(Photo Credits: Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Hey, guys! How did you learn to accept being gay? How old were you?

Anderson Cooper—CNN anchor and host of Anderson Cooper 360—gave a candid response when asked these questions by a viewer during a segment called Ask Anderson Almost Anything on CNN’s Full Circle.

“I was probably seven when I realized… I’m not sure I knew the word gay at the time, but I realized something was up, that something that was different,” Cooper said. 

He explained that he struggled with his sexuality during his teenage years as well as in college because of a number of reasons, mostly due to how the society viewed and accepted LGBT people during the 80s. “The things I wanted to do at the time, you couldn’t be gay. I was interested in joining the military, but you can’t be gay and join the military.”

It can be remembered that the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) released a policy in 1982 stating that “homosexuality is incompatible with military service.” Because of this policy, around 1500 military service members are reportedly being discharged every year between 1980 and 1990 on the basis of sexual orientation. 

And while President Bill Clinton did sign Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell which prohibited harassment of all “closeted” military service members in 1993, it did bar openly gay and lesbian American citizens from military service. Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would only be repealed in 2011 by the Obama administration. 

Cooper also mentioned how he wanted to travel but there are countries and destinations around the world where being an out member of the LGBT community is unacceptable; worse, a crime. “I felt like there were a lot of places that I was limited in traveling to for safety reasons. I just felt like there were a lot of limitations on it, and it wasn’t what I envisioned for my life.”

“I imagined a family and getting married, and all those things which weren’t possible at the time, so it took me a while to kind of fully embrace it,” he admitted. Same-sex marriage in the U.S. would eventually happen in 2015.

Cooper added that he did come out to a few people in high school but it wasn’t until after college that he fully accepted his sexually. “But then at a certain point, I think you know, about a year after college I realized like, I don’t want to waste any more time worrying about this and sort of wishing I was some other way. Um and I want to, you know, embrace who I am. It’s enabled me to love the people I’ve loved and um have a life that I’ve had so I’m very blessed.”

Lastly, Cooper said that being gay is one of the great blessings in his life, and it’s made him a better person and a better reporter. “When you feel growing up like you’re on the outside of things, and you’re kind of an observer to things and not necessarily in the mainstream, you see society from a slightly different view, and I think that can be very valuable.” 

To watch Ask Anderson Almost Anything in full, click here.

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