[Note: This article is not intended to condone gossip, which is frowned upon by the world's great religions. This is just a commentary about a developing social trend.]
After years reporting the news of the world, CNN newsman Anderson Cooper became newsworthy himself. It all started in July when Cooper, after years of speculation, admitted to the world that he is gay.
This revelation gave the paparazzi carte blanche to stalk Cooper and his partner of over three years, bar owner Ben Maisani. The paps struck gold when they caught Maisani canoodling with another man in a public park. The gossips were quick to speculate the nature of the Cooper/Maisani relationship: Did Anderson cheat on Ben or do the two men have an open relationship? (Because that's what gay men do.)
This juicy piece of gossip happened at the same time that "Benderson" went on a sea cruise in Croatia in the company of celebs Kelly Ripa, her husband Mark Consuelos, and openly-gay Bravo TV executive Andy Cohen. Rumor had it that the outraged Cooper kicked Maisani off the love boat and then found comfort in Cohen's arms. (According to this line of thinking, two gay men can't be in close proximity without jumping in bed together.)
However, those who expected Cooper to become the gay divorcee were soon disappointed, for Cooper did not throw Maisani overboard. In fact, the couple is back in New York, still living together in Cooper's converted firehouse.
Gay men have been gossiped about for decades, mostly by other gay men. But, on the whole, gay gossip has been about supposedly straight celebrities who are secretly gay or bi. This time, however, the scuttlebutt is about two openly gay men who allegedly did something that straight celebs do all the time (cheat).
This is a refreshing change of pace from the days when all we could do was talk about Tom Cruise's wives, John Travolta's children, or Kevin Spacey's dogs. Even the Advocate or Out, which all too often feature straight celebrities who use the opportunity to tell us how straight they are, now showcase out and proud stars like Australian Olympic diver Matthew Mitcham.
Though most gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered celebrities still keep their sexual or gender orientation to themselves, more and more stars are coming out of their Tinseltown closets. In addition to Mr. Cooper, this past year has witnessed the comings out of rapper Frank Ocean (who came out as bisexual) and actors Matthew Bomer, Sean Maher, Jim Parsons and Zachary Quinto. They join the likes of John Barrowman, Don Lemon, Neil Patrick Harris, Adam Lambert and Ricky Martin in an ever-growing field. Other, mostly younger stars avoid the coming out process entirely, being openly gay from the get-go. (Chris Colfer of TV's Glee is the best-known example.)
There is still a stigma attached to being gay, however, and we are still waiting for certain "A-List" superstars (see above) to come out. We also look forward to the day when an active US football, baseball, basketball or hockey team player will feel comfortable enough to be open about his sexual orientation. It is still easier for a woman to come out as either lesbian or bisexual. (Being openly bisexual did not stop Angelina Jolie from becoming a superstar; or starting a family with the perfectly-straight Brad Pitt.)
On the other hand, we don't have to pick up a gay bar rag to read about gay celebs' love lives or lack thereof. Hardly an issue of People, Us or Entertainment Weekly goes by without some mention of Ellen Degeneres's houses, Rachel Maddow's opinions, or Rosie O'Donnell's marriages (or divorces). Before her recent death, Sally Ride was known as the first American woman to go into space. Now she is remembered as the first lesbian astronaut.
Of course, this doesn't mean we will stop dishing the dirt about the likes of Cruise, Travolta, Spacey or Will Smith (not that they are gay or anything like that). Some things are just too precious to ignore. But the days when "gay celebrities" only meant porn stars or Harvey Fierstein are firmly behind us and I am glad that they are.
While it is unlikely that reality show favorites Reichen Lehmkuhl or Will Winkle will ever become superstars, being out is no longer an impediment to getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Hopefully, this will encourage other, still-closeted celebrities to take that next step, and admit what half the world already knows.