Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Anderson Cooper is a big story for a small audience

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Anderson Cooper is gay. So, who cares really? For most, the news is as meaningful as the next Rebecca Black video being released, but for others it matters. And maybe it should, in some little way.

Cooper, in case you have been living under that rock that shields television news viewing, is arguably one of the most popular newsmen in the world. The gutsy CNN journalist, who built a reputation on going to extremes to get the story -- often in situations where he put himself at considerable risk -- has been hounded by the question in the past, but only this week came out to the world in an online essay.

"I have always been very open and honest about this part of my life with my friends, my family, and my colleagues," he wrote. "In a perfect world, I don't think it's anyone else's business, but I do think there is value in standing up and being counted."

It's the veiled armour of this not-so-perfect world that makes this tidbit of personal news relevant -- and in rare cases important -- to people here in Newfoundland and Labrador, thousands of miles removed from the CNN news desk.

In Newfoundland right now, a young woman knows she's different. She's been in relationships with boys in the past, but has never felt right about it. She's confused and she may be angry. She needs to explore her sexuality and the encouragement to do so.

Not far down the road, there's a teenage boy wondering how to tell his parents he's gay. He's likely sitting in his room trying to anticipate the reaction of his folks when he utters those words. And because some react with shame, or a sense of forced abandonment, to this news, he needs to know he's not alone.

In a small outport town, there's an elderly gay man that has become so confused with the extremist views of his church that he believes homosexuality is wrong. He's in the 80s now and has been battling his inner self for so long he doesn't know what it's like to put down his weapons.

He lashes out publicly whenever given a pulpit -- going as far as to compare homosexuality to the work of Hitler -- all because of this self-loathing. He needs to know it's OK, he can be himself, and his sexual orientation is not "the work of the devil."

Of course, Anderson Cooper's coming out will likely have little impact on these people. It may not be given a second thought by those who feel they have to hide. But then again, it may be the springboard they need.

In a province that still sees its share of bullying based on sexual orientation, a celebrity coming out can make it a little better.

And in towns where the traditional "treatment" of gays and lesbians would include confusion, apprehension or disdain, another international story on the issue may change a mindset or two.

In the greater scheme, people around here may likely care nothing about Anderson Cooper. And they don't need to, really.

This issue is more about being accepting of your neighbour, friend or relative -- whether that person is straight, openly gay or just trying to find a way to come out and be accepted in doing so.

--The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 5, 2012 A10

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