Anderson Cooper Officially Comes Out: “The Fact Is, I’m Gay”

Anderson Cooper’s sexual orientation isn’t exactly a secret. He’d never announced it or anything, but he’d never lied about it, either, and he’s always seemed relatively uninhibited  about appearing in public with his activity partner. But many wondered if he’d ever take the plunge and actually come out, publicly. Today, he did just that.

In Entertainment Weeklys cover story last week, entitled ‘The New Art of Coming Out,” the magazine noted that the coming out process for celebrities has changed quite a bit over the last few years and, furthermore, “this new blink-and-you’ll-miss-it style is an important hallmark of changing times.” Drawing from examples like Jim Parsons and Zachary Quinto, the magazine argues that “subtle” is the new “magazine cover” when it comes to coming out and, furthermore “coming out casually is, in its way, as activist as [Ellen] DeGeneres’ TIME cover, although few of these actors would probably choose to label themselves as such.”

Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Beast emailed Anderson Cooper asking for his take on the story and much to Sullivan’s surprise, in return he received an email which Cooper gave Sullivan permission to publish online. Here it is:

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 asked “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 gay 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.

It’s hard to believe now, but it wasn’t that long ago that nobody had heard of Anderson Cooper. The son of Gloria Vanderbilt (yes, those Vanderbilts) and her third husband Wyatt Cooper, Cooper really broke out onto the national radar in a major way during Hurricane Katrina, when he was one of the few television reporters working aggressively and ambitiously to tell the real story of the devastation there.  On the fourth day of coverage, Cooper incredulously challenged a Louisiana senator who praised George W. Bush’s allegedly supportive actions on live television and shortly thereafter, cried on camera, thus earning him the “emo anchor” moniker. It was a turning point in his career.

Born in 1967, Anderson grew up in a five-story mansion on 67th and a penthouse duplex at 10 Gracie Square, consecutively. At ten, his father died of a sudden heart attack, and shortly before Anderson was due to start his freshman year at Yale, Anderson’s older brother killed himself, which was cited as “the precipitating event for his career as a journalist.” After college, Anderson began traveling to war-torn or otherwise engaged-in-a-serious-conflict locales, such as Bosnia, Rwanda and Thailand, where he made his own video newscasts to sell to Channel One. His mother recalls that Anderson was never “content living the privileged, pampered life of a New York gentleman.”

April 2007 magazine cover – one of many attempts to coax Cooper out of the closet

In early 2002, Anderson got a job co-hosting with Paula Zahn, which led to Anderson subbing for Aaron Brown on NewsNight, which lead to Anderson getting his own show, Anderson Cooper 360.

In 2005, reporter Jonathan Van Meter met up with Cooper for a New York Magazine story, a few months prior to Hurricaine Katrina. Early on, a nervous Cooper asks Van Meter, “Why are you interested in writing an article about me?” Van Meter then explains why “there was a sense that Cooper seemed to be on the cusp of some sort of career breakthrough.” Van Meter was correct, and as Anderson’s fame picked up, so did speculation about his sexuality.

Van Meter wrote:

There has been a lot of chatter on the Internet about the fact that Cooper may or may not be gay, and Village Voice columnist Michael Musto has taken pleasure in quoting the gay magazine Metrosource, which has referred to Cooper as “the openly gay news anchor.” It has been assumed in certain circles in New York partly because he lives what looks to some to be a gay social life. He’s often seen at parties with Barry Diller, and he’s friends with the lead singer from the outré gay rock band the Scissor Sisters. And then there was the tempest in a teapot regarding a slightly heated interview last fall with Jerry Falwell about gay marriage. Some Cooper-obsessed bloggers insist that the anchor outed himself on the air, taking the gay side of the debate and saying, “We pay taxes.” They claim CNN originally posted a transcript with the “we” and then later changed it to “You pay taxes.” Cooper has maintained all along that he said “you.”

When I bring up the sexuality issue with Cooper, he says, “You know, I understand why people might be interested. But I just don’t talk about my personal life. It’s a decision I made a long time ago, before I ever even knew anyone would be interested in my personal life. 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, and I don’t want to do anything that threatens that.”

When that interview happened Cooper would’ve been the only out news anchor on television. Now, he’s joined by other known homos such as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, HLN’s Jane Velez-Mitchell,  CNN’s Don Lemon, Good Morning America’s Robin Roberts and FOX’s Shepard Smith.

It may have taken nearly a decade to get here — but we’re here. We’re everywhere.

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2696 articles for us.

