Anderson Cooper is opening up about coming out.
The CNN newsman appeared on Thursday’s Ellen DeGeneres Show to talk about becoming a first-time dad, via a surrogate, to son Wyatt Cooper amid the coronavirus pandemic. Since Cooper, who is co-parenting with his ex Benjamin Maisani, hadn’t appeared on the show since 2010 — two years before he publicly came out as gay — that was a prominent part of their conversation.
DeGeneres, whose 1997 coming out was groundbreaking, revealed that they discussed his sexuality privately when he last appeared on her show. She added that being out, is such a “freeing thing.”
“Well, I came out in high school to my friends and family,” Cooper replied, “and was open at work, but, yes, in a public way, I was not. I hadn’t made a statement about it. I never said I wasn’t gay or tried to hide it or pretend anything else. I just didn’t want to talk about it.”
He said that changed in 2012, amid his relationship with the French nightclub owner, whom he started seeing in 2009.
“It got to the point in my life where not saying something seemed like I was saying something,” Cooper admitted. “By not saying something, it seemed like I was indicating that I was somehow ashamed of something or not happy being gay. The complete opposite has always been the case. I consider it, along with Wyatt, one of the great blessings of my life to be gay. So I felt bad. By not saying something, I seemed to be saying something.”
Despite being “painfully shy” and “an introvert,” Cooper said, “I thought, ‘OK, well, I want to say something.’ So I did and I couldn’t be happier. Even though you think you’re out, you think everybody knows, it doesn’t matter, [but] it does matter. It makes a difference.”
He added, “And I think it’s important for me to have said the word ‘gay.’ That I’m gay and I’m proud of it.”
DeGeneres talked about the importance of representation, especially on TV, and Cooper told a story about seeing DeGeneres speak at an equality event in the ‘90s.
“I was in the audience, there were thousands of people in the audience, and I just remember it being this incredible thing when you came out on stage,” he recalled. “I was so proud of you. I still to this day do of all you achieved.”
Cooper went on to describe himself as “late” to come out, saying, “I wish I had done it sooner.” He also spoke about challenges it has presented professionally, especially traveling to countries where it’s “illegal and they kill people because of it.” Despite that, he said, “I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
While Cooper wasn’t out when he last appeared on DeGeneres’s show in 2010, he did use the opportunity to criticize the homophobic trailer for Vince Vaughn’s film, The Dilemma, that was coming out the next year.
When Cooper finally did come out, it was described as “perhaps the most low-key way any celebrity has so far,” in an article at the time which also described his sexuality as “an almost open secret.” Cooper confirmed it in an email to friend Andrew Sullivan, which he gave the Daily Beast columnist permission to post.
Cooper announced Wyatt’s birth earlier this month, saying, “As I gay kid, I never thought it would be possible to have a child.” He has since shared that Maisani, whom he romantically split with in 2018, was in the delivery room with him and they will coparent together. (Maisani will be “Papa” to Cooper’s “Daddy” or “Dada.”)
“I don’t really have a family,” Cooper said on Tuesday’s Howard Stern Show. “And so my friends become my family… This is somebody I was involved with for 10 years, he’s a great guy. I think it’s good to have two parents if you can.”
Cooper’s father, Wyatt Cooper, died when he was a child and the newsman’s brother, Carter Cooper, died by suicide in 1988. His mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, died last year.