There's a point that few make when talking about the whole "coming out" issue. When gays are, say, around 3 percent of the population, it is not unreasonable to assume they are straight, until told otherwise. Odds are: a random person will be straight. And so it is simply a fact of homosexual life that you have a double standard when it comes to public acknowledgment of one's orientation. To get to neutrality, gays have to say something, while straights need only swim in the current of the majority. No straight person needs to come out. Every gay person, who doesn't want basic facts about him or her misunderstood, has little choice.
But when you get to the level of Anderson Cooper in terms of exposure, you have to come out again and again and again. I was lucky in my own fecklessness two decades ago. I was 26, suddenly named acting editor of The New Republic, then editor itself, and I was out to everyone in the office and my life. What to do? I had a long interview with Mike Duffy of Time magazine, where we talked about everything I wanted to do at the magazine, blah blah blah, and then his final question was: "And you're gay, right?" "Sure am," I answered, with all the blithe assurance of a twentysomething. I got it over with all at once – like my HIV diagnosis.
I may have stumbled into total openness, but I simply couldn't lie. And as an opinion writer on gay issues, I felt it was unethical not to let the readers know that I have a stake in this question, a deeply personal one. But I also believed that precisely because of the tininess of the gay minority and the reasonableness of assuming that a random person is straight, every gay had a responsibility to be as open with as many people as he or she can be. It was the only way to stop silence reinforcing the discriminatory and prejudiced status quo, which was built on the invisibility and subjugation of homosexuals. I still believe there is no substitute, and that most of our progress comes from these small and large acts of honesty. David Link has some reflections on this question as well. Money quote:
Our silence, their silence, anyone’s silence is a vote for the National Organization for Marriage, is a vote for the bias and prejudice that are woven into the fabric of current law.
In this politicized environment, privacy equals silence, and silence equals — well, not death anymore, but certainly some spiritual damage. That was the unholy balance that Cooper upset.
Neutrality is a primary virtue of the journalistic profession, but when “neutrality” means “the status quo,” and if the status quo is, itself, biased, then neutrality is not neutral. Anderson Cooper’s coming out helps expose that truth.