45 Comments

  1. Wait, is this one of those things where all of the gays know that he’s gay, but everyone else doesn’t? Cause I’m pretty sure this might win the award for the least surprising news story of the day.

  2. FINALLY. Ever since he started getting spray tans with Snooki(e?) on his daytime talk show I’ve been itching for him to realize he was no longer a serious reporter and come out.

  3. Hi, while I think it’s great that he’s come out, I also think it’s a shame that anyone needs to come out. One’s sexual orientation should be nobody’s business but their own. My two cents.

    • Except that it isn’t really. I mean, straight people casually come out as straight several times a day, whenever they mention their girlfriends/husbands/wives etc., whenever they comment on how sexy a model/actor is, whenever they put an arm around their partner on the bus or at the theatre or hold hands while out for a walk. The difference is that many LGBT people think twice about doing those sorts of ordinary things, and carefully consider our audience before we speak or act, because we know we might get drawn into major personal discussions, arguments, or even violence or job loss as a result of that same everyday activity that straight people can engage in so casually. Or at least get a very frosty reception from some people. Certainly, we may be more careful than we actually need to be, but you only have to sit through one very uncomfortable situation to be more mindful in future. You know, in the same way straight people *don’t* have to be.

      I think it would be wonderful to live in a world where sexual orientation didn’t matter, but as far as I can see, there are only two ways that can happen.
      1) Everyone stops caring whether people are LGBT or not, and we have true equality, or
      2) Everyone stops talking about their private lives altogether, or being affectionate, except when they are in private. And, in this case, ‘private’ would not include birth family, since they can be as, or more problematic than outsiders.

      The fact is that sexual orientation is a very social issue. It’s about more than who you sleep with; it’s about who your heirs are, who your regular companion/s are, who you go out to dinner with, who you go on holiday with etc. It’s not just about what we do in the bedroom; that might even be the very least of it.

  4. As cynical as we all might be, more visibility is always better. Unfortunately, the folks who don’t already know he’s gay probably aren’t reading Andrew Sullivan or Autostraddle either.

  5. You know I seriously SERIOUSLY HAVE TO SAY THIS: I already knew Cooper was gay…I mean the way he was with Kathy every year on New Year’s Eve. His body language EVERY TIME SHE WOULD UNDRESS OR JUST FLIRTATIOUS WITH HIM! HE WAS MORE THAN UNCOMFORTABLE HE WAS UNATTRACTED! I’m a lesbian I have loaaaaaaaads of gay friends him coming out I’ve been counting down the days. I’m proud of him and that he came to terms with who is in his profession. And I wish him the absolute best. I can’t wait to see Kathy this News Years because I truly hope Kathy meets Cooper’s boyfriend. There’s going to be a fight because now that he’s out SHE CAN’T TOUCH HIM HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAAHAHHA SO YAY FOR COOPER!!!! AWESOME JOB RIESE WITH THIS ARTICLE!!!! 😀

  6. Super classy statement from a classy (if awesomely dorky) man. It is awkward and awful that the homophobia and heterosexism in our society means that queer people in the public eye have to balance privacy and principles, but while they do, I will always applaud the people who choose to step up and make a statement and a stand.

  7. This is my favorite part of the e-mail:
    “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.”
    While I give those celebrities who come out props for doing so, I’ve always felt that being a celebrity doesn’t mean you have to be an activist or forced to be a public figure for gay rights. I commend those who do and in a more perfect world everyone would be out, but we don’t live in a perfect world. As long as someone isn’t using their celebrity to fight against gay rights while secretly having gay affairs it shouldn’t matter.
    But bravo to Anderson and thank you for finally confirming what everyone already knew.

  8. When I was 11 I read an article about Anderson Cooper and I watched his show all the time and I really wanted to grow up and marry him…well then as it turns out I’m gay and so is he..so I’m happy I have my confirmation as I was getting bored with the is he or isn’t he conversations. Yay Anderson!

  9. I read that EW article and I was really surprised that it made zero mention of LiLo. Her coming out was a prime example of exactly what they were talking about.

    Anyway, good on Anderson Cooper for coming out.

    • Maybe it might have something to do with the fact that Lilo has never really said what she identifies as. I think she’s one of those no label people. I remember her saying a few times that she didn’t think she would date another woman after SamRo but that was during the height of their tumultuous relationship so who knows how she feels now.

  10. Even though many of us already pretty much knew this, there’s a lot of value in actually standing up and being counted.
    I don’t think the hetero world is as closely attuned to this stuff, which makes speaking out essential. Speaking of, I met two different people recently who really like Ellen Degeneres and didn’t know she’s gay!

