Skip to main content

Thank you, Anderson

By Gregory Maguire, Special to CNN
July 5, 2012 -- Updated 1840 GMT (0240 HKT)
Gregory Maguire asks: Will Anderson Cooper be a better professional journalist for having been honest in this aspect of his life?
Gregory Maguire asks: Will Anderson Cooper be a better professional journalist for having been honest in this aspect of his life?
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gregory Maguire: Most people knew Anderson Cooper was gay; he came out Monday
  • He likes that Cooper insists that he still deserves privacy
  • He says like Cooper, he knows that being gay is one part of the many qualities that define him
  • Maguire: Emerson said "character is centrality;" maybe Cooper believes this, too

Editor's note: Gregory Maguire is the best-selling author of "Making Mischief: a Maurice Sendak Appreciation" and of many other novels, including "Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West," the basis for the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical "Wicked." He has lectured on art, literature and culture both at home and abroad. He lives with his family near Boston.

(CNN) -- I feel like a short-order cook flipping a pancake, looking at it in the air from side to side, to see how well done it is, to see if it is ready. There are plusses and minuses to every statement made by a celebrity. I am a great fan of Anderson Cooper, especially of his hair, but I still want to be honest about what I think of the message he recently sent to Andrew Sullivan, on whose blog he came out on Monday.

It's a pancake with two sides, and it's still up in the air.

On one side, Anderson Cooper joins a long troupe of people like Ellen DeGeneres, Elton John, Liberace and on back down the line, for which the Great Announcement has got to be seen as made, perhaps, for the sea whelks and the Easter Island statues who don't get CNN at home and don't notice sexuality and its cues. I mean, there may yet be a population of creatures on the planet surprised that Anderson Cooper is gay, but I suspect they eat plankton.

My Take: Will there be gays in heaven?

Gregory Maguire
Gregory Maguire

On the other side, honesty still takes courage, and one of the things that a bright cunning professional with good hair does when he or she comes out is to encourage other gay or lesbian people with good hair to let it down, too.

What I like better than Cooper's admission, or the good reasons he summarizes for making such an admission, is his insistence that even under these circumstances he has a right to a private life, and he intends to invoke those rights. I have generally resisted being identified as a gay spokesperson, even though I am gay and I do speak. And have political opinions, and I use them in my writing. (I haven't got the hair to be a gay spokesperson, though.)

Less facetiously, the truth is that I could not stomach being a professional gay spokesperson because I have never been a professional homosexual. I am only a professional writer, and as such -- just as Cooper attests, too, about himself -- my sexuality is a real but a limited part of my character. It is something that has helped define me as an artist in that it taught me how to stand on the margins and scrutinize the center.

News: Anderson Cooper says he's gay, happy and proud

Incidentally, so, too, has being a Roman Catholic in this dark season of Catholic instability, hysteria and political game-playing. So, too, has being married to a man with whom I have adopted three brown-skinned kids. So, too, is believing that the physicality of books matters. Also, believing in not being a one-issue voter.

All these aspects of my self marginalize me, but they don't make me a Catholic writer, a gay writer, a blended-family writer, a nut-job. They make me a better writer, because they round me out. They fill me with contradictory and complicating sympathies. They make me work harder at being myself.

So, the pancake is still in the air. Will Anderson Cooper be a better professional journalist for having been honest in this aspect of his life? I don't know that anyone can be sure of this, him least of all.

Celebs, readers proud of Anderson Cooper

But that is why, in the end, the pancake flips onto a plate ready for serving in a pool of warm maple syrup, and it looks just right. He is willing to take the chance that he might be marginalized for this. He thinks it is important enough to risk being belittled, even by an admirer, like me.

Maybe Anderson Cooper holds close to his heart a maxim that I do. It's by Emerson, one of my own local heroes. He wrote "Character is centrality, the impossibility of being displaced or overset."

When I was about 17, I stitched those words into some invisible vest pocket of my psychic armor and said to myself: "You don't have to tell all the truth. You just have to be sure not to lie. Do not do anything that will cause you to be displaced or overset. Be central upon the limited, unorthodox, marginalized square upon which, through no doing of your own, you find that you stand."

News: Chely Wright: What happened after I came out

Here's your pancake. And look. It has a face in it! A holy miracle. It isn't the face of Anderson Cooper and it isn't even the face of Jesus (who also has great hair). It's Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Eat your pancake. It's good for you.

Thank you, Anderson.

Follow @CNNOpinion on Twitter.

Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Gregory Maguire.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT)
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery support the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1817 GMT (0217 HKT)
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1752 GMT (0152 HKT)
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
April 19, 2014 -- Updated 1710 GMT (0110 HKT)
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1250 GMT (2050 HKT)
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1845 GMT (0245 HKT)
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 2323 GMT (0723 HKT)
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
ADVERTISEMENT