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Anderson Cooper Knew He Was Gay at 11 When He Saw Richard Gere Act Yet Had Regrets after Coming Out to Mom

Esther NJeri
Jul 19, 2022
02:30 P.M.
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Anderson Cooper discovered he was gay at a young age. However, he kept it a closely-guarded secret from his mother for years. When he did eventually come out to her, she did not have a problem with him but still, he regretted it for years.

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Growing up, Anderson Cooper experienced a childhood different from his peers. Cooper's mother, the famed Gloria Vanderbilt, designed jeans as his friends' moms stayed home baking and doing other household chores.

She would sneak Cooper and his brother into Studio 54 when it was illegal and often host dinner parties with famous guests, such as Charlie Chaplin or Truman Capote. Most of his mother's guests were gay.

Journalist Anderson Cooper attends the Turner Upfront 2016 at Nick & Stef's Steakhouse on May 18, 2016 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

Journalist Anderson Cooper attends the Turner Upfront 2016 at Nick & Stef's Steakhouse on May 18, 2016 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

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Unfortunately, despite his exciting childhood, his mother was often absent from his life as she chased after her design career. She was a wonderful mother but was not involved in her sons' personal lives. He shared:

"My mom was not involved in my life that way."

Given her busy schedule and the dynamics of their relationship, it was unsurprising that Vanderbilt was absent during one of Cooper's most life-changing moments — his sexual awakening.

COOPER'S SEXUAL AWAKENING

Swiss-born socialite Gloria Vanderbilt poses with her two sons, Anderson Cooper and Carter Vanderbilt Cooper in their apartment in the UN Towers, New York, New York, March 1976. | Source: Getty Images

Swiss-born socialite Gloria Vanderbilt poses with her two sons, Anderson Cooper and Carter Vanderbilt Cooper in their apartment in the UN Towers, New York, New York, March 1976. | Source: Getty Images

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Cooper was only 6 or 7 when he discovered something different about him. However, he could only put a name on it at 11. He retold how two of his mom's friends, photographer Paul Jasmin, and his boyfriend, visited and took him to Richard Gere's "Bent" production in his mother's absence.

The film told the story of a gay man in 1930s Berlin, and the scene by Richard Gere became the life-changer for young Cooper. He recalls seeing the opening scene where a man got out of bed naked and put on an SS stormtrooper uniform.

Anderson Cooper attends the 13th Annual CNN Heroes at the American Museum of Natural History on December 08, 2019 in New York City | Source: Getty Images

Anderson Cooper attends the 13th Annual CNN Heroes at the American Museum of Natural History on December 08, 2019 in New York City | Source: Getty Images

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At that moment, seeing the naked man made Cooper realize what was different about him. Speaking to Andy Cohen on the special edition of his SiriusXM show, "Andy Cohen Live," Cooper confessed:

"And I just remember being like, 'Oh my god, I'm gay. Like, this is, I'm totally gay.'"

Later, Jasmin took Cooper backstage, where he met a shirtless Gere in his dressing room. Cooper could not stop staring at his chest and got so nervous he ruined his shot at an autograph.

Anderson Cooper attends Billboard Women In Music 2016 Airing December 12th On Lifetime at Pier 36 on December 9, 2016 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

Anderson Cooper attends Billboard Women In Music 2016 Airing December 12th On Lifetime at Pier 36 on December 9, 2016 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

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Luckily, the chance was not forever lost as Cooper would, years later, get a photograph of Gere after he interviewed him. He also shared his story with "The Runaway Bride" actor and told him how seeing him perform had helped him realize his sexuality.

He remembers how funny Gere found the story. Eventually, Cooper had his autograph after he made Gere sign his copy of Playbill. Even though Cooper realized he was gay early in life, he hid it from his mother and only came out to her years later.

COMING OUT TO HIS MOM

Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt attend "Nothing Left Unsaid" Premiere at Time Warner Center on April 4, 2016 in New York City.  | Source: Getty Images

Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt attend "Nothing Left Unsaid" Premiere at Time Warner Center on April 4, 2016 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

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While Cooper had made peace with his sexuality years earlier, he never could bring himself to letting his mom in on the loop. It remained a well-guarded secret from his mother until he graduated college, even though he'd had a long-term boyfriend throughout his tertiary education.

