Q: I’m confused by Anderson Cooper. Gawker says he brought his boyfriend to Mardi Gras. I know his whole schtick is that he doesn’t talk about his personal life because he doesn’t want it to compromise his neutrality as a journalist, which is standard behavior and something that I have no problem with. But he is far from neutral when it comes to LGBT rights. He’s been very active in covering anti-bullying news and other things relevant to the LGBT community, and in my opinion, I think that compromises his neutrality. Also, can we really consider him in the closet if he attends such public events as Mardi Gras with his “boyfriend?
I don’t know what to think. Some say he should disclose his sexuality just as he discloses that he comes from wealthy family and modeled for Calvin Klein. On the other hand, he’s talked about LGBT topics, favorably, in public before. It’s almost as if, by not coming out, he’s letting people pass some unspoken judgment about him and his opinion of/relationship with homosexuality. Bu why should I even be concerned with his personal life, especially considering I have the privilege of not being in the lime light? — Chaz, New Orleans, LA
A: If Anderson Cooper really is gay, I absolutely support his right to be publicly closeted if that’s his choice. Only he can decide what’s right for him.
But I’m not sure I agree with you, Chaz, about this frequently repeated idea that he’s staying closeted to maintain some kind of journalistic objectivity. We don’t know for sure where he’s coming from – he’s never spoken enough on it to really say. But if that is his rationale, it’s just about the biggest load of self-serving celebrity spin I’ve ever heard. And I make my living dealing with self-serving celebrity spin!
Presumably, the idea is that a gay man can’t cover gay issues because he’ll be “biased.” But we all have a sexuality: if a gay journalist is biased on gay issues, wouldn’t a straight journalist be biased too, just in a different direction?
This strikes me as a classic example of “heterosexual privilege”: the idea that when a member of the majority thinks something, that opinion is rational and “objective,” but when a minority member thinks something, it’s somehow suspect – biased unless proven otherwise.
Cooper might respond by saying that it’s more the perception of bias that he’s worried about, not actual bias. But if there is, in fact, any truth at all to the idea that some people think gay journalists can’t be objective about gay issues, that’s precisely because most prominent gay celebrity journalists have chosen to stay closeted up until now.
In short, the problem he’s supposedly worried about? By coming out, he helps it go away! In journalism, if there is ever a question of possible perceived bias, the accepted protocol is always to disclose outright the possible conflict of interest: when AfterElton.com (where I’m a regular writer) or 365gay.com writes about shows on Logo, we say upfront that we’re owned by MTV/Logo (even though we’re editorially independent).
Basically, I totally agree with you that if he is gay, Anderson is making things worse, not better, by forcefully advocating on these issues without disclosing that he is gay.