cheers for you.

Here's the email below:

Andrew, as you know, the issue you raise is one that I've thought about for years. Even though my job puts me in the public eye, I have tried to maintain some level of privacy in my life. Part of that has been for purely personal reasons. I think most people want some privacy for themselves and the people they are close to.
But I've also wanted to retain some privacy for professional reasons. 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, and prefer to stick to my job of telling other people’s stories, and not my own. I have found that sometimes the less an interview subject knows about me, the better I can safely and effectively do my job as a journalist.
I've always believed that who a reporter votes for, what religion they are, who they love, should not be something they have to discuss publicly. As long as a journalist shows fairness and honesty in his or her work, their private life shouldn't matter. I’ve stuck to those principles for my entire professional career, even when I’ve been directly 12039_084asked “the gay question,” which happens occasionally. I did not address my sexual orientation in the memoir I wrote several years ago because it was a book focused on war, disasters, loss and survival. I didn't set out to write about other aspects of my life.
Recently, however, I’ve begun to consider whether the unintended outcomes of maintaining my privacy outweigh personal and professional principle. 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 is simply not true.
I’ve also been reminded recently that while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people, the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible. There continue to be far too many incidences of bullying of young people, as well as discrimination and violence against people of all ages, based on their sexual orientation, and I believe there is value in making clear where I stand.
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.
I have always been very open and honest about this part of my life with my friends, my family, and my colleagues. In a perfect world, I don't think it's anyone else's business, but I do think there is value in standing up and being counted. I’m not an activist, but I am a human being and I don't give that up by being a journalist.
Since my early days as a reporter, I have worked hard to accurately and fairly portray 19447_001_1563_CCgay and lesbian people in the media - and to fairly and accurately portray those who for whatever reason disapprove of them. It is not part of my job to push an agenda, but rather to be relentlessly honest in everything I see, say and do. I’ve never wanted to be any kind of reporter other than a good one, and I do not desire to promote any cause other than the truth.
Being a journalist, traveling to remote places, trying to understand people from all walks of life, telling their stories, has been the greatest joy of my professional career, and I hope to continue doing it for a long time to come. But while I feel very blessed to have had so many opportunities as a journalist, I am also blessed far beyond having a great career.
I love, and I am loved.
In my opinion, the ability to love another person is one of God’s greatest gifts, and I thank God every day for enabling me to give and share love with the people in my life. I appreciate your asking me to weigh in on this, and I would be happy for you to share my thoughts with your readers. I still consider myself a reserved person and I hope this doesn’t mean an end to a small amount of personal space. But I do think visibility is important, more important than preserving my reporter’s shield of privacy.


  1. Wow I read and I enjoyed reading so much as always. While I was reading I got a good feeling. Happiness is being yourself and being comfortable with yourself. Or that's what I think anyways.

  2. I've been a fan of Anderson Cooper since his days on the ABC's wee hours news program. He is by far my favorite news anchor and that's because of his experience in the trenches (literally!) and his personal integrity. His reasons for this particular letter only cements my high opinion of this fine man. He isn't really coming out, he's just putting it out there for discussion. I'm going to comment on this in my blog, too, because it's important. And so is your post. You've been through a lot and are willing to share. That makes you just as amazing as Anderson Cooper.

  3. When you get that group home started, I'll happily come work there. ^__^


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