His mother knew he shared his room with a man, and no one made an effort to make up a spare bed, so it was almost obvious they were an item. However, his mother never once asked about it. He remembers the life-changing moment when he opened up to his mother about his secret:

"So I said to her finally, like, I, I stupidly said, 'I think I'm gay."

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Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt attend A Conversation With Anderson Cooper And Gloria Vanderbilt at 92Y on April 14, 2016 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt attend A Conversation With Anderson Cooper And Gloria Vanderbilt at 92Y on April 14, 2016 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

"I wanted to kind of couch it. And she said, 'Huh?' She said, 'Well, don't make any definite decisions.' which was not the response I was expecting. So, I was like, 'Let's put a pin in it for now.'" He continued.

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Cooper shared that even though his mother had no issues with his sexuality, his delay in telling her was partly driven by the complicated family history involving his grandmother Gloria Morgan Vanderbilt.

Morgan Vanderbilt was revealed to have had a lesbian relationship during a court battle in 1932, which exploded into a massive scandal in New York. As a result, Cooper's grandmother lost custody of her daughter — Cooper's mother.

Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt on "Watch What Happens Live" on February 28, 2016 | Source: Getty Images

Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt on "Watch What Happens Live" on February 28, 2016 | Source: Getty Images

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The topic of same-gender relationships always had an unpleasant effect on Cooper's mother, and Cooper could not shake the impact of his grandmother's experience on Vanderbilt.

Even so, Vanderbilt accepted her son for who he was and even met some of his boyfriends. They, however, never spoke of the day he came out to her because they had different perceptions of it.

Cooper disclosed that he regretted his choice of words immediately after they left his mouth. Saying "I think I am," as he would later admit, showed a degree of uncertainty, and he felt Vanderbilt perceived him as "unsure."

Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt attend KIPS BAY BOYS & GIRLS CLUB 2009 Preview Gala & Cocktails at ASPREY at Kips Bay Decorator Show House & Asprey on April 16, 2009 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt attend KIPS BAY BOYS & GIRLS CLUB 2009 Preview Gala & Cocktails at ASPREY at Kips Bay Decorator Show House & Asprey on April 16, 2009 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

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While Vanderbilt had some reservations about bisexuality, based on her mother's unpleasant experience with the same, she fully embraced it later in life and had plenty of gay friends. She came to accept that love was love, regardless of gender.

After coming out to his mother at 21, Cooper took his time before coming out to the rest of the world. But in 2012, the time was finally ripe; at 45, he came out to the public.

Anchor Anderson Cooper leaves lunch at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 07, 2021 in Sun Valley, Idaho. | Source: Getty Images

Anchor Anderson Cooper leaves lunch at the Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference on July 07, 2021 in Sun Valley, Idaho. | Source: Getty Images

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After years of media speculation concerning his sexuality, he finally came out to writer Andrew Sullivan in an email that said, as Huff Post reports:

"The fact is, I'm gay, always have been, always will be, and I couldn't be any more happy, comfortable with myself, and proud."

Anderson Cooper attends AOL Build Speaker Series to discuss "Nothing Left Unsaid" at AOL Studios In New York on April 15, 2016 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

Anderson Cooper attends AOL Build Speaker Series to discuss "Nothing Left Unsaid" at AOL Studios In New York on April 15, 2016 in New York City. | Source: Getty Images

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Initially, he'd thought he was a better reporter by staying private about his life but soon realized he was doing more harm than good.

He confessed that in choosing to be silent about his sexual identity, he appeared to have something to hide from the world that made him uncomfortable or ashamed, which could not have been further from the truth.

Today, Cooper is the most prominent openly gay journalist on American television and proudly raises his sons, Wyatt Morgan Cooper, delivered in 2020 via surrogate, and Sebastian Luke Maisani-Cooper. Being gay made him a better person and a better reporter.

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