Some friends of mine shrugged when news broke about Anderson Cooper telling the world that he is gay.
But as a staffer at GLAAD (the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation), I work to share stories of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people and have seen first-hand how a single story can make a difference. Anderson speaks to millions of families every night. He has counted down the new year live from Times Square and was named to People Magazine’s “Sexiest Men Alive” list. Anderson has also won Emmy awards and GLAAD Media Awards for journalism that has changed our culture.
He now has the opportunity to inspire people with his own story. In his email, he described himself as a gay man who is “happy,” “comfortable,” and “proud.” When I came out in high school, those are not the words I used. “Alone” and “uncertain about the future” were more accurate due to the low visibility of stories about successful gay adults.
Today, LGBT young people hear from a range of politicians, faith leaders, parents, athletes, and even some of the “Sexiest Men Alive” — who happen to be gay. Fans rarely blink an eye when a famous face like Anderson comes out. After all, it doesn’t change his journalistic voice.
That is not the case for many LGBT Americans in schools or offices across America. By sending one email, Anderson spoke to those LGBT adults and young people who strive to feel “comfortable” and “happy.” He sent a message that you can be born gay and grow up to achieve your dreams. And that’s nothing to shrug about.