    • I know people who insist that Amber Heard is completely straight and it’s just lesbians spreading rumors about her. Conversations usually go like this:

      Dumb guy: Amber Heard never said she was gay. Your projecting. Where is the proof.
      Me: *points to links of various articles*
      Dumb guy: Oh. Well….she’s said she hooked up with guys too!
      Me:*leaves*

      There are plenty of people who still insist Matt Bomer is straight and didn’t believe Zachary Quinto was gay for the longest time. I think people choose to believe what they want to until it can’t be denied any longer.

      • omg- this!
        You talk to some dumb straight guy and he goes hurrr well she said she does not label herself and that she has had relationships with men in the past and may do so in the future

        so then I show them finite proof
        but they deny it anyway. It’s so gross, I mean, in the end, they are the ones projecting their desires. It’s the whole “she’s too pretty to be lesbian” thing and the “I don’t believe that there are hot chicks that are not interested in me” that is so enraging.

        I mean, turn it around. If some hunky heartthrob came out as gay one day, would all of his female fans go into aggressive denial saying things like “he is straight for a fact and I know this because in my sexual fantasies- he is straight”

        gross

      • Amber Heard herself has said she doesn’t like labels. She has talked about her relationship with Tasya, but never said she herself was gay. I won’t label her as long as she doesn’t label herself. Even if I did label her, which is wrong, I wouldn’t call her a lesbian. I might would call her pansexual or just plain queer. Look at question 19 on the link and you’ll see what I’m talking about. http://www.playboy.com/playground/view/20q-amber-heard?page=2 .

        The “dumb straight guys” are right in the sense of what’s her sexuality. She’s not a lesbian.

        • I know Amber doesn’t label herself one way or the other. But I’ve had conversations with guys that deny she’s attracted to women period. That’s what I meant. They weren’t just saying she was queer, they were saying she was straight. Especially in light of the Johnny Depp rumors.

        • On her official facebook profile it stated that Amber Heard came out as lesbian at the 2010 GLAAD Awards. It was on there for at least two years. If she took it down recently (and I haven’t checked), it is likely for the sake of her career. If you look at her movie roles, she essentially only plays the hot girl trope, the f*ckable sidekick, and attractive woman. If she was gay, it would be significantly harder for her to connect with her male fanbase that only watch her because she is attractive, and who are also her main fanbase. The statement she made about not subscribing to labels came much later, and is likely only to make her orientation even less finite. And the rumors with Johnny Depp are likely PR for all we know. In hollywood, image is truly a huge thing and probably the reason for the ambiguity. But for as long as I have been following Heard’s story, I am quite certain she is a lesbian or that way inclined.

  11. While this is great, I actually thought it happened years ago. I’m pretty sure I knew he was with us ever since I first saw him, hosting that show, “The Mole,” even though I didn’t realize I was with us back then.

  12. Reise, I just wanted to say great job on the article! It was beautiful (as was Anderson’s email).

    However, I just double checked, and Robin Roberts has never officially come out. She was outed by Gawker and they later retracted. I don’t know the implications of listing her as an “out” reporter on this website or autostraddle’s policy on forced outings, etc. But I thought I would let you know just in case!

    It doesn’t feel right to include people on the “family list” unless they asked to be there, you know? Just trying to respect people’s privacy and processes, even if they are a celebrity.

    That’s it. Welcome to the club, Andy!

  13. Well done, Anderson! Having one more charming, generous gay person step up and admit that they’re-gay-so-whatever makes being queer less of a Big Thing for us all. It makes us normal. Because we are.
    But it’ll really help us when we’re dealing with folks who didn’t get the memo that LGBT people are not only normal, but actual PEOPLE.
    The fact that he did it so gracefully was just a bonus.

  14. You know, my facebook feed exploded with a bunch of “WOW ANDERSON COOPER IS GAY I CAN’T BELIEVE IT” posts. I think they all might have been living under a rock or they just had their heterosexual goggles on, I dunno man. Aw well, YAY Anderson Cooper.

  15. Apparently this is just the season of low-key coming outs. Frank Ocean also came out on his tumblr and twitter and new album. He talked about how his first love was a man. Tyler the Creator tweeted back his support saying “My Big Brother Finally Fucking Did That. Proud Of That Nigga Cause I Know That Shit Is Difficult Or Whatever. Anyway. Im A Toilet.” Of course in Tyler fashion smh. It’s too early to see how this pans out but just thought I would throw some PoC subtle coming out info.

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