Anderson Cooper and his network, like much of the mainstream media, have been responsibly covering the gay teen suicide epidemic for days now. The Coop is even hosting a special town hall special on Friday about the problem. But as Anderson interviews other celebrities and bullying victims, all I can wonder is: How come Anderson isn’t telling us his personal story?
Anderson isn’t out publicly, and he’ll tell friends he made that decision so he can objectively report on LGBT issues without publicly having a foot in the debate — as if being white or wealthy or a silver fox prevents him from objectively reporting on anyone with those traits. But as we’ve seen recently, when it comes to children facing pain and thoughts of killing themselves, the time is right to speak out with your personal story.
Don Lemon, in discussing the Eddie Long scandal, revealed he’s a child molestation victim. Tim Gunn, in talking about the torment young queer youth face, revealed he attempted suicide. Lance Bass even fessed up to being a former bully himself.
This is not about a journalist inserting himself into the story, or becoming the news. It’s about a journalist using his best tool: first-person experience. Every LGBT person alive has confronted, at least once, some for of discrimination or harassment or feeling of otherness. Being one himself, Anderson unarguably knows what it’s like to feel attacked.
And yet, as he sits here interviewing non-dancing partner Ellen DeGeneres — who says she, at 51, only started feeling comfortable in her own skin in the past 10 years — about how she was tormented as a kid and as an adult in her professional life, we have Anderson keeping mum about what it was like for him growing up gay. FOX 9 Minneapolis’s Jason Matheson set an example by lending a responsible voice to child bullying. Anderson should follow suit.
While I’m sure the childhood of a Vanderbilt was posh and insulated, surely Cooper has something to say about being a young person and realizing you’re not like every other boy and girl. And surely he can speak about bullying he faced professionally, whether unspoken or blatant, about being a gay man trying to climb up the media ladder.
But there he is, quiet as a mouse. And this isn’t the first time he’s stayed mum while reporting on gay bullying; last year he welcomed Sirdeaner Walker, the amazing mother of Carl Joseph Walker Hoover, who took his own life.
If ever there was a time when Anderson Cooper would publicly recognize his own community, it is now. And if he won’t do it for himself today, do it for the eight-year-old Anderson. This isn’t about forcing Anderson out of the closet; he’s already there, he just won’t say the words. We need more voices.