Rachel Maddow on the ethics of coming out

Yesterday, The Guardian ran a profile of Rachel Maddow. The profile covered her rise to prominence, her approach to covering the news and, of course, the fact that she’s openly gay. It also addressed, or claimed to address, her attitude toward Anderson Cooper:

Maddow is one of the very few gay news anchors in America – well, one of the very few openly gay news anchors. Does she feel frustration towards an equally well-known news presenter who is widely assumed to be gay but has never come out? For the first time, Maddow pauses: “I’m sure other people in the business have considered reasons why they’re doing what they’re doing, but I do think that if you’re gay you have a responsibility to come out,” she says carefully.

Well, according to Maddow, that’s not what she said about Anderson Cooper. In fact, that’s not even what The Guardian asked. She responded on The Maddow Blog last night:

… in that interview, I wasn’t asked about Anderson Cooper, I didn’t say anything about him, he literally was never discussed during the interview at all — even implicitly… Although criticism of Mr. Cooper was intimated by The Guardian and picked up everywhere — I did not make that criticism in the interview, nor did I imply it, nor is it what I believe.

Maddow might not have been asked about Anderson Cooper, but it does appear that she was asked about ethics and politics of coming out. And she reiterated that answer in her response last night. Here are her thoughts, laid out clearly and logically and with conviction, as we’ve come to expect from Maddow:

1. Gay people — generally speaking — have a responsibility to our own community and to future generations of gay people to come out, if and when we feel that we can.
2. We should all get to decide for ourselves the “if and when we feel that we can” part of that.
3. Closeted people should reasonably expect to be outed by other gay people if (and only if) they prey on the gay community in public, but are secretly gay themselves.

I’m glad to see Maddow not just clarify her statement in the Guardian profile, but also expand on it in her own words and on her own terms. What do you think, readers? If you could edit or add to her list, what would you change?

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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