A Note To Anderson Cooper and Supporters: It is still dangerous to be out in America

3 Jul


I have to interrupt the regularly scheduled list here to write about something that bothered me for a whole day.

It was a specific part of Anderson Cooper’s coming out letter which, overall, was very beautifully written. I have the utmost respect for the man, and like I do with mostly all of the people I respect, I will now proceed to trash him.

Here is the whole letter, and here’s the part:
“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”

There was something extremely disingenuous about it and I couldn’t place my finger on it until today. Anderson is claiming that there is a specific danger to being an out gay man in a war zone when the truth is that there is a specific danger of being an out gay man everywhere in the world.

These are “professional reasons” in the same way it is a “professional reason” for a junior high or high school kid to stay closeted. They are not unique concerns to a field reporter, but they are nearly universal when deciding whether to present yourself as out or stay in the closet. I think everyone has considered the safety of ones family, especially when living in states where violent retribution against out individuals is not exactly rare.

I was out in Los Angeles, but only in certain areas, and I’m an out adult here in NY, but I hold no illusions that kids in the most liberal city in the world are safe.  There are kids who are bullied and commit suicide here in NY, and there are men and women of color found dead on subway tracks who identify as gay, lesbian, and trans. The dangers of being out are also not limited to children, but also to working professionals who are, in many states, not protected from being fired, or for the elderly who could be kicked out of homes, and who sometimes must resort to going back into the closet.

It’s important that a public figure like Anderson Cooper be out, but we should also be aware that regular folks who are in the closet usually have it worse than Anderson, and they don’t have the benefit of higher talk show ratings to fall back on.

Kathy Griffin, who is a well-known supporter of gay youth, said:

“What many young people do know is what they read in short bursts on celebrity Twitter posts or on TMZ. And what they read and see is how freeing being honest can be. What they don’t see is that it remains, in many places, very dangerous to do just that. And that dichotomy is deeply troubling to me.”

I love you Ms. Griffin, but nobody understands the dangers of being out more than the young people you are talking about because they live right here, in America, a very dangerous place to be out.  Just as how we deride folks who say racism is over with Barack’s presidency, so too should we be suspicious of the thought that homophobia is now exclusively in the realm of a dangerous Middle East war zone because a privileged silver fox has decided to press release that he’s gay.


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