A couple of years ago, a friend swore to me that the CNN’s Anderson Cooper was gay. I argued that Cooper would only be gay only after he’d publicly confirmed that he was gay.
The essence of the conversation is that my friend I wanted the TV host and reporter to say it. It bothered us that his journalism revealed very little about his personal life. But now that Cooper has come out, it should matter to us all.
The world is still so full of prejudice that even a high profile figure would feel unsafe to publicly embrace their sexuality. Cooper revealed something chilling when he explained some of the reasons for taking this long to come. He said:
“Since I started as a reporter in war zones 20 years ago, I’ve often found myself in some very dangerous places. For my safety and the safety of those I work with, I try to blend in as much as possible, and prefer to stick to my job of telling other people’s stories, and not my own. I have found that sometimes the less an interview subject knows about me, the better I can safely and effectively do my job as a journalist.”
Cooper’s fear is real.
The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association tells us that, in 2012, five countries – Iran, Mauritania, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen – still put people to death for being gay. The fourth edition of the organization’s “State Sponsored Homophobia” report listed the 77 countries that are still “prosecuting people on ground of their sexual orientation.”
They are: Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belize, Bhutan, Botswana, Brunei, Burundi, Cameroon, Comoros, Dominica, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guinea, Guyana, Iran, Jamaica, Kenya, Kiribati, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Qatar, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Swaziland, Syria, Tanzania, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, Yemen, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The presence of Zimbabwe, my country of birth, saddens me. The Southern African country is the quintessential example of state-sponsored homophobia. The country’s geriatric dictator, Robert Mugabe, is an unapologetic gay-basher. In 2010, the man many is the west see as Zimbabwe’s future, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, joined the dictator in publicly opposing debate on homosexuality.
Cooper’s coming out gives us another opportunity to name and shame individuals like Mugabe and Tsvangirai, and countries that still promote homorphobia.
But of course I’m glad that my adopted country, Canada, is the complete opposite of Zimbabwe when it comes to gay rights. I’m also delighted that about the Canadian connection with Cooper’s coming out. He did it on the weekend Canadians celebrated Pride.