This post was originally published by me on 11/3/09 at comingout925.wordpress.com. It’s reprinted here with minor copy edits.
Our friends at Gawker can’t. stop. talking. about Anderson Cooper’s boyfriend, Benjamin Maisani. They’re flabbergasted that AC is associating with such a handsome fellow when he’s yet to make an official statement that he’s gay as Neil Patrick Harris and Wanda Sykes have.
Once upon a time, saying you were “a friend of Dorothy,” a reference to the Wizard of Oz, was code for “I’m a big homosexual.” The CNN anchor has been seen with Kathy Griffin, perhaps today’s equivalent of Dorothy. Does this mean he’s out? Not so fast.
Since this is a blog about what it means to be gay at work, let’s look at two sides of the dilemma. Staying in the closet can ensure that you keep people guessing, and thus, talking about you. That’s good PR. Coming out, however, could mean losing segments of your audience. That’s bad PR. It’s PR nonetheless, and we know the adage about there being no such thing as bad publicity.
I think mostly, it’s scary as hell to come out on the job, even when you’re not the high-profile, good-looking son of Gloria Vanderbilt. Sounds like The Coop may fear the unknown in not publicly acknowledging what his relationship with Mr. Maisani means. (Note to Anderson: Certainty is overrated.) That his show’s ratings were down earlier this year is not unrelated.
What would be the benefits of revealing to his audience his true identity? For one, a huge dollop of relief. He would spend no more energy dodging questions or playing with pronouns, and would focus solely on researching news and hosting his show. His newfound openness would influence the nature of his news reporting, and his style on-air may likely become more relaxed, and more watchable. If he made a big declaration in coming out, he’d make headline news, grab the top spots on blogs and land the covers of magazines. How would that be for generating ratings for AC 360?
In an interesting precedent, on the cover of the November 2009 edition of Details, openly gay American Idol Adam Lambert describes how women throw their panties at him during his concerts. The fantasy of bedding him lives on, even after he shared the truth about his sexuality to the world.
While the folks at Gawker behave like your colleagues who won’t shut up about your sexual orientation because you don’t say a word about it, quieting their chatter by coming out with the truth can help all of us think a little more clearly.