Skip to main content

Thank you, Anderson

By Gregory Maguire, Special to CNN
updated 2:40 PM EDT, Thu July 5, 2012
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
updated 12:41 PM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Robert Hickey says most new housing development is high-end, catering to high-earners.
updated 9:17 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Alexander Motyl says as Russian President Putin snarled at Ukraine, his foreign minister was signing a conciliatory accord with the West. Whatever the game, the accord is a major stand down by Russia
updated 8:29 AM EDT, Wed April 23, 2014
Les Abend says at every turn, the stowaway teen defied the odds of discovery and survival. What pilot would have thought to look for a person in the wheel well?
updated 6:47 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Q & A with artist Rachel Sussman on her new book of photographs, "The Oldest Living Things in the World."
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Martin Blaser says the overuse of antibiotics threatens to deplete our bodies of "good" microbes, leaving us vulnerable to an unstoppable plague--an "antibiotic winter"
updated 1:37 PM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
John Sutter asks: Is it possible to eat meat in modern-day America and consider yourself an environmentalist without being a hypocrite?
updated 11:38 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Sally Kohn notes that Meb Keflezighi rightly was called an American after he won the Boston Marathon, but his status in the U.S. once was questioned
updated 8:56 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Denis Hayes and Scott Denman say on this Earth Day, the dawn of the Solar Age is already upon us and the Atomic Age of nuclear power is in decline
updated 4:36 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Retired Coast Guard officer James Loy says a ship captain bears huge responsibility.
updated 1:08 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Peter Bergen says the latest strikes are part of an aggressive U.S. effort to target militants, including a bomb maker
updated 9:45 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Cynthia Lummis and Peter Welch say 16 agencies carry out national intelligence, and their budgets are top secret. We need to know how they are spending our money.
updated 8:35 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Julian Zelizer says President Obama knows more than anyone that he has much at stake in the midterm elections.
updated 8:55 AM EDT, Tue April 22, 2014
Eric Sanderson says if you really want to strike a blow for the environment--and your health--this Earth Day, work to get cars out of cities and create transportation alternatives
updated 10:08 AM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Bruce Barcott looks at the dramatic differences in marijuana laws in Colorado and Louisiana
updated 4:47 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery supports the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
updated 2:17 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
updated 1:52 PM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
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.
updated 9:11 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
updated 2:25 PM EDT, Mon April 21, 2014
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
updated 6:26 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
updated 8:50 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
updated 2:45 PM EDT, Thu April 17, 2014
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.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT