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 8:59 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
You could be forgiven for thinking no one cares -- or even should care, right now -- about climate change, writes CNN's John Sutter. But you'd be mistaken.
updated 5:32 PM EDT, Sun September 21, 2014
David Gergen says the White House's war against ISIS is getting off to a rough start and needs to be set right
updated 9:00 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
John Sutter boarded a leaky oyster boat in Connecticut with a captain who can't swim as he set off to get world leaders to act on climate change
updated 3:17 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says making rude use of the Mexican flag on Mexican independence day in a concert in Mexico was extremely tasteless, but not an international incident.
updated 9:59 AM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Michael Dunn is going to stand trial again after a jury was unable to reach a verdict; Mark O'Mara hopes for a fair trial.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Is ballet dying? CNN spoke with Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre, about the future of the art form.
updated 5:47 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Sally Kohn says it's time we take climate change as seriously as we do warfare in the Middle East
updated 3:27 PM EDT, Mon September 22, 2014
Laurence Steinberg says the high obesity rate among young children is worrisome for a host of reasons
updated 9:02 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Dean Obeidallah says an Oklahoma state representative's hateful remarks were rightfully condemned by religious leaders..
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
No matter how much planning has gone into U.S. military plans to counter the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the Arab public isn't convinced that anything will change, says Geneive Abdo
updated 11:44 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
President Obama's strategy for destroying ISIS seems to depend on a volley of air strikes. That won't be enough, says Haider Mullick.
updated 9:03 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Paul Begala says Hillary Clinton has plenty of good reasons not to jump into the 2016 race now
updated 11:01 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Scotland decided to trust its 16-year-olds to vote in the biggest question in its history. Americans, in contrast, don't even trust theirs to help pick the county sheriff. Who's right?
updated 9:57 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette says spanking is an acceptable form of disciplining a child, as long as you follow the rules.
updated 11:47 AM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Frida Ghitis says the foiled Australian plot shows ISIS is working diligently to taunt the U.S. and its allies.
updated 3:58 PM EDT, Fri September 19, 2014
Young U.S. voters by and large just do not see the midterm elections offering legitimate choices because, in their eyes, Congress has proven to be largely ineffectual, and worse uncaring, argues John Della Volpe
updated 9:58 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Steven Holmes says spanking, a practice that is ingrained in our culture, accomplishes nothing positive and causes harm.
updated 2:31 PM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Sally Kohn says America tried "Cowboy Adventurism" as a foreign policy strategy; it failed. So why try it again?
updated 10:27 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
Van Jones says the video of John Crawford III, who was shot by a police officer in Walmart, should be released.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Thu September 18, 2014
NASA will need to embrace new entrants and promote a lot more competition in future, argues Newt Gingrich.
updated 7:15 PM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
If U.S. wants to see real change in Iraq and Syria, it will have to empower moderate forces, says Fouad Siniora.
updated 8:34 PM EDT, Wed September 17, 2014
Mark O'Mara says there are basic rules to follow when interacting with law enforcement: respect their authority.
updated 9:05 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
LZ Granderson says Congress has rebuked the NFL on domestic violence issue, but why not a federal judge?
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue September 16, 2014
Mel Robbins says the only person you can legally hit in the United States is a child. That's wrong.
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Mon September 15, 2014
Eric Liu says seeing many friends fight so hard for same-sex marriage rights made him appreciate marriage.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT