A good friend of mine was devastated – at least that was how he described the feeling – this afternoon after I revealed to him the ‘breaking news’ about CNN news anchor Anderson Cooper coming out to reveal his “proud” sexual orientation as a homosexual. Anderson Cooper now joins fellow CNN anchorperson Don Lemon in revealing himself as gay, after the latter revealed same to his viewing audience last year.
Mr. Cooper’s revelation followed not-too-recent speculations on the issue of his sexuality, which he has basically ignored, or failed to publicly address, up till today.
“It is becoming clear to me,” I read the words of Mr. Cooper’s letter to my friend, a married father of young children who was seated and listening to me nearby, “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.”
“The fact is, I’m gay,” I kept reading out loud to the rapt attention of this older, respected friend of mine, “always have been, always will be, and I couldn’t be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud.”
I stifled my laughter as I read the concluding paragraphs of Anderson Cooper’s letter to Andrew Sullivan, the influential journalist and blogger to whom he addressed his ‘coming out’ letter. I will come back to why I was so amused. But let me say that I couldn’t have been happier for Cooper because there is nothing as torturous as living an existence where one has to keep hiding his true thoughts or beliefs or way of life for fear of communal damnation or any such perceived dreads. I once told a friend of mine that if I found myself in a situation where someone sought to blackmail me with news of a terrible deed of which I am guilty, I’d have a joker up my sleeve waiting for him: I will beat such person to a public confession, even if the penance for my sin was an execution.
And that is where I come from when I say that there is nothing as miserable as living an existence of secrecy – or, a life of perennial denial. Now, Anderson Cooper may not be guilty of living a life of denial or a life of secrecy in the strict, definitive terms, but it is very possible that he felt some degree of relief in letting the facts of his sexual orientation out in the open. In another time and place, such would put his life in danger. Yet as I write here and now, there are parts of the world today – mostly the poverty-stricken, backward societies of the world with ugly records of vices as rape and summary murder without justice – where such revelation would instantly endanger your very existence.
Although my friend, as disgusted as he is by Anderson Cooper, would never as much as touch a hair of anyone’s head (much less pose a threat to anybody’s existence), his reaction would scare anyone with my kind of liberal worldview who didn’t know him like I know him. And so, I was prepared to laugh my guts out at his reaction to the news of one of his favorite TV personalities coming out to reveal that he is gay.
I am still having the laugh of the afternoon at his latest ‘troubling news’. If I wasn’t such my loving, considerate self (wink), I will be all over him like Devil Beans (bot: Mucuna pruriens Leguminosae) on naked skin. Just for sheer laughs I will torture him, good-naturedly if I can afford to. This I will do because, for goodness sake, of all the troubles that a man faces in his daily life, of all the potential dangers that a man faces every moment of his life, it is a certain Anderson Cooper’s private sexual orientation that literally altered my friend’s mood for the afternoon.
If that is not hilarious, I don’t know what else is. The comedy is darker when you consider the fact that, besides biblical revelations manifesting today or in the near future, there is simply nothing – nothing! – that anyone can do about any such thing, because this civilization will continue making allowances for such realities to be a part of our diverse existence.
My friend would have none of it when I told him all of that. I was aware of the paths of shouting matches where such conversations had taken us in the past, so I sought to downplay the entire news. “It’s Anderson’s life,” I said, adding that it has nothing to do with mine or anyone’s life in a way that should get people all riled-up.
But my friend would respond just as gently but firmly that you could say the same for the thief downtown. “If a theft is perpetrated downtown and you remain indifferent, it’s going to affect you at some point or the other when you become a victim,” he said with an air of certainty. I was dying to laugh out loud at that, but I didn’t want to agitate him and I didn’t want to get into any argument, aware of my own temperament, too. I tried to interrupt him to get a word in but he went on about the now-clich├ęd narrative of how, well, ‘they came for several groups of people in a society’, until they came for the previously unconcerned members of that society who had thought that they were safe.
I was like a bottle of champagne primed to pop with laughter. Don’t get me wrong; it is not like I view what he was saying with any levity. In the past I would bristle with righteous tirade at some of the things he was saying. Of course I am very conscious of the fact that many people share his views, legitimate or otherwise as they may consider same. But there was a time when I would have recoiled at his comments and struck like vicious snake – even as a proudly virile heterosexual – at the laughable comparison between burglars and homosexuals.
I have however learned to live like a realist: if I consider it preposterous that my friend and others who think like him take such umbrage at the existence of people like Anderson Cooper, whom they consider a danger to the society, it would be equally preposterous if I blow an emotional gasket whenever I hear them voice such opinion.
Yet as I listened to my friend this Monday afternoon as his kids ran around playing in background, my ears couldn’t help ringing at his reaction to Anderson Cooper’s revelation. He described how much he enjoyed watching Cooper’s program on CNN, and expressed regrets about how this news will change things going forward.
“No wonder they have such suicidal tendencies in his family,” he said, referring to the case of Cooper’s 23-year old older brother who died after taking a suicidal plunge from his mother’s high-rise apartment in New York City back in 1988. Again, this he said to my barely suppressed outburst of laughter. “It’s crazy,” I responded glibly, determined not to get into any bitter argument like others into which we had worked ourselves in the past, although we never had one on the topic of homosexuality and the society.
This nevertheless respected friend of mine once aggressively denounced my position that the LGBT community reserves the right to hold rallies to assert the community’s independence in the face of intimidation, rather than remain cowering in the dark alleys of the society. I shocked him by saying he hasn’t seen anything; that if such a parade came to town, I was getting on that parade flotilla to express my support for the parade, even if I have never participated in any type of public rally before. My friend responded that that would be the end of our friendship. “Fine,” I said, laughing, “it’s your choice.”
A gay parade hasn’t come to the Midwestern US town where I live and, so far, our friendship remains as intact.
The limit of my patience was however tested this afternoon as he repeatedly bemoaned Anderson Cooper’s revelation, saying the society is going to the dogs. Feigning a not-so-genuine indifference, I eventually told him that he shouldn’t worry too much about such, as there is a whole lot more to worry about than the ‘threat’ of homosexuality to the well-being of the society.
As I said that, I was thinking of things as high divorce rates between spouses that leave children open to poor mentoring and such. He again referenced the suicide of Anderson’s older brother as a sign of abnormality in the family, before going on to criticize the media in particular, and the society in general, for tolerating homosexuality in a such a way that one may no more publicly denounce it without activating an avalanche of criticism for doing so.
“He (Anderson) kept it a secret all this while, that is why he was able to move up the ladder of corporate media so quickly,” said my friend. I countered by pointing out that MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow had never hidden the fact that she was a homosexual American, and her ascent to prominence in the highly competitive media business wasn’t any less rapid than Cooper’s.
“Oh but Rachel is a highly intelligent woman with a PhD!” he said, and I finally laughed out loud. “Why, are you saying…” I attempted to ask before he cut me short to emphasize the point that Anderson is simply no match to Maddow.
“Why, because he doesn’t have a PhD? But that doesn’t make him any less cerebral than Rachel!” I said, still laughing, at which point his youngest child walked-in crying, interrupting a dad who by now was slightly irritable and myself, who has exceeded the elastic limit of shock to enter into the region of general amusement.
The 2-year old child must have thought our conversation was ridiculous.
And indeed it was.