"The fact is, I'm gay." With those words, Anderson Cooper, the popular CNN news anchor and host of the daytime talk show Anderson, formally came out of the closet as a gay man on Monday, after spending years as "an inhabitant of the 'glass closet'" — a term used when a celebrity is out in their personal life but avoids confirming their sexuality publicly. Cooper's revelation comes after The Daily Beast columnist Andrew Sullivan contacted Cooper to ask for a reaction to a recent Entertainment Weekly article about the trend of gay celebrities coming out in ways that are significantly more matter-of-fact than in years past. His emailed response — in which Cooper says he is gay, "always have been, always will be, and I couldn't be more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud" — is posted in its entirety on Sullivan's blog. But why, after years of speculation, has Cooper decided to come out now? Here, three theories:
1. He doesn't want to seem ashamed
Cooper says the decision to keep his sexuality private for so long was meant to help him "maintain some level of privacy," as being a closed book was an asset that helped him "safely and effectively" do his job as a journalist. However, Cooper says he recently began fearing that by remaining silent he was giving "the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something — something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid." For years, Cooper said he didn't want to be labeled as "the gay anchor," TV Newser columnist and Cooper friend Gail Shister tells The New York Times. But attacks from the gay community insinuating that Cooper was embarrassed by his sexuality changed his mind.
2. He thinks he can make a difference
According to his colleagues, Cooper was unnerved by the recent spate of stories detailing the bullying of gay teens and children, as well as other forms of discrimination against gay people, says Brian Stelter at The New York Times. One colleague says that because of Cooper's visibility as a news anchor, he feels that coming out could make a difference in making homosexuality more acceptable: "He wanted to help." In his email, Cooper writes, "I do think visibility is important, more important than preserving my reporter's shield of privacy."
3. He wants to diminish the importance of celebrities' sexuality
Every time a media outlet runs a story trumpeting a famous person's decision to come out, the inevitable question is raised, says Jen Chaney at The Washington Post: "Did we really need to make such a big deal?" In his email, Cooper makes the point that each time a major celebrity comes out as gay, "it further establishes that being gay is, indeed, not a big deal." This may be a much-needed "stop on a route to where someone's sexual orientation no longer qualifies as news."