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
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1653 GMT (0053 HKT)
Jeff Yang calls Ello a wakeup call to Facebook and Twitter, and a sign of hope for fast-rising upstarts Pinterest and Snapchat.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 2248 GMT (0648 HKT)
Paul Waldman says the Secret Service should examine its procedures to make sure there are no threats to the White House--but without losing the openness so valuable to democracy
October 1, 2014 -- Updated 1416 GMT (2216 HKT)
Jesse Williams says the videotape and 911 call that resulted in police gunning down John Crawford at a Walmart reveals the fatal injustice of racial assumptions
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 2303 GMT (0703 HKT)
Mel Robbins says officials should drop the P.C. pose: The beheading in Oklahoma was not workplace violence. Plenty of evidence shows Alton Nolen was an admirer of ISIS.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1911 GMT (0311 HKT)
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, William Piekos says..
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1911 GMT (0311 HKT)
The Occupy Central movement has already achieved much by bringing greater attention to Hong Kong's struggle for democracy, writes William Piekos.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1413 GMT (2213 HKT)
As Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits America, Madeleine Albright says a world roiled by conflict needs these two great democracies to commit to moving their partnership forward
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1404 GMT (2204 HKT)
John Sutter: Lake Providence, Louisiana, is the parish seat of the "most unequal place in America." And until somewhat recently, the poor side of town was invisible on Google Street View.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says in the run up to the 2016 election the party faces divisions on its approach to the U.S.'s place in the world
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1419 GMT (2219 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Common Core supporters can't devise a new set of standards and then fail to effectively sell it.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1329 GMT (2129 HKT)
Earlier this month, Kenyans commemorated the heinous attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi.
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1859 GMT (0259 HKT)
David Wheeler says Colorado students are right to protest curriculum changes that downplays civil disobedience.
September 27, 2014 -- Updated 0158 GMT (0958 HKT)
Sally Kohn says when people click on hacked celebrity photos or ISIS videos, they are encouraging the bad guys.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1155 GMT (1955 HKT)
Loren Bunche says she walked by a homeless man every day and felt bad about it -- until one day she paused to get to know him
September 30, 2014 -- Updated 1332 GMT (2132 HKT)
ISIS grabs headlines on social media, but hateful speech is no match for moderate voices, says Nadia Oweidat.
September 29, 2014 -- Updated 1233 GMT (2033 HKT)
A new report counts jihadists fighting globally. The verdict? The threat isn't that big, says Peter Bergen.
September 23, 2014 -- Updated 2137 GMT (0537 HKT)
Ebola could become the biggest humanitarian disaster in a generation, writes former British Prime Minister Tony Blair
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1658 GMT (0058 HKT)
ISIS has shocked the world. But will releasing videos of executions backfire? Four experts give their take.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
Eric Holder kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the public that set tone for six turbulent years as top law-enforcement officer.
September 26, 2014 -- Updated 1309 GMT (2109 HKT)
LZ Granderson says Obama was elected as a war-ending change agent, not a leader who would leave behind for his successor new engagement in Iraq and Syria. Is he as disappointed as the rest of us?
September 24, 2014 -- Updated 0910 GMT (1710 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says the question now is how to translate all the high-profile feminizing into real gains for women
ADVERTISEMENT