In an interview with The Guardian this week, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, an openly gay news anchor, made some interesting comments when asked if she feels frustration toward “an equally well-known news presenter who is widely assumed to be gay but has never come out?”
Her response, “I’m sure other people in the business have considered reasons why they’re doing what they’re doing,” she answers, “but I do think that if you’re gay you have a responsibility to come out.”
The comments created a buzz that suggested she was “outing” CNN’s Anderson Cooper. Cooper is an especially popular news anchor and has been widely rumored to be gay, although he has never confirmed or denied those assumptions.
Out of respect for Mr. Cooper, or perhaps to provide clarity, Rachel responded on her site.
“Regarding The Guardian interview that’s getting a lot of pickup today: in that interview, I wasn’t asked about Anderson Cooper, I didn’t say anything about him, he literally was never discussed during the interview at all — even implicitly.
I don’t tend to be shy when I criticize — you wouldn’t have to read between the lines if that’s what I was trying to do.
I’ve long held three basic beliefs about the ethics of coming out:
*Gay people — generally speaking — have a responsibility to our own community and to future generations of gay people to come out, if and when we feel that we can.
*We should all get to decide for ourselves the “if and when we feel that we can” part of that.
* Closeted people should reasonably expect to be outed by other gay people if (and only if) they prey on the gay community in public, but are secretly gay themselves.
I also believe that coming out makes for a happier life, but that’s not a matter of ethics, that’s just corny advice.”
While it is clear Ms. Maddow is talking about gay news anchors as a whole and not specifically one individual person, she draws on a good point. Ultimately, this comes down to visibility. It is not that Anderson Cooper needs to be the one person who comes out as a result of this interview, it is more about the idea that if every gay person was out and visible in the media, it wouldn’t be an issue as to whether Mr. Cooper was gay or not.
Part of the reason we have issues with LGBTQ youth, self-esteem and bullying is because we don’t have enough positive role models of gay people in the media. While numbers are increasing with the visibility of gay people like Rachel Maddow, young people need to see positive, successful gay people in various industries in order to be able to feel confident that yes, they can have a positive life too.
So, I agree with Rachel. Come out, news anchors. Come out everyone “if you feel that you can.” We certainly “have a responsibility to our community and future generations of gay people.”
What do you think? Do gay people have a responsibility to their community to come out?
Photo Credit: